Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

4th Grader Appears Before the County 5:  "There's a Bullying Situation Going On At My School"  

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Last night, 4th grader Jenna Richards, about 4'8", stood tall at the microphone before the County 5. She had already spoken to the principal, the teachers, the school board and the sheriff. She was looking for a solution for the bullying problem she claimed was going on at her elementary school, Columbia County's Westside Elementary.

The young Ms. Richards began, "My name is Jenna Richards. I'm a 4th grade student at Westside Elementary... I'm here because there is a bullying situation going on at my school. There are other kids at my school that are getting bullied. They are afraid to tell the teacher or come to the school board or tell the principal. That's why I'm here."

Heading to Private School
Worried About Her Friends

"My mom is going to be taking me out of public school. I am going to private school. I'm here because I want to resolve this problem because I have friends at Westside that -- I don't want them to have to handle this, while I'm gone. I want to get this problem solved so it doesn't happen to anybody else."

Ms. Richards continued, "We had a black gate put up so we don't have people coming in from the outside, but we're not getting protected from the bullies on the inside. It's affecting me really bad."

4th grader Jenna Richards addressing The 5: tall in stature, but low in height, she stood to the side so she could be seen making her presentation without notes.

"We've also been to the principal, the teachers, the school board and we've also been in a meeting with Mr. Mark Hunter, Sheriff Mark Hunter. When we sat down and talked, one of his comments to me was, 'They're just elementary kids. They're just juveniles. What can we do?"

"This hurt me very much because he's the sheriff and he's supposed to be protecting me. When I walked out I was thinking, 'He didn't do anything to help and he's supposed to.' That really hurt because he said he couldn't do anything about it."

Ms. Richards concluded, "We're not just juveniles and we're not just elementary kids, we're the future."

Grandpa Dwayne Addressed The 5

Dwayne Aldridge came to the microphone, "I just want to say, 'That's my granddaughter.' I want to thank her for having the courage to stand up here in front of ya' all and bringin' it to your attention."

Commissioner Ronald Williams asked, "You been to the school board, too?"

Mr. Aldridge answered, "We've been to the school board meetin'. We've been to the Sheriff's Office. We've been to the Superintendent's Office."

Commissioner Williams said, "Bullying is real bad."

He mentioned an incident that happened in Lake City a few years ago when a mother came home and found her 4th grader hanging in the doorway.

In that situation, both the school and neighborhood situation had been festering for quite some time.

Commissioner Williams said, "He hung his self rather than go to school because of bullying."

At the time, it was reported to the Observer that it was more than just the school issue that led to that tragedy.

No one, and no agency, stepped forward to intervene with the result, one dead little boy.

Everybody's On Notice

Mr. Aldridge told The 5, "Every government agency has been warned about what's goin' on out there. It's a shame that these kids can't go to school without all the bullying. She's just askin' for some help."

Commissioner DePratter said The 5 should act:  "I'd like to propose that this board prepare a letter to the Sheriff to voice our concern and to the school board also, that we a have concern. We need to show support."

Chairman Murphy followed up, "I agree. Dwayne preached to me about this situation. It's definitely touching when you see a little ole' skinny girl come up here and talk like that. It takes a lot of guts. I have family workin' in the system. I hear stories. I like what she said there, 'They got cages to keep ya' out, but they ain't got nothin' goin' on the inside.' We're goin' to do whatever we can to support you and the other kids. Thank you all."

The County Attorney

County Attorney Joel Foreman, who has two children in the district, said he would write the letter: "Mr. Chair, I'll prepare something for your signature: a condemnation of bullying and imploring the Sheriff and the School Board to do something."

Sheriff Hunter

Last night, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter was MIA. The deputy on duty said she didn't know where the Sheriff was. It is not clear why he wasn't there, as the issue of the jail was in the undertow of the agenda.

This morning, we were in contact with the Sheriff's Office, sent along Ms. Richards' remarks concerning Sheriff Hunter, and asked for a comment.

Also, earlier today, your reporter spoke with County Attorney Foreman who told your reporter, "I commend the Board for stepping forward. It was an important thing for them to do."

The School District

We sent along Ms. Richards's remarks to the district. Assistant Superintendent Cherie Hill responded, "Thank you for your email. The principal and the school are aware of the situation in question and have taken all appropriate action."


Sheriff Mark Hunter: he is still MIA.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.