CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. — A Caroline County Middle School student says she’s been the victim of repeated bullying, and wants administrators to do more to stop it.
Heather McCarthy, 13, says she’s been assaulted three times in the last two years, most recently October 10, after joking with a male student about a crush he had on another girl.
“I told him just as a joke, that’s why you like this girl,” said Heather McCarthy. “He said, ‘say it again [and] I’ll punch you,’” explained Heather. “He full on like a boxer punch, punched me in my ribs. I was crying because it hurt and my feelings were hurt.”
“What hurts the most is that I can’t stop it. I can’t stop people from hurting her and I’ve tried,” said Heather’s mom Cyndy McCarthy. “It kills me inside. It rips my heart out. I feel helpless.”
Cyndy pressed charges against the student and had her daughter checked out at the hospital. Heather suffered bruising to her ribs.
Cyndy says the school could not discuss the student’s punishment but she says she was told by a state juvenile intake officer that a no contact order was recommended. The mom inquired with school administrators why her daughter still has classes with the boy who allegedly assaulted Heather.
While the Department of Juvenile Justice can’t discuss specific cases, CBS 6 has learned that it is completely up to the school system whether or not to enforce the state’s recommendation.
“The school says ‘well we effectively addressed each incident, we resolved each incident.’ No you haven’t,” said Cyndy. “If they resolved the situation it would be done, there would be no more assaulting, no more bullying.”
“She will go to them and they will investigate, and they will maybe depending on the situation put the person in ISS [in school suspension] for a day or two,” said Cyndy. “My opinion is ISS is BS because that’s not really scaring them. They’re like I get to miss class and go in this one room all day what kind of punishment is that for assaulting another person, leaving marks on a person?”
CBS 6 reached out to the Caroline County School system about the allegations and its bullying policy.
A spokesperson sent CBS 6 a statement that read:
“In an effort to maintain confidentiality of our students we cannot discuss situations involving our students. Any incident with students is reported to the administration’s attention and dealt with consistently and appropriately.”
“Because the boy has been charged, she’s been bullied, called names she’s getting evil looks from his friends,” said Cyndy.
“I feel like everybody who is talking or near me or whispering, it’s about me and I feel like people who are laughing it’s at me and it’s affected my 8th grade year really bad,” said Heather. “It makes me not want to go to school.”
After the alleged assault, Heather said she found obscene messages written on class papers that were inside a notebook that’s kept inside her civics classroom.
“I just started crying,” said Heather. “It’s very heartbreaking… very hurtful.”
“It’s the school’s responsibility to promise me that my child is safe when I drop her off at school and I don’t feel that way,” said Cyndy.
The CCPS code of student conduct prohibits bullying and fighting. According to the code of student conduct, mandatory expulsion of at least one calendar year is to be automatically recommended to the superintendent by the principal for assault offenses.
“If the child does something wrong and is actually reprimanded and not just smacked on the wrist or talked to, then maybe it will stop,” said Cyndy.
Heather says the mental abuse is worse than the physical.
“Words really do hurt. They stick with you unlike if you were punched or touched physically, it heals, it goes away but words don’t really heal they just kind of leave scars,” said Heather.
After CBS 6 reached out to the school system, Heather’s mom said the principal set up a meeting for Monday on how to move forward.
“We’re moving,” said Cyndy. “I put my home up for sale, so we can get out of this county. We are praying for a Christmas miracle. I will do whatever it takes to get her out of this county.”
Heather says she hopes telling her story will help other bullying victims.
“You can only let someone have so much power over you and you shouldn’t let them take your power because you are the only one who can control your power,” said Heather. “You have the power to give that bully all of your power or to keep your power and know that it’s going to be okay.”