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Parents are concerned over escalating reports of bullying at Safford schools

Posted at 5:35 PM, Nov 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-07 15:08:40-05

Parents in Safford are outraged after being notified of escalating reports of cyberbullying at Safford Unified School District.

The cyberbullying appears to be from one female student, threatening another female student and encouraging self-harm. The alleged cyberbully also told the victim that if she did not hurt herself, then a gun would be brought to school to be used against her.

An estimated 400 students missed school Monday because of the cyberbullying within the district.

Safford School District Superintendent Ken VanWinkle sent a letter to parents, which can also be found on the district's website, stating the following:

"To Our Staff, Students, Parents and Community Members,

As a school community, we truly care about our students and their safety at school. At times situations arise which concern us and call for action by the schools. Sometimes, these situations also involve law enforcement. When these situations involve students, we cannot release all information as it could hinder an investigation or violate students' rights, but we want to provide you with as much information as possible. 

Over the past two weeks, we have had a social media/cyber-bullying issue that was initially brought to SHS administration by several students who saw a comment on "Snapchat." The school took immediate action and due to the type of cyber-bullying, the police were involved. The investigation continues and serious consequences have been, and will continue to be, rendered to those responsible. More of these particular cyber-bullying statements have recently come forward and this situation continues to escalate. In this particular situation, we strongly believe others may have additional information about these posts and we ask you to please come forward and help us put a stop to this NOW!

Recently, parents and the extended community have become involved through social media, particularly Facebook. Comments have been made which could lead to protests. Some parents have even expressed concerns regarding sending their children to school. 

As we have encouraged parents and students many times before, we must all take responsibility for our use and misuse of Social Media. Safford Schools does not and will not tolerate bullying in any form! We will deal with verified cases expediently and severely, and will involve law enforcement. We ask for your help and support as we all strive to make this a great and safe place to be. We also ask that you get involved and be part of the solution by reminding everyone the importance of See Something, Say Something, Do Something.

- Ken VanWinkle, Superintendent "

ABC15 was contacted by several parents over the weekend concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

"It worries me that my daughter is innocent in all of this and in all this disturbing stuff that's going on, I'm worried she may be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said one anonymous parent.

Chantelle Hollowell says her siblings go to school in the district.

"It makes me sick,” Hollowell said. “It upsets me because I have siblings there and I would never want to imagine anything ever happening to them."

Another concerned parent, who didn't wish to be named, said with the recent teen suicides in the community, the authorities and school administrators need to take this issue seriously.

Safford police are investigating the threats, and have increased their presence at Safford schools, according to school officials.

"Words like 'die' are very serious especially to the teens. It makes them feel that's the only way out, Hollowell said. “If they keep hearing it over and over again and they can feel it's the only possible thing they can do to end the hurt."