EDITORIAL: Will the real bully please stand up

We watched a CBS News report last week, with great concern and upset. At the center of the story, stood one of the jewels in the public school system of Queens. The coveted Scholars Academy in Rockaway, has found it’s way into the spotlight on the heels of allegations by one of its students that she has been so badly bullied in her years at Scholars she contemplated suicide twice and had to be admitted to the hospital on one of those occasions.

In the videotaped broadcast appearing on CBS, Caitlin Rocco, a 16-year-old, Howard Beach resident reveals that a classmate once pushed her into a bus lane saying “I wish a bus would have been coming. Then you would have been dead and I would have been happy.”

But as the interview went on, emotions like concern and upset were joined by others and questions as well.

How long was this going on? What had the school done about it? How could this girl have taken such terrible torture from her classmates? Classmates she had been in school with for the last six years. What was the school doing about it? How much of what had happened had Caitlin reported to the school? Why had she stayed?

Further into the report, it was clear that the network had no intention of asking or answering any questions or supplying any answers, spare the ones they had planned as part of their broadcast.

While we find it difficult to understand what was really gained by the interview––none of the allegations were supported or, for the most part even clearly defined. What concerns us far more is what could potentially have been lost–a piece of the great reputation that has been earned and maintained by Scholars Academy.

In this case irresponsible journalism, without absolutely one shred of back-up detail or fact, has cast aspersion on a school that has in no way been proven to have earned the distinction of being a torture chamber of bullying.

Serious allegations against the school and the Department of Education were addressed in the report.

We take offense to the lack of investigation and supportive detail that was omitted in the CBS reporting.

Statements made by Caitlin Rocco were not explored––individual troubling circumstances introduced were not further investigated or commented on, nor were the circumstances of any situation named in the report.

To further inflame the issue, The New York Post published an article filled with inference and totally unsupported by source or fact.

The Post wrote, ” Caitlin has faced bullying since middle school, and administrators even had her skip a grade in an attempt to settle her among kinder classmates — but it didn’t work.” (Mom Sues Parents of Mean Teens Who Tormented Daughter, November 7, 2013)

In what universe would the Department of Education condone promotion as a route of escape from bullying as is implied in the Post article?

We feel that Scholars Academy is due a public apology from the New York Post and from CBS News for their total failure to pursue any avenue other than the one they wished to promote in their coverage. News stories should remain as such, never crossing the boundaries which instead inflict opinion. Such privilege is reserved for space such as this.

If Caitlin Rocco has been bullied at Scholars Academy to the point that she considered taking her own life on two separate occasions then without a doubt, those responsible should be held accountable and punished for their actions.

If Caitlin Rocco or any other student is bullied to a point far short of suicidal contemplation then those bullying must be identified and punished.

We must stop that type of bullying at all costs wherever it occurs.

But what we must also stop is the one sided bullying by the media that surreys reputations without cause and without merit.

We urge you to recognize that the real victims of incomplete reporting in this case are the students who have been victimized by the illegitimate targeting of their school.

And though the tough guys in this case go by a different name, they are bullies none the less––we sometimes call them the media.

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