Fighting Back: Video raises questions about handling bullies

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - An Australian teen is making international headlines after being suspended for fighting back against a bully at school. Now his story is stirring up a new debate about bullying all over the world, including right here in the Grand Valley.

In just the past two weeks, Casey Heynes has become somewhat of a hero -- after a video showing him being bullied by another student, then fighting back, surfaced on sites like YouTube.

Millions who have watched it are praising him for standing up to his tormentor, though his actions got him suspended for four days.

"You have to react to the situation," said Fruita resident Paul Delancey.

It's a story he's all to familiar with. A few months ago, he got a call from his son's school, saying he'd been suspended for getting into a fight.

"We were advised by the assistant principal that the actual situation was my son was defending another child who had been slammed against the wall a couple of times by two other students," said Delancey.

He says when his son stepped in, the two students turned on him. And with his back against the wall, he fought back to defend himself.

"We told him no matter what the school says or their suspension of him, what he did was in fact right and justified," said Delancey.

"As a district, we're here to provide a safe learning environment," said Jeff Kirtland, spokesperson for School District 51.

District 51 says it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to fighting -- and students who get into fights will face consequences.

Officials do say, however, they investigate bullying incidents thoroughly, and pending the outcome of the investigation --

"Could a student potentially be exonerated from a disciplinary issue? Absolutely," said Kirtland. "That's the work we have to do as a district."

Delancey says more work needs to be done.

"I'm hoping the schools re-evaluate their bullying policy," said Delancey.

That's just what the new School Equity Advisory Committee created by the school board will be doing over the course of the year. Officials say this could very well be a topic they bring up.

"If we're not doing something that's best practice, we want to change it so it is best practice," said Susana Wittrock, Director of Equity for School District 51.

Whatever happens, Delancey says he's just glad his son took a stand against bullying and hopes other students will join him.

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