AASD bounced about bullying

Parent criticizes board over lack of solution

Last May, a 12-year-old Altoona Area Junior High School student’s death was ruled suicide and a police investigation was launched into the circumstances. The school district cooperated as the community and the boy’s family claimed bullying to be at the root.

Now more than six months later, that investigation is almost complete, Altoona Police Detective Lt. Ben Jones said.

“The officers taking that investigation on are planning a meeting with the district attorney to make them aware of our findings,” Jones said.

On Monday, the school board was reminded that bullying remains a concern as junior high parent Jeffrey Keller took recent claims of bullying to the school board, saying he felt the school district and city police are passing the buck back and forth.

“Nothing is getting done,” he said. “How do we fix this?”

Board member John Klingeman turned the question on him. “Do you have the answer?”

Keller was confident he had the answer. “Let parents stand at the bridge, where a boy has been beaten up,” he said, referring to an event he said happened days ago at the 17th Street Bridge.

Keller said he reported the recent incidents to the school. “The response was it didn’t happen in school but on the way home so they don’t care,” he said.

The school district cannot realistically patrol all of the city, district solicitor Carl Beard said.

“I know people believe schools should be all things to all people at all times. There’s always the possibility that the nexus of this is at school and that should be investigated, but if something happens walking home, then that’s certainly within the realm of the city police.”

Jones on Tuesday acknowledged harassment by students in the area of Station Medical Center on Ninth Avenue, which is in the area of the 17th Street Bridge.

“They’ve had problems, with harassment of patients or people walking in the area for exercise. There does seem to be a tendency for kids to gather in that area after school,” he said.

Jones couldn’t speak to the specific event Keller brought up, but he said an assault on nonschool district property would certainly would be a police matter. A child as young as age 10 can be charged through the juvenile system.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.

COMMENTS