JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Sixteen-year-old Marionna Watson has decorated the walls of her bedroom with reassuring quotes and drawings. It’s a therapeutic exercise, a way of working through the pain and confusion. She’s the girl who was stabbed with scissors last year on the Jim Hill High School bus.
Marionna says on September 11, 2018, she was stabbed 15 times.
“I didn’t know she had stabbed me until someone pulled me away from the fight,” she recalled. “I was stabbed on my shoulder. Then she lifted my shirt up some more, I was stabbed on my back.”
The two girls who fought Marionna were charged with aggravated assault.
Marionna admits she played a role and threw the first punch. She also says both she and her mother, Tionna Nickles, had told the Jim Hill High School principal in the past about an escalating beef between her and one of the two girls, and that the girl had threatened Marionna with scissors before.
“And then a week later it happened,” Marionna says.
“Everything they did that day was wrong,” says Tionna, referring to Jackson Public Schools. “They didn’t call me. They didn’t call AMR. Everything. You threw a first aid kit? That could have been your daughter.”
Marionna and Tionna say the bus driver didn’t stop and call for help as the incident unfolded. Instead, they say, he threw a first aid kit toward the back of the bus.
Tionna says she only found out about the stabbing when another student called her.
The violence is only chapter one of this distressing story. Chapter two, the trauma that lingers. Marionna was suspended for several days for her role in the incident, but she ended up missing a good chunk of the rest of the school year.
“I started having dreams of the incident, flashbacks and stuff like that. I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” she reflects. “I wouldn’t say I was getting bullied because I don’t get bullied. But (the other girl) used to say stuff in front of the classroom to try to get my attention. But I wasn’t giving her attention so she kept going further and further.”
“The reason she don’t consider it bullying is because she’s not scared,” Tionna added.
Regarding the incident, JPS provided 3 On Your Side with this statement: Jackson Public Schools does not condone acts of violence. We regret when our scholars make poor choices and remain committed to teaching positive and pro-social behaviors and implementing policies and procedures that create a positive and respectful school culture.
And this school year, those procedures could become reality.
The school district tells us it recognizes bullying as a pattern of behavior that can wear down a student over time, rather than an isolated incident.
“If it comes to that point where it’s actually bullying, it will affect the child’s self esteem, confidence, and then we have to do social, emotional learning and curriculum in order to bring that child’s self esteem and confidence back up to level,” says JPS official Amanda D. Thomas.
With 21 years experience in Jackson Public Schools, Thomas has seen bullying in all forms.
Now, she’s the executive director of a department that’s brand new this year, put together to tackle chronic absenteeism and suspensions, which are sometimes the byproducts of bullying. In Marionna’s case, it was certainly the byproduct of the stabbing incident.
The new Department of Climate and Wellness encompasses coordinators, counselors, and truancy officers who plan to work toward building better relationships and trust with students. Also new this year in JPS: teachers will have a chance to intervene every day for high school students who need someone to talk to.
“In homerooms this year for high schoolers, there’s going to be an adviser (the teacher) advising students, in which they will come together every day for 40 minutes. Specifically the core value of relationships will be discussed, and also if children are having any problems academically or behaviorally, it will be an opportunity for them to have individual sessions with the adviser as well as small group," Thomas adds.
Tionna believes the new initiatives are a step in the right direction, and she hopes true effort is made.
“I go to sleep every night thinking, what if my daughter had been stabbed and was not here any more,” she says. “When the children come to you about things, take it serious. Because I have been up to the school so I know how they don’t listen.”
How can you recognize the signs that your child has been bullied?
According to kidshealth.org, unless your child tells you about bullying, or has visible bruises or injuries, it can be difficult to figure out if it’s happening.
But there are some warning signs. Parents might notice kids acting differently, seeming anxious, not eating or sleeping well, or not doing the things they usually enjoy. When kids seem moodier or more easily upset than usual, or when they start avoiding certain situations (like taking the bus to school), it might be because of a bully.
If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it as a conversation starter by asking, "What do you think of this?" or "What do you think that person should have done?" This might lead to questions like: "Have you ever seen this happen?" or "Have you ever experienced this?" You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.
Let your kids know that if they’re being bullied or harassed, or see it happening to someone else, it’s important to talk to someone about it, whether it’s you, another adult (a teacher, school counselor, or family friend) or a sibling.