3 On Your Side Investigates: Reporting bullying on Yazoo County School District buses

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 10:20 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A frustrated Yazoo County mother who is upset that her son is a victim of chronic bullying reached out to 3 On Your Side.

Wendy Burgess told WLBT that her son’s bullying at school and on the school bus was not being properly handled by either the Yazoo County School District or by the bus transportation service.

“It is ridiculous. You have a parent calling you constantly and they just look at you and they just kind of smile like they don’t care,” Burgess said.

On Tuesday afternoon, her 9-year-old son Tucker Burgess rode home from Bentonia Gibbs Elementary School on the school bus where his mother says he was beaten by 3 boys.

“My son came home crying off the bus telling me the same 3 boys that have been bullying him all year long held him down on the seat and was beating on him and they covered his mouth to keep him from screaming,” Burgess said.

Burgess said this isn’t the first time Tucker has come home with bruises. The bullying began a year ago when another student slammed Tucker to the ground - breaking his collar bone.

Burgess said she met with Superintendent Dr. Ken Barron about her son’s collarbone and Dr. Barron told her the child who hurt Tucker was disciplined.

“They told me that due to the privacy of the student and everything, they could not tell me anything, but they did discipline the child, which I don’t know if they honestly did or not,” Burgess said.

Fast-forward to the next school year, Burgess said the bullying has moved to the bus - with Tucker being slapped, punched, and tripped.

When Burgess went to report one of the first incidents on the bus, she says Bentonia Gibbs Elementary School secretaries told her to call and report the issues to Ecco Ride of Yazoo, the company that runs the school buses.

After contacting the company, Burgess said she was told she would be called back after they review the school bus camera footage.

“We speak to the supervisor, Mr. Joshua Anderson, he tells me that he has to review the footage and then he has to call me back. Well, I wouldn’t get a call back or anything like that,” Burgess said.

Burgess said she has called Ecco for 6 other bullying incidents, none of which have been addressed.

So when Tucker was pinned down on the bus two days ago, instead of calling Ecco and repeating the pattern, she met with Director of Transportation Joe Odum and Federal Programs Director Kim Newton in the Superintendents office to get to the bottom of the issue.

“They seemed like they cared. And yet again, I was told that they couldn’t do anything until they get the footage and look at it but it may be tomorrow, before they know anything. As soon as I mentioned WLBT, they were immediately trying to contact everybody to get into that recording room to view the tape,” Burgess said.

We asked the Superintendent of the Yazoo County School District to respond to the claims that Burgess had made - if the district had handled any of the bullying on the school bus.

He said that he could not give any details on the specific case and offered a statement stating the district “takes matters of student safety seriously” and “When an incident is reported, we investigate and address it in accordance with these policies.”

Dr. Ken Barron's Statement
Dr. Ken Barron's Statement(Holly Emery)

And while it may be that the incidents that Burgess had been reporting to Ecco had not gotten to the School District office, Burgess said someone in the chain of communication is not doing their job and reporting the bullying on the bus.

“I’m tired of constantly going through this with my son. I’m reporting that he is being bullied by the same children. And they’re not getting wrote up. There’s nothing happening.”

But this isn’t the first time 3 On Your Side has done this story. Back in 2007, the same school was accused of misdirecting parents when reporting issues on the bus.

“We call the school, they tell us to call here. We call here, they tell us to call the school. We get a big run around,” said one concerned mother from Yazoo County in 2007.

Hopefully this will be the last time we do this story.

Wednesday night, Burgess said Bentoina Gibbs Principal Charlotte Scott reached out to her and said she was suspending several children after viewing the bus footage. But she also told Burgess Tucker was seen standing on the bus and talking to the boys who beat him. But there is no audio to determine what was being said.

Burgess wonders if Tucker was standing up from himself.

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