AP NEWS

Bullying incident at Phoenix Charter School began with students howling like wolves

February 23, 2019

Phoenix Charter School officials stepped in quickly this week after a group of younger students howling and growling like wolves drew the ire, and some bullying, from their classmates.

Principal Brandy Osborn said a small group of about 10 kids were involved in the incident, which took place at lunchtime. She said she was notified about the incident Tuesday, addressed it immediately, and then a second incident happened Wednesday and was addressed the same day.

“We’re just trying to be very proactive to build the strong relationships with the students, and help them to understand when it’s OK to do certain things and when it’s not,” Osborn said.

Also Wednesday, Phoenix skill builder Dian Humphries and counselor David Forney sent a letter to parents outlining their concerns.

Humphries and Forney wrote that the group of students acting like wolves were being harassed by students who had gone so far as to comment about “killing the furries.”

The bullying behavior against the wolf lovers, they wrote, is “way over the line and has to stop immediately.”

If it continues, disciplinary action will be taken, they said.

Humphries and Forney said no students have mentioned despising wolves.

“(O)ne group enjoys a fascination and passion for wolves and their habitat. They are really cool and a big part of our ecosystem,” the letter said.

It said the students may have a lifelong passion for wolves.

“However, behaving as though they are wolves may be seen by other students as immature or annoying on a high school campus,” it said.

However, Osborn said the conflict wasn’t really about students with an affinity for wolves. The kids were really just playing around during lunch, she said.

“It was just a little game, something like you would see more in your younger years. They were just playing with each other, and another group of students asked them to stop, and they didn’t so it just escalated from there,” Osborn said.

She also said she didn’t think the students in the other group intended to threaten the group that had been howling.

“It really is kids just reacting to something that seems weird to them,” she said.

Osborn said staff members trained in a process called restorative justice will work with the two groups to solve the problem. They will first work with each group individually to help them understand how their behavior impacted others. Then the two groups will be brought together, so they can “become friends when this is all over.”

She said parents have reacted well to the school’s proactive approach.

“A majority of what we’re getting is a lot of thank yous for handling it quickly,” she said.