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Father and daughter speak out after bullying incident at a Twin Falls middle school

The altercation took place at Robert Stuart Middle School
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 5:36 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — As a parent, when you send your children to school, you want them to be safe.

One Twin Falls father learned, however, that not only was his daughter attacked on campus but there was video evidence of the altercation.

Bryan Soloaga’s daughter was an 8th-grade student at Robert Stuart middle school in Twin Falls. On May 12th, during lunch, Soloaga says his daughter was confronted by another student on the south side of the school. After a verbal altercation, the interaction turned physical.

“She chased my daughter down and hit her five times from back, hit her upside the head five times,” said Soloaga.

Injured in the incident, Soloaga’s daughter Kamryn said she didn’t expect a fight would happen, as she said “I thought she was a really nice girl, but then things changed, I guess.”

We did not make the video public to protect the identity of everyone who might have been involved, but we asked one Twin Falls mother to watch it. After viewing the footage, mother of two Amber Balbas said, “the fight is what people will see as a big issue, but one of my bigger issues is that there is a whole group of people there who have literally done nothing to help the situation at all.”

When Soloaga learned of the incident, he was taken aback by the school’s response.

“I was told by resource officer that they weren’t going to arrest a 14-year-old girl for what had happened,” he said.

KMVT contacted the Twin Falls School District, who provided a statement which said in part “This is a troubling incident and it was dealt with immediately and the student involved was disciplined per our discipline policy.”

The district added they are “deeply concerned” when students act out violently and that they want to ensure that their schools are a safe environment for all to learn.

The percentage of Idaho’s public school students who indicate they have been bullied is among the highest in the nation. In the latest Federal Indicators of School and Crime Safety Report — in which 9th through 12th-grade students were surveyed — more than one in four students reported having been bullied on school property. That is the second-highest rate in the nation.

According to the district office, every year between 20 and 30 students are expelled from the Twin Falls School District for major or chronic behavior issues, but the district emphasized the need for community help in order to curb this troubling trend.

“Students learn from society how to deal with conflict,” said Twin Falls School District Public Relations Director Eva Craner. “We all need to engage with the children in our community and make them understand this is the right way to be respectful of others.”

The full statement from the Twin Falls School District can be viewed below:

“This is a troubling incident and it was dealt with immediately and the student involved was disciplined. The TFSD is cooperating with law enforcement on the matter. Due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) disciplinary action is confidential, including from the victim and their parents. That being said, the district can comment in general about policies and how they are implemented. We are deeply concerned when students act out violently. Our administrators are tasked with taking immediate action to investigate and implement supportive measures for the reporter/victim. Administrators utilize video footage and often interview other students who may be witnesses of a student conflict. Discipline is based on the entirety of the situation and previous behavior. We utilize a progressive corrective action policy to determine what discipline is appropriate in any given circumstance. Our administration works closely with our Student Resource Officers and in instances where a law may have been broken, the school or the parent of the victim may press charges and we often encourage parents to do so. In instances where behavior is repeated, it is crucial that parents and students continue to notify administrators as repeated behaviors have escalating consequences. Our disciplinary consequences include suspension and expulsion. Every year 20-30 students are expelled from the TFSD for major or chronic behavior issues. Many of these students then work through alternative programs. There are also state laws that dictate the amount of time a school can deny enrollment to a student (suspension). In most cases, this is five days. We want to ensure that our schools are a safe environment for all to learn. All of our staff members are trained in anti-bullying every fall. This is required training, not just for educators but for everyone in the buildings. We employ School Resource Officers and security aides to help monitor students throughout the building. Staff members are trained to intervene immediately. We are proactive by educating students about how to deal with conflict in a restorative manner and many schools utilize positive behavior and intervention practices. Counselors are trained and help students with conflict resolution throughout the year. Students are rewarded for doing the right thing and we teach those behaviors. We also encourage students to report to school staff anytime there is student conflict so that it can be addressed before it escalates. We do need the community’s help in modeling appropriate behaviors for our students. Students learn from society how to deal with conflict. We all need to engage with the children in our community to make sure that they understand how to be respectful of others.”

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