At Walker Middle, a return to school but not innocence

Tampa Bay Online
ODESSA, Florida — When Walker Middle School opened in 1997, parents pulled their kids from private schools to go there. With journalism and drama classes, environmentally sensitive programs and like-minded families, this public school would do just fine.

Dotted with picturesque lakes, the area attracted professional people to multimillion-dollar estates, the kind of places with a gate and a driveway the length of a football field. Even Walker’s less-wealthy parents are police officers, nurses, schoolteachers.
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Walker Middle School: Florida county launching “Bully Busters” anti-bully campaign

News Channel 8
You may have already seen bight blue posters that read “Don’t be Bullied,” or received one of the bookmarks being handed out around town. In the next few weeks, you may catch a television spot starring Hillsborough County students.

It’s all part of Hillsborough County’s new “Bully Busters” initiative to battle bullying in schools – prompted by charges that a Walker Middle School flag football player was sexually assaulted in a locker room with a hockey stick.
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Florida school bullying case highlights silent battle is now a crime

The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — In a Tampa middle school locker room, prosecutors say four flag football players held down a younger teammate and committed a horrifying assault: Raping him with a hockey stick and a broom handle.

“Don’t do it again or this is going to happen to you again,” a witness says he heard one of the boys say in the April attack.

Two decades ago, the attack may have stayed a secret. Victims of hazing, bullying and sexual assault are still often too terrified to report their attackers — though officials say that’s starting to change. Police are called to investigate everything from cyber-bullying and schoolyard fights to brutal hazing rituals, and tormenters can be prosecuted under anti-bullying laws in dozens of states. Proactive parents aren’t afraid to confront school officials or take the matter to court, and schools are training students and teachers alike to spot and report bullying.
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School bullying the subject of summer drama project

By Keith Morelli
Central Tampa News & Tribune
Schoolyard bullying seems a heady subject for a summer drama project but that’s what a group of youngsters are undertaking at the Patel Conservancy in Tampa.

This week, the group of 15 is applying the final touches to the play they wrote and staged. Under the director of director Jean Calandra, the production will take place on Saturday and 150 are expected to attend, she said.

The subject matter may seem a bit somber for the group made up of middle and high school students from various public and private schools in Hillsborough County. But it’s a topic they are intimately familiar with, she said, one they see all the time in their everyday lives. Full story.

School sexual assault prompts launch of online reporting

The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA — It’s time to break the code of silence among students when it comes to bullying in Hillsborough County schools and schools must make sure adults are there to listen, school board members say. Board members spoke out tonight against the culture that keeps kids silent about the threats they face from their classmates or about the intimidation they witness against others.

Their discussion marked the first time they searched for such answers since news surfaced that a 13-year-old boy at Walker Middle School in Odessa was repeatedly bullied and sexually assaulted for months in his own school.

One way to overcome the silence, administrators say, is to encourage students to use a soon-to-be-launched Web page that enables them to anonymously report bullying. The site should be ready when school resumes in August. Full story.F

4 teens charged as adults in Tampa locker room sexual assault case

By John Couwels
(CNN) — Four teenage boys in Tampa, Florida, were charged as adults Wednesday on allegations of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

Charged with four counts each of sexual battery were Randall John Moye, 14; Raymond A. Price-Murray, 14; Lee Louis Myers, 14; and Diamante J. Roberts, 15. CNN is naming the defendants because they were charged as adults.

Hillsborough County prosecutors allege the four boys raped the 13-year-old victim multiple times over two months with a broomstick and hockey stick. At a bond and arraignment hearing, the defendants appeared before Hillsborough County Judge Wayne Timmerman to hear the counts against them read in court.

Prosecutor Kimberly Hindman described to the court how two defendants held down the victim while the other two defendants violently sodomized him with the sticks. “The victim screamed and cried, telling them to stop,” Hindman said. The prosecutor said the victim’s screams could be heard outside the boys’ locker room at Walker Middle School, in southern Tampa, where the alleged assaults took place. Full story.