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Former Hancock County students, parents demand stop to alleged bullying

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 6:45 AM CDT
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HANCOCK COUNTY, Mississippi (WLOX) - Former Hancock County School district students and parents are taking a stance on the ongoing issue of bullying, which they allege is ongoing at both the middle and high schools.

After this year’s Hancock Middle School yearbook surfaced with inappropriate quotes and remarks from students, many felt it was long overdue that something be done.

“Bullying within the schools, I would say I directly experienced that,” said Trevor Ladner, who graduated from Hancock High in 2016 and would go on to attend Harvard University.

Ladner now teaches 10th grade U.S. History in Massachusetts. Despite the Hancock Schools handbook stating that the district “does not condone and will not tolerate bullying or harassing behavior,” Ladner said that was not the case for him when it came to battling bullies.

Trevor Ladner, pictured left at his graduation from Hancock High in 2016, said he was often the...
Trevor Ladner, pictured left at his graduation from Hancock High in 2016, said he was often the target for bullies in middle and high school. After graduating, Trevor attended Harvard and now teaches in Massachusetts.(Trevor Ladner)

“Thinking back to my own middle school experience, I certainly remember facing a lot of teasing and bullying because I was a feminine boy,” said Ladner.

Almost a week ago, Ladner wrote a six-page letter to the district demanding school leaders stand behind their word and better protect students.

“It matters to me on a very personal level and as a professional educator... and even the reason why I went into education is because of the experiences I had within my school system,” said Ladner.

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Parent Joy Dinnella now homeschools her children after eight years of them attending Hancock County schools.

“I pulled all of my children out due to all the issues at the school,” said Dinnella.

Dinnella said one of her daughters was bullied to the extent of violent attacks.

“There was this one girl that had been harassing my child so much that she was even showing up at our house,” said Dinnella. “I get a phone call one day from the principal and she tells me my daughter is having a seizure and says she’s been in a fight. I asked her if she called 911 and she told me no.”

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The school handbook states on page 33 that a report should be made within five days of the alleged act. Dinnella said she immediately went to the school and talked with resource officers, but said nothing was done to protect her child.

“I went to the school,” Dinnella said. “I called the school. I met with resource officers. I did everything I could and still nothing prevented my child from getting violently attacked at the school.”

Dinnella said she felt she did everything right but, unfortunately, her efforts only made things worse for her children at school.

“Everything was pushed under the rug and it was my children that became the target,” she said. “It’s not even just the children; it seems to be the adults that are targeting the children at this school and that’s what makes it more concerning.”

Several parents and students, both former and current, have reached out to WLOX over the last...
Several parents and students, both former and current, have reached out to WLOX over the last week to express concerns about bullying they say is happening at Hancock Middle and Hancock High schools.(WLOX)

Former foster parent Emily Taylor said her child was also bullied in Hancock schools, but said the roots of bullying go beyond the school’s walls.

“(We can’t) just put it all on the school because that comes from home, too,” Taylor said. “Kids don’t just go to school and are like, ‘I’m going to be a bully while I’m here.’ It’s a lingering issue and I feel it needs to be talked about more.”

Ladner has started a petition with efforts to address and stop the ongoing bullying within the district. As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 500 signatures from former students, parents, and even former administrators in the district.

WLOX reached out to Hancock County School District requesting a comment on the allegations of bullying but received this statement instead:

“We are still looking into the accusations and have no comment at this time.”

On July 1, Hancock County School District will have a new superintendent. Alan Dedeaux has announced that he will retire. The school board has appointed Theresa Merwin as the new superintendent.

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