Duneland school officials and parents remain silent about a high school student-hazing incident, but one mother of a Chesterton Middle School student is willing to share the story of her son’s victimization.Amy Culp says her son Chance Culp-Rigg, a seventh-grader at Chesterton Middle School, has endured constant bullying since he was in intermediate school.
Chance, 13, has been pushed, spat on, verbally abused and physically attacked, his mom says.
She wants to share his story — and to form a support group with other parents to share one message: Stop the hazing.
Read reporter Diane Krieger Spivak’s story on Page A6.
CHESTERTON — Chance Culp-Rigg has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a form of muscular dystrophy that makes walking difficult.
He also suffers from asthma.
But his physical limitations are the least of the 13-year-old’s worries.
“A group of kids trip him and kick his books down the hallway at school,” said Chance’s mother Amy Culp. “It happens all the time.”
Chance is subjected to further attacks and humiliation, in the hall, at his locker, during swimming, on the way to the school bus.
“In January a group of boys were grabbing his chest, saying he has “man boobs,” Culp said. “The same group of kids went up to his locker, said he was gay and that they wanted to make out with him. If there was a girl they were doing it to, they would be kicked out of school,” Culp said.
The bullying has been nearly every day, she said.
“He cries every day that he doesn’t feel well and doesn’t want to go to school,” Culp said. “He says, ‘They’re going to get me in the hallway,’ and I feel terrible that I have to send him. It’s not just physical. It’s emotional and mental.”
Last fall, when Chance joined the wrestling team, several eighth-grade wrestlers unzipped their pants, held down underclassmen, one by one, and exposed themselves in the younger students’ faces, Culp said. Chance was able to fight them off with his asthma inhaler.
“They were suspended from their first wrestling meet but they should have been kicked off the team,” Culp said. The school’s attitude ‘is boys will be boys.’ To me, that’s filthy and disgusting.”
The principal of the school denies Culp’s account and said the school is responding.
James Ton said information he was given indicated that the boys had not removed their pants, but sat on the younger boys.
“They were dealt with appropriately,” Ton said.
Ton said Chance’s locker was moved about two weeks ago from boys who harassed him, into an area that is constantly monitored by camera.
Chance has also been given extra time to walk to class between periods.
“Since then there have been no other concerns,” Ton said.
Ton also said the school has a bullying program in place that’s available to students every day.
But Culp says that those things haven’t kept bullies from attacking her son.
“Things still go on every day,” she said.
The bullying didn’t start in middle school.
In intermediate school one boy called Chance at home, making fun of his clothes on several occasions.
“When I asked to meet with his parents at school the other boy’s mother said her son was popular and my son should consider himself lucky her son was giving him advice on clothing,” Culp said.
Chance missed school most of the month of February with bronchitis this year.
“His doctor thinks it’s stress-related due to the bullying,” Culp said, adding that Chance has also started going to counseling to deal with the bullying.
“He’s gone from basically a straight-A student to getting Ds,” Culp said.
She fears the attacks will continue into high school, especially after the February incident among the Chesterton High School show choir members at a competition downstate. That incident was dealt with internally, administrators said.
The students were given several days suspension, plus other sanctions.
Superintendent Dirk Baer said Duneland has a district-wide bullying policy.
“Students have less understanding of what’s appropriate and not appropriate today,” Baer said. “They have less understanding of what’s least acceptable to the point of being offensive.”
Baer said parents are always welcome to contact the school or school corporation if they believe their child is being bullied or hazed.
“There’s no question that bullying is a problem everywhere,” Baer said.
“I don’t know what the answers are,” Culp said. “They need to make examples out of these people instead of smacking them on the hands and saying don’t do it again.”
In the meantime, Culp would like to meet with other parents whose children are also victimized.
“I would love anybody else who has trouble at Chesterton to contact me, so we can, among all of us, figure this out,” Culp said.