Before last school year, Delainey Krumwiede was a happy kid: no anxieties or stress beyond what worries most middle school students.
She's an eighth-grader this year at Simle Middle School, where she's involved in dance, track, soccer and recording stats for the wrestling team. She plays the saxophone in band and likes drawing her friends' portraits.
But there has been changes, according to her mother, Kristin Wentz-Krumwiede. She sees fewer smiles and the "happy-go-lucky" kid who could "light up a room with her personality" was not there.
"She also started doing extracurricular activities, so I thought maybe she's just busy, maybe she's just tired," Wentz-Krumwiede said in a recent interview.
Then Delainey started stuttering, and eventually, the story spilled from her: She was being harassed by another student at school. She said he called her derogatory names, among other things. It didn't just happen once, Delainey said.
The school put some preventive measures in place. Delainey's schedule was switched to avoid interaction with the other student. This year, the harassment has expanded when the same student started bullying Delainey's sister. In frustration, last month Wentz-Krumwiede took to Facebook to call out the injustice.
Her post outlining the harassment her daughter endured struck a chord as it was shared more than 300 times and received more than 100 comments, some from parents sharing similar concerns. A Facebook group was formed on Delainey's behalf called Support our Students.
Wentz-Krumwiede plans to speak at the Bismarck School Board meeting today and offer suggestions on the district's policies on harassment and bullying. Sixty people have said they plan to attend the meeting in support of Wentz-Krumwiede and to advocate for policy changes.
Wentz-Krumwiede said she also wants the kid doing the bullying to get help.
"At the end of the day, we can’t fix what happened to Delainey, but, if we can help this kid so he doesn’t do it to someone else and maybe speaking out is giving someone else the power to say, 'Hey, that happened to me, too,'" she said.
Bismarck Public Schools policies prohibits bullying and harassment in schools, as outlined in student handbooks and placed on bulletin boards in staff break rooms. Staff are trained yearly on the district's bullying policy, said BPS Superintendent Tamara Uselman.
"If a single child is bullied, then bullying is a problem," she said in an email.
The policies define bullying and harassment and indicate how these incidents are investigated, including disciplinary and corrective measures and victim protection strategies. Uselman said she could not discuss the investigation involving Delainey due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protects student privacy.
"Anybody who's a logical thinker would know that a school environment doesn’t want bullying and doesn’t want harassment or discrimination. Law enforcement don’t want crimes, right? So, you do your best on the preventative side, but then when something happens you investigate … and, again, you respond to what you find out," Uselman said.
After a doctor could not identify a reason for Delainey's stuttering, Delainey finally told her mom what was happening at school.
"I said .... we’re going to go to the school; the school’s going to protect our kid," she said. "I had this very utopian idea that it’s going to be fine and they’re going to fix it and it’s not going to be a problem."
When Delainey's classes were switched, teachers were made aware of her situation and watched for any further incidents of harassment or bullying.
"We wanted to keep her safe," said Wentz-Krumwiede, but a sit-down restorative justice program in which Delainey and the other student signed a contract pledging to stay away from each other at the school seemed to have re-traumatized her daughter.
"From that point, she started stuttering again," Wentz-Krumwiede said.
The Facebook group created in support of Delainey has garnered a lot of attention. Dozens of parents, students and residents have indicated they plan to attend the school board meeting today, including Emily Lang, a 10th-grader at Legacy High School.
Lang said she was a victim of bullying last year at Century High School. Eventually, she and her mother decided it would be best to transfer schools.
"I just tried to ignore it, but you can't really," said Lang, who has been moved to action on the Support our Students page.
"I thought I have to go to this meeting to support them, because I wished someone had supported me during my time," said Lang, who also started a Students Against Destructive Decisions group at Legacy this school year, which also focuses on anti-bullying efforts.
Stacey Hauff also saw Wentz-Krumwiede's post on Facebook and decided to get involved.
"With social media these days, we just see so many things go wrong because of bullying,” said Coburn Hauff, a former middle school teacher, most recently teaching at Fort Yates.
"Those middle school years, it's a tough time for kids that age. When I was teaching, I saw a lot of bullying," she said. "As educators, there is only so much we can do, but what we can do is handle it correctly."
Coburn Hauff has designed T-shirts for people to wear at the meeting.
"I just think there needs to be a silent show of solidarity, that parents and residents of this town know what's going on and we're here to support her," she said.
Wentz-Krumwiede said she's hoping what happened to her daughter won't continue to happen to others.
"As strong as our children are, they're fragile, as well. And I don't want for my kid to be the next statistic. I don't want my kid to be the one where we go, 'Where did we miss it?' She was smiling Friday and now?" she said.
Wentz-Krumwiede said she's attending the school board meeting not to "lay blame" to the school, and, in fact, she would like to thank the administrators for jumping so quick to action.
But she wants to see policy change in terms of how parents are notified of steps being taken to remedy bullying and harassment incidents. She said she was kept in the dark during the investigation and wishes she had been made more aware of what was being done.
"I want to know how my kid is being kept safe, and telling me that school consequences are in place does not help me at all," she said.