STAMFORD, Conn. - School officials tried to head off the disagreement between two eighth-graders that eventually led to the arrest on Oct. 1 of one of them on charges of bullying, according to Domus, a Stamford-based group that runs an alternative school.
The 12-year-old and 13-year-old girls at the center of the incident are students at Domus’ Trailblazers Academy and had been friends since the sixth grade, Mike Duggan, executive director of Domus, said in a statement.
However, since the beginning of the school year the two have had an undisclosed disagreement, and “staff members held mediations between the girls, checked in daily with them, held bullying groups, switched their homerooms, connected one girl with a behavior clinician, ensured both were in Girls Circle groups, and ensured they always had an adult to confide in,” he said. The bullying groups are a “standing part” of the school’s activities.
Despite the efforts of school staff, “the girls could not repair their relationship and failed to communicate clearly about their differences,” according to Duggan.
The police were notified about the situation Sept. 18, Duggan said, by “the parent of one girl who repeatedly rebuffed her friend’s attempts at rekindling their friendship.” The parent was concerned because they saw a text by their daughter that expressed sadness “about the loss of the friendship.”
The specific contents of the text were not revealed, but according to police, the girl made “made comments about committing suicide.”
The girl was charged with disorderly conduct in the case, said Stamford Police Lt. Diedrich Hohn in a statement.
“This behavior will not be tolerated by the Stamford Police Department,” said Hohn in a statement. “If it is brought to our attention we will vigorously investigate the allegations and make arrests when appropriate. We investigate all claims of bullying and this type of behavior will not be condoned in a learning environment.”
Police did not reveal the girl's identity, school or the nature of the bullying.
Police and school officials jointly investigated the case, and determined that the complaint was credible and that an arrest could help quell the situation. The girl was released to her parents’ custody after the arrest.
Duggan said that to his knowledge the disagreement between the two girls never became physical.
“Many youth in Domus programs are dealing with traumatic things that have happened to them, and they are working hard to grow and heal,” he said. “Sometimes, they make mistakes and behave in ways that don’t solve the problem or even make it worse. While we understand how and why these behaviors happen, we do not tolerate behaviors like this in our learning environment, and we intervene whenever we see or notice something, or when a concern is brought to us by a student or adult.”
Duggan said Domus spent three years becoming a certified trauma-informed organization to help deal with such issues involving students, and he believes that process aided the school in this instance.
“We are glad both girls and their parents confided in us and trust us to help and support them to this day, and we are grateful we became a trauma-informed model so youth in every Domus program talk about and deal with their complex emotions, even when they don’t do so perfectly,” he said.
Stamford-based Domus operates a dozen educational, residential and community programs to help vulnerable youth get on the path to a productive adulthood.