Responding to a Facebook post written by Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice regarding bullying at Dundalk High School, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett made his feelings known on bullying issues in his community's high school last week.
"I want to know exactly what is going on at Dundalk High School," the Ravens running back wrote Thursday morning on his official fan page, where he posts regular comments on bullying in schools. "NOT happy about all the messages I am getting from students about a boy being bullied so bad he is attempting to hurt himself repeatedly."
Bennett compared the situation to reports of bullying at Aberdeen High School – a lawsuit was filed against Harford County Public Schools in federal court in April by the parents of an Aberdeen High student who had allegedly been bullied since elementary school.
"Wow, sounds just like Aberdeen High School in Harford County," the mayor wrote on Rice's Facebook Page Thursday.
Bullying has become such a concern that two community meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks in Aberdeen to allow parents and residents to discuss bullying.
The first will be held for parents at the Aberdeen Senior Center at 7 Franklin St. on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Bennett will host the second meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, at Aberdeen City Hall at 60 N. Parke St.
In the pending federal lawsuit, the parents of the special-needs child accused Harford school officials of not taking action to protect their son and retaliating against them.
Amy Garner-Lindecamp, who claims in the suit that her son was being victimized by bullies at Aberdeen and is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, responded to Bennett's comment.
"Thank you Mr. Bennett for not being a bystander!!!" she wrote in response on Rice's Facebook Page.
Garner-Lindecamp also noted she had sent a personal message to Rice "explaining one of the major obstacles in HCPS that allows this to be ignored."
Rice visited Harford County in October to speak during an anti-bullying assembly at Bel Air High School.
He was invited to the school after the grandfather of a student won a raffle in which a Ravens player could visit a school.
Bel Air High School has taken part in the Rachel's Challenge campaign to stop bullying for the past three years – the program is named in honor of a student killed in the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said initiatives such as having a Ravens player visit or taking part in programs such as Rachel's Challenge are "school-based decisions."
Rice wrote in his Facebook post Thursday that he had also received messages that staff at Dundalk High were not taking action or making reports as required.
"Don't be a bystander and let this happen!" the post continued. "What the heck is going on?? Message me if you can shine some light on the situation over there because i do not like waking up to messages like this and quite honestly, this is avoidable and it PISSES ME OFF!"
The post generated 1,061 comments, 9,276 likes and 1,176 shares by Thursday evening.
Bennett was among those posting comments, and many agreed with Rice and shared their stories of bullying.
The mayor acknowledged in an interview later Thursday that the Aberdeen city government does not control what happens at the high school.
"The school is in our community and so things that are going on affect our citizens, and I felt like it was just time to step up and bring attention to some of things that are going on," he explained.