A mom in South Carolina was arrested on May 20 after walking into an elementary school, bypassing the sign-in desk, and angrily confronting a third-grade class because she believed some of the students had been bullying her son.
Jamie Rathburn had first contacted a teacher at Greenbrier Elementary School in December, when she became aware that one of her son’s classmates had picked on him about his hair. She asked the teacher to address the situation, but the bullying allegedly continued throughout the school year, and included name-calling, being hit with a computer, and even being pulled backwards by his neck on a slide, according to the Greenville News.
Having grown impatient with what she perceived as school authorities’ inadequate reaction to the misconduct, Rathburn decided to take matters into her own hands on May 17.
According to a now-deleted video on Rathburn’s Facebook page and a police report, the mom “snuck into the school and confronted kids that she estimated to be 9 years old.” Unsure of which students were harassing her son, she began warning all of them that “she was not playing around and that they better stop messing with her kid.”
Greenbrier authorities were apparently unaware of the incident until Rathburn’s video was brought to their attention. As part of the school’s investigation, they viewed security camera footage, which showed Rathburn entering the school during morning drop-off and making a beeline to her son’s classroom, where students were lined up and waiting for class to begin.
The video contained no audio, so authorities had to trust eyewitness accounts of what was said, but an investigating deputy was able to see the mom wagging her finger in children’s faces “as if making sure all the kids heard her and were listening,” he told the Greenville News.
One written statement from a teacher claimed that Rathburn was “pointing her finger at the kids and getting in their faces,” and another overheard the mom yelling about “not knowing who was bullying her son but that she was going to find them and their moms.”
A third teacher police said that he brought Rathburn into his classroom after the incident ad she “cursed him repeatedly,” then stormed out.
Rathburn was arrested three days after confronting the students and charged with disturbing schools, a misdemeanor. She was booked into the Greenville County Detention Center and released on her own recognizance.
Rathburn, who had been a ‘class mom’ tasked with bringing in supplies for parties and events, is also no longer allowed on school property.
In an email interview with Yahoo Lifestyle, Rathburn apologized for her actions but also justified them as an act of desperation. She said:
“My actions were wrong, but for the right reasons. I allowed my emotions to control my behavior because I was upset that this had been going on for so long. Maybe it wasnt the right way to handle it, but no one was listening when my son asked for help. When I became his voice and quietly asked for help I was also unheard.”
Rathburn had continued to contact school authorities about her son’s bullying throughout the school year without a proper response, she said. Her decision to enter the school and confront the children was “a reaction to the [school’s] lack of action.”
And though it “wasn’t right,” she said, “I dont know when it's time to protect [my] child’s mental health, but I think [doing something] now before something bad happens is better than five years from now when something bad has already happened.”
Rathburn added, “I dont want my child committing suicide or shooting up a school because no one heard his cries.”
The mom said she feels the focus should not be on her actions, but rather on the ways the school and community in North Carolina plan to deal with the issue of bullying.
“What can we do to empower these kids to be better?” she asked. What tools can we give them to work out difficult situations?”
In an effort to help answer this question, Rathburn recently launched a support group on Facebook called Moms Over Bullies, which has 140 followers.
Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to the Greenville County school district but did not get a reply in time for this article’s publication. Rathburn’s court date is set for June 18.
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