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'Push a Freshman Day': prank or bullying?

March 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
In the city of Temecula, what some call a high-school prank has turned into something much more serious. The question: Is it bullying?

At least three students at Temecula Valley High School are in deep trouble-over something that didn't start in class, but rather in cyberspace. Someone posted an event on Facebook inviting fellow students to bully freshmen on campus Monday. They called it "Push a Freshman Day."

Some students said it was just a joke.

"It wasn't really meant to hurt anybody, it was just humor," said student Austin Reiss, a junior.

But others weren't laughing.

"That's terrible, you're not supposed to push kids, it's bullying," said student Brad Ewing, a junior.

School officials say they found out about "Push a Freshman" day over the weekend when parents started complaining.

The principal acted first thing Monday morning.

"The principal got on the loudspeaker, and basically notified the students that we have a zero-tolerance policy against bullying, and any act that was carried through would be disciplined," said Temecula Valley Unified School District Spokesperson Melanie Norton.

Three students were disciplined: First, the student who posted the event on Facebook, then two other students for actually pushing fellow classmates.

"Even though we can't go into specifics of how the students are disciplined, whether it's expulsion or suspension, they were disciplined and reprimanded," said Norton.

Most parents were pleased with how the school acted.

"I don't think anybody has the right to put their hands on anybody else, no matter what," said parent Barbara Justiniano.

Some parents say if indeed the person who posted "Push a Freshman Day" is expelled, that might be going too far.

"They have to be held responsible. They have to learn some way. It's OK to make a mistake, as long as you learn from the mistake. Suspension, OK. Expulsion, no," said parent Helen Robinson.