DES MOINES — When a 10-year-old girl came home from school last week, she had "loser" written on her forehead and a mustache drawn on her face.
Raeann Long, of Council Bluffs, Iowa, cried as she explained to her parents that one girl had held her down on the school bus while another drew on her face, both ignoring her pleas for them to stop.
"These girls asked her to sit by them, and my daughter, she's a people person … so she went over there and thought everything was going to be OK," said Zach Dabney, Raeann's father.
Dabney reported the Jan. 31 bullying incident to Titan Hill Intermediate School officials, but he said he's not satisfied with their response. The school bus driver should not have let this happen, he added.
Dabney and his wife plan to file a civil lawsuit against the school and the school bus company, to fight for their daughter, he said.
They've also reported the incident to Council Bluffs police. A police spokesman confirmed the case is under investigation.
Titan Hill Principal Kent Stopak said he investigated the incident and has taken steps to discipline those involved. He did not provide specific information on the disciplinary steps.
"The Lewis Central Community School District does not tolerate this type of behavior," Stopak said in a statement Monday. "I will continue to work with our student body to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect."
But this is not the first instance of bullying Dabney's children have experienced in Council Bluffs, the father said, and he believes much of the bullying is racially motivated. His four children are mixed race, with African-American and Native-American heritage.
Dabney said his 11-year-old son told him he had been called a racial slur by fellow students earlier this school year.
Almost a week after she came home with drawings on her face, Raeann doesn't like talking about what happened, Dabney said, but he can tell she's still bothered by it.
He added that he doesn't fully blame his children's classmates for their behavior, as he believes it's their parents who teach them it's OK.
"We're going to try to bring this to the light," Dabney said. "A lot of parents are scared to pursue it the way we're going. … But it's not fair for kids to go to school and be scared of being there."