A mother concerned about continued bullying that she said her daughter experienced at Oakland Elementary School has organized a social media campaign to draw attention to the issue.
Rachel Donelson said Friday that she took her daughter, Caity, out of Oakland on May 1 because of the effect that the taunts of three boys were having on the five-year-old.
"She broke down in tears telling me how scared she is to go to school," Donelson said.
In response to the situation, the West Ashley resident created a change.org site that calls for an investigation of bullying prevention and policy at Oakland and all Charleston County schools. As of late Friday afternoon, more than 1,800 people had registered as supporters of the campaign.
Donelson said she planned to present a petition to the school board at its next meeting bearing the signatures of those who support her effort.
Her son, Caleb, 7 witnessed Caity being bullied but he did not have the same problem. However, Donelson said that she decided to take him out of Oakland, too, because she felt he was not safe there.
She wants to transfer her children to Harbor View Elementary on James Island.
"Hopefully, it goes through," she said.
Last September, a classmate put his hands around Caity's neck as if to choke her. In April, a boy punched her in the stomach, Charleston County School District officials said.
The school handled what happened properly, officials said.
"We did everything we could. It's not bullying. It's two separate incidents," said district spokesman Jason Sakran.
Donelson alleges that the two boys regularly taunted her daughter. A third boy was also involved in the verbal bullying, she said.
The boys repeatedly told Caity that she was ugly, disgusting and everybody hated her, Donelson said.
When Donelson complained to the school, she said that officials told her, "Kids will be kids."
It was suggested to her that Caity might be exaggerating. "I was told I was overreacting. It was always dismissed," she said.
The school has no record of a formal complaint about verbal bullying of Caity, Sakran said.
He said Donelson's media campaign is "a bit irresponsible" and "disingenuous."
Caity was happy at school and doing well, said Terri Nichols, the school district associate superintendent for elementary schools.
"We'd like for her to come back" Nichols said.