PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A West Sylvan Middle School student has begun arming herself with defenses after she says bullying on and off campus has gotten out of control.
Jocelyn Karst and her mother are now sounding the alarm by asking the district to do more to keep students safe after a brutal attack in October forced them into court.
“I bought pepper spray after pepper spray. They took them away, so I bring a panic button now to school,” Karst said.
This is the third bullying incident involving the middle school since the start of this year.
A video from that day shows Karst viciously assaulted by another West Sylvan student at an apartment complex where they both reportedly live.
“She pulled me, threw me to the ground, and then started hitting me multiple times,” Karst said. “And all I remember is apologizing over and over. I kind of didn’t know what was real at that point.”
Heather Chick, Karst’s mother, was in their home during the attack.
“I’m above, you know, cooking dinner,” Chick said. “I have no idea that my daughter is screaming for mom and asking for help the entire time.”
Although the assault happened off school grounds, her mother tells KOIN 6 they received a temporary protective order against the student – alerting the school shortly after it happened. But since then, they say no action had been taken until a Multnomah County judge made the order permanent in March.
“The teachers and the principal mostly have been very aware of what’s going on, and still did not follow those rules,” said Heather Chick, Karst’s mother. “I mean, we could have been…held accountable too if something would have happened with her, you know, towards her. Either way, it goes both ways. And nobody established any kind of rules or boundaries.”
Chick said that after the incident, the video was widely shared throughout the school – leading to more harassment and threats against her daughter on campus.
This report comes after KOIN 6 covered two other attacks involving West Sylvan Middle School students over the past few months, with an attorney for the mother and daughter writing in a redacted email to school staff March 9.
The email reads: “I am aware of multiple acts of violence that seemingly continue to occur at West Sylvan Middle School. While this pattern concerns me, I specifically need to know what steps you are going to take to protect my client while she is in your school, in compliance with the terms of the attached order.”
The letter was confirmed by PPS Chief of Schools Dr. Jon Franco who oversees bullying. He said the student identified in the stalking order has not been on campus since March 8.
In response, he tells KOIN 6: “There is a national crisis around student dis-regulation and we in Portland are not immune to this crisis. We have, and will continue, to prioritize Social Emotional Learning (SEL) support for students through SEL curriculum, increasing the number of quality mental health providers, and professional development for educators and staff.”
And while PPS says they have now added a campus safety associate at West Sylvan Middle and are incorporating lessons on anti-bias, Chick and her daughter say more can and should be done to keep students safe.
“There are many reasons why the district should investigate West Sylvan. The principal and vice principal should gain knowledge about this,” Karst said. “The violence has caused me to not want to be there. It has caused me to fear for my life.”
Chick said the school needs to show concern as if they were their own kids because “they’re the second parent in a way.”
“They go to school a lot of hours, and those kids depend on these adults to take care of them, and to watch them, and keep them safe, and to teach them,” Chick said. “What they’re teaching them right now is nobody cares.”