Says father in bullying case was ‘threatening’
Catholic diocese officials on defended their response Thursday to a complaint of bullying by classmates of a student at a Hammond school and disclosed they filed a restraining order last month against the victim’s father for threatening school officials.
The revelation of the restraining order came one day after news surfaced of a lawsuit filed by William and Jeanine Holmes in Tangipahoa Parish against Holy Ghost Catholic School and the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, alleging they failed to appropriately discipline two classmates who bullied their 13-year-old daughter over social media.
The school also expelled the girl and her brother because of the threatening nature of the students’ father, said Donna Carville, spokeswoman for the diocese.
Jeanine Holmes has said the verbal bullying by the two students was so severe her daughter had to be hospitalized.
“It was horrific, terrorizing in nature, mentally cruel, hurtful and demeaning,” Holmes said of the bullying. She refused to go into any specifics of what was said to her daughter or what was in the social media messages that taunted her.
Holmes said she did not want to demonize the seventh-grade boys because they are “only children.”
“The bullying was psychological, not physical. Just because the words stopped four months ago doesn’t discount the damage it caused. The damage is done,” Jeanine Holmes said.
In a statement released Thursday, diocese officials confirmed “that a family did make a complaint against two students for acts of bullying, that the administration took those complaints seriously, followed up and disciplined the students.”
The statement also said the “Actions were taken in accordance with handbook and policy of the school and diocese. The discipline was serious, was more than detentions but less than expulsion and was designed to teach them that bullying is not acceptable at Holy Ghost or anywhere else.”
Carville said school officials did not want to expel the students because it was a first offense.
Holmes said school policy states that if the bullying is extreme, expulsion is the punishment.
Holmes also said a Hammond police detective investigating the matter told her the boys admitted to him, school staff and their parents the bullying was extreme.
The diocese statement says the complaining family was not satisfied with the punishment the school meted out and demanded the two boys be expelled.
The statement continues, “The father of this family became so threatening toward the principal, the pastor and the school itself that a restraining order from the court had to be obtained against the father prohibiting him from threatening the administration and the school. While we do not agree with the actions and the accusations of the family, we are praying for them, and sincerely hope that they are happy at the new school they have chosen for their children.”
According to the request for a restraining order filed in state District Court on Feb. 20, William Holmes made “numerous threats” to the safety of both Holy Ghost School and the principal.
The request also states Holmes engaged in angry, threatening confrontations with the principal in front of students and teachers.
The document also states Holmes told the principal she was a “devil worshipper” and he would take her, the school and the church’s pastor “down one piece at a time.”
Holmes is further accused of saying a coach at the school was owed “an ass whipping.”
When asked about the restraining order Thursday, Jeanine Holmes said her husband never made any threats to harm school officials.
“We can’t imagine a dad not being angry about what happened or not raising their voice. But to say that he issued a threat is a complete untruth,” Jeanine Holmes said.
Jeanine Holmes has said the bullying became so intense her daughter had to be admitted to a New Orleans hospital Jan. 30 for psychiatric care and remained until Feb. 5 because she had shown signs of depression and suicidal tendencies.
The Holmes family contacted police while their daughter was still in the hospital, their lawsuit says.
Police confiscated several electronic communication devices the boys allegedly used to bully the girl, the family’s attorney has said.
Police officials have said the matter is still under investigation.
Jeanine Holmes also said the reasons the diocese is now giving for expelling her daughter and son from the school is not what they were told.
“When my husband was called and told our children were going to be expelled, they told us the reason was because we violated policy by speaking out against the school and not supporting the school. Sounds like they need to get their stories straight,” Jeanine Holmes said.
Carville said there are two sides to every story and the expulsion of the Holmes children had nothing to do with speaking out against the school.