A shaky video posted on social media of bullies allegedly taunting a 17-year-old disabled student has sparked outrage and prompted a Sheriff’s Office criminal investigation in Stokes County, North Carolina.
The video, shared on Facebook, shows Michael Wishon encircled by fellow students who taunt him after one among them smashed his cell phone, say members of the teen’s family.
It was shared on Facebook Wednesday by Donald Morton, who wrote that the victim is his nephew. Morton said in his post that the incident happened Tuesday at South Stokes High, which is about 20 miles north of Winston-Salem.
The video had been viewed 78,000 times and shared 2,400 times in 24 hours on Facebook. It was not made clear who among the students filmed the incident and where it was first posted online.
“Ok, enough is enough,” Morton’s wrote, saying the video shows teens “taunting Michael and all of his classmates were watching and laughing at him....Michael is legally blind.”
Wishon’s mother, Kelly Wishon, was quoted telling WFMY that the video left her questioning whether past mishaps involving her son were caused by bullying. “He’s always coming home with chewed bubble gum stuck to him,” she was reported saying.
Morton’s post complained the school didn’t do enough to punish the bullies. The district responded later Wednesday with a Facebook post saying an investigation had been reopened and local law enforcement was also involved. It did not give specifics.
“On Tuesday, there was a discipline incident at one of our schools. The principal investigated the situation and based upon the information provided, administered discipline according to the handbook,” said the Stokes County Schools post.
“This morning, more information was shared through a video on Facebook. When the new information was shared, the investigation was re-opened, the principal administered additional discipline...and the matter was referred to law enforcement for further investigation.”
School officials said in the statement that they would not discuss the type of punishment or names of the students involved, because “both state and federal confidentiality laws prohibit our disclosing publicly the specific disciplinary action taken in this, or any other, specific matter.”
WFMY said it confirmed the Stokes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating and charges could be filed.
On Wednesday, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to raise money for Wishon to buy a new phone. The campaign had raised just over $500 in the past day. “We did not include a photo of Michael. He’s already endured enough embarrassment,” says the GoFundMe campaign page.
Comments in response to Morton’s Facebook post ranged from criticism of the school district to surprise over the teens filming the episode.
“This makes me sad,” posted Cody Alvear on Facebook. “Bullying is never a ‘light’ topic to discuss, and it’s even harder when you’re the victim. What gets me the most, is not only did they take (the phone), but they destroyed it. And taunted him about it.”
“I think it’s sad that it took this going viral on Facebook for the investigation to be reopened,” posted Doris Ford on the school district’s Facebook page. “Shame on the teacher, shame on the students for standing around and watching it happen, and shame on the principle for closing the case without investigating it properly to begin with.”