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A mom stormed into school to confront her kid's bullies. She was arrested.

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Bullying can result in charges in certain instances. Natalie Pate, Statesman Journal

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Frustrated by what she believes was bullying of her third-grade son, Jamie Rathburn entered Greenbrier Elementary School and emotionally confronted his classmates.

She left the scene and was arrested three days later, charged with disturbing schools and booked into the Greenville County Detention Center before being released on a bond, according to a police report.

Rathburn regrets her actions but remains concerned about bullying for her son and other children, she said, and she's disappointed in the Greenville County school district's response. 

The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said deputies were made aware of the May 17 incident after Rathburn posted a 6-minute, 44-second “video rant” on Facebook. Rathburn admitted on video that “she snuck into the school and confronted kids that she estimated to be 9 years old," according to the report.

The video has since been removed. 

Rathburn said she was a "class mom" so people at the school knew her from bringing in supplies for parties and events.

In the video, Rathburn said she wasn’t sure which boy she was looking for, so she wanted them to know that “she was not playing around and that they better stop messing with her kid,” the report said.

Jamie Rathburn, of Simpsonville, who was arrested on May 20, 2019 after she confronted students at Greenbrier Elementary School about bullying her son was experiencing, has become an advocate for bullying prevention. (Photo: MATT BURKHARTT/Staff)

'I owe the parents, the children and the staff an apology,' arrested mom says

A deputy described accessing the school’s security video and seeing the suspect enter the school during morning drop-off. She walked in through the school's front door without signing in and that ignored signs telling guests to register, he said.

The deputy said he watched Rathburn on video walk through the school and up to her child’s classroom, where students had lined up on both sides of the hall waiting for class to begin.

The video had no audio, so the deputy said he couldn’t tell what the suspect was saying, but he said he saw her “lift her finger in a pointing manner and circle around as if making sure all the kids heard her and were listening.”

Teachers who saw the incident said they heard screaming and witnessed the suspect “pointing her finger at the kids and getting in their faces," according to written statements.

One teacher wrote that she heard the suspect yelling about “not knowing who was bullying her son but that she was going to find them and their moms.”

Another teacher said he took the suspect into his classroom before she “cursed him repeatedly" and stormed out of the room before administrators could get there.

Rathburn was arrested on May 20, according to the report.

The mother regretted "allowing emotions to control" her behavior, she said.

"I am absolutely ashamed of myself for the actions of walking up into that school," she said in an interview. 

"You know, I owe the parents, the children and the staff an apology for that. Absolutely, it was wrong. But honestly, I don't know how I could have gotten my message across any other way."

After the incident, Rathburn was asked to remove her Facebook video and was placed on a trespass notice for all Greenville County schools, meaning she isn't allowed on school property.

"I can't go eat lunch with my children," she said. "I can't watch them on field day. As class mom, that's devastating."

Beth Brotherton, director of communications for Greenville County Schools, said the doors to the school were open at the time Rathburn entered because it was before the 8 a.m. morning bell.

Because of the incident, Greenbrier has added a second staff member to work the front door in the mornings about 10 feet back from the doors to catch parents who may need to sign in, Brotherton said. 

Bullying sparked her son's depression, mom says

Rathburn first sent an email to her son's teacher in December, she said. One of her son's classmates had picked on him about his hair, she said. Classmates allegedly continued to bully her son throughout the school year.

He said he was called names, hit with a computer and jerked backwards off a slide by his throat at one point, she said. He had bad days at school about three days every week, according to the mother. 

After one incident where a student allegedly made faces at her son, a teacher said he told Rathburn's son to "ignore him, stay away and be the bigger man, and I think it will stop," and the teacher offered to speak with Rathburn if she had further concerns, according to an email she shared. 

But by May, Rathburn reached a boiling point.

The mom told school administrators that she was considering reporting them for not addressing the bullying, according to an email to Brian Sherman, assistant to the school district's superintendent.

In response to her complaints, administrators separated her son on the playground so they could more easily watch him, she said.

The next day, Rathburn entered the school before morning bell. 

Rathburn said she does not know if her son's alleged bullies have been disciplined, and Sherman said he could not comment on Rathburn's case.

During the school year, Rathburn's son started having "random bouts of depression," his grades were impacted, he tried to make excuses to avoid going to school and he woke up with nightmares, she said.

Rathburn said she experienced bullying firsthand when she was younger, and she said she attempted suicide at the age of 13 while dealing with the effects of bullying.

"I was becoming a statistic because nobody listened to me," Rathburn said. 

"I can't let that happen to my child. I don't know when I should be concerned about these issues, but I feel like it's now because in five years it's too late."

Rathburn said she hoped to gather her son and his alleged bullies in a room to talk.

School officials do their best, and they're striving to do better and remain vigilant, Sherman said.

"We have 91 schools," Sherman said. "Most of our principals make 200 to 300 decisions a day. Anybody making 300 decisions a day will make mistakes."  

Rathburn said she met with Sherman on May 28 but felt unsatisfied with the response to her concerns. She is considering homeschooling her kids next year. 

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