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A local student who has been the victim of bullying attacks because of his physical disabilities met the president Thursday to advocate for change.
Homer High School sophomore Ian Forster, 16, has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and paralysis on his right side that makes it difficult to walk.
Parents Tadd and Melissa Porter said their son had been putting up with the verbal abuse since he was in middle school, but the bullying took an especially dangerous turn in December.
Two students tripped him, pinned him to the ground and stepped on his shunt, a delicate tube that helps drain excess fluid from his brain, the family alleges.
“It could have killed me,” Forster said.
That was when he and his parents said enough was enough.
The Porters’ fight for their son’s rights has led them all the way to the White House.
The nonprofit Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service sent him to Washington, D.C., this week and has advocated for his fair treatment in school along with The National Organization on Disability.
Forster and others met President Barack Obama Thursday to advocate for changes that will prevent bullying in schools and online.
About one in three middle and high school students report being bullied, according to this week’s White House Conference on Preventing Bullying.
Obama shared his own stories of being bullied as a child for having big ears and an odd name.
Forster also met U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg and briefly with U.S. Sen. Carl Levin on Wednesday.
Schools are sometimes ill-equipped to handle true bullying issues, Tadd Porter said. They often lack the funding and know-how to swiftly deal with it.
Homer Community Schools has made strides to prevent bullying, Superintendent Rob Ridgeway said.
Last fall the district hosted Kimber Bishop-Yanke, a bullying expert, to talk to students and staff about how to recognize bullying and what victims and bystanders should do, he said. To help prevent cyber bullying, students are not allowed to use cell phones during school hours.
“I believe education is the key to preventing bullying,” Ridgeway said.