North High student with autism shares his story of being bullied in the Sioux City School system

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“It happened back on Christmas Eve when I broke up with my girlfriend. I thought most of her friends were my friends… turns out I was very wrong,” says Spencer Rice, bullying victim. 

A private relationship suddenly made very public when Spencer broke things off with an ex, an online forum was used to take a poll on whether or not students should kill Spencer. Police have told the Rice family to not share the screenshots of that poll with us for public use. 

The aftermath: an explosion of responses through bullying support pages on Facebook, nearly 6,000 shares later and more than 2,000 reactions, many sharing similar experiences to being severely bullied in the Sioux City School District and ignored. 

“Honestly, I’m scared. I don’t know what will happen if one of those kids who voted on the poll will be outside on the sidewalk ready to attack me at any moment…I felt like the school has done nothing about it and it’s honestly upsetting to parents and students that nothing has been done and justice is not being delivered,” says Spencer.

“It’s been very traumatizing. Being at home and having my brother make suicide jokes which he’s never made before and I don’t take that kind of thing lightly. Up until this online poll was done, he didn’t mention anything about suicide, about death, about wanting to die. It’s really heartbreaking because he’s an amazing human being and everything that he’s done for 15 years of his life is just in his mind more or less worthless,” says Delaney Rice, Spencer’s sister. 

“It’s sickening to me that other adults don’t have the stomach to stand up and be like this is wrong,” says Michael Rice, Spencer’s brother. 

After garnering attention nationwide, Superintendent Paul Gausman sent a response via social media. We reached out to the district for comment on Spencer’s situation and they sent us a similar written statement with no further comment on the matter:

“The Sioux City Community School District is committed to providing an environment where students and staff members are treated with dignity and respect. Instances of bullying are investigated and acted upon immediately when we are made aware of any challenges.  We recognize that we are not unique, in that we experience the challenges of school and community-based bullying, yet we want to be unique in serving as a District that works to make a significant and positive difference in this arena. The District has a board policy regarding anti-bullying The District also has a Student Services and Equity Education office to assist in matters that are brought forward. As you are probably aware, Federal Law (FERPA) prevents District officials from discussing specific student cases publicly, but I assure you that student and staff member safety is always our highest priority.”

“It looks like it was just copied and pasted out of the handbook. I don’t believe he cares. I’m pretty sure he’s just worried about his reputation,” says Delaney. 

“I’ve literally been watching the schools since I went to East back in ’07. I’ve watched them just sweep it under the rug,” says Michael.

Many others saying this problem has been going on for decades. ​​

“It’s not making their reputation better which is what they believe is keeping their reputation. It’s actually making it worse and in this case, it’s actually putting lives in danger,” says Delaney. 

“It’s becoming a common trend for them to protect their image rather than their students,” says Michael.

Police wouldn’t give us comment on the situation but they did have this to say…

“As long as there is social media, there’s going to be cyber bullying in general. Being a parent I make sure that I do what I can to safeguard my children in the schools here. I feel that they’re safe at the schools here,” says Sergeant Terry Ivener with the Sioux City Police Department. 

The police report that Spencer’s mother filed is now in the hands of the county attorney to decide if this constitutes as harassment. 

“I have not returned back to school since the incident and I don’t feel safe there at all,” says Spencer.

“How many other people are they going to affect before it’s stopped?” says Michael. 

“Something needs to be done because I am over this and I know a ton of people are over it,” says Delaney. 

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