Tampa Bay, Fla. — Eight-year-old Angelo Massaro said he loved second grade at his Pasco County elementary school. But Angelo and his mom Tara said that changed in December when another child at school started hitting him.
Tara said she contacted the teacher after the first incident but days later the same child hit Angelo again.
“Again, the same thing,” Angelo said. “I was just walking, and he hit me out of nowhere.”
“I messaged the teacher and the principal after the second time,” Tara said, continuing to email the principal over the next two months as the bullying continued.
ABC Action News contacted Pasco County Schools about their policy in these types of cases.
A spokesperson respondent in this statement:
“State and federal laws make it very clear that students have a right to an appropriate education that meets their needs. The rights of children with disabilities involve a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Depending on their disability, that could mean education in regular classes, education in regular classes with the use of related aids and services, or special education and related services in separate classrooms for all or portions of the school day. Special education may include specially designed instructions and may include services such as speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, psychological counseling, and medical diagnostic services necessary for the child’s education.
Determining what an appropriate education looks like for a specific student involves collaboration on the part of educators and the student’s parents or guardians through a process that creates an individualized education plan (IEP). A student may not be given special services as an exceptional student until they have been properly evaluated and found eligible. The evaluation and the process of creating an IEP takes time. Parents/guardians have the right to participate in the process and to be notified of each evaluation, as well as due process in case of disagreements.”
Across the bridge in Pinellas County, Ray Stumpf shared the nightmare his son endured.
“It destroyed his 11th-grade year. It’s destroyed,” he said.
Stumpf said two boys jumped his then 10th-grade son last year after school. Then someone posted a video on TikTok.
The single dad told ABC Action News, “It wasn’t until I saw that video that I really realized that there was something serious.”
Stumpf only recently learned about the beating, even though it took place more than a year ago. He found out after his son started skipping school last semester.
Sean Roberts is the founder of Amrak, an anti-bullying organization that coaches parents and victims. Roberts’ advice? “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with the kid. Keep showing the kid that he’s loved and he has a purpose.”
Roberts pointed out parents often go into attack mode when dealing with school officials. He advises being civil while trying to get to the root of the problem and reach a resolution.
“They started going back and forth, with anger and frustration, and then nothing got resolved,” he said.
He added that it’s critical to teach our kids they must speak out—if not to their parents, then go to someone they trust.
“Let someone know that you know you’ve been bullied and let them know your feelings and then constantly let somebody know,” he said.
Angelo’s mom reports her son is back to being a happy second grader now that he no longer has contact with the other students.
Stumpf has filed a report with the sheriff’s office and his son is transferring to another school, but he may not pass the 11th grade due to all the class time he’s missed. He told ABC Action News that his biggest concern was that his child graduates.
So, what about bystanders? What can they do to help? Most children are not comfortable intervening; still, they should be encouraged to report what they’ve witnessed and to reach out and say something supportive to the victim afterward. It can prevent the child from feeling completely alone.
You’ll find more resources about bullying, prevention and where to turn for help here.