GARDNER, Ill. (WGN) – A suburban family is speaking out after photos of an ongoing dispute between two young students in a small Illinois town have gone viral.
In a Facebook post shared more than 100,000 times over a 24-hour span, photos show 13-year-old Charlee Funes and her face scraped up after an incident at her school.
On Tuesday, Funes and her older sister Mary Lopez spoke with WGN about the ordeal from their home in Gardner, Illinois, 60 miles southwest of Chicago.
“She’s been having issues with this girl at school,” Lopez said. “Just calling her names, pulling her hair.”
She says her younger sister has been bullied by a classmate for months.
“She was calling me the b-word and the a-word,” Funes revealed.
Last Thursday, the ongoing verbal abuse turned physical.
“They were outside for physical education (PE) and they were running and this girl stuck her foot between her legs and body slammed her,” Lopez said.
Describing what happened next, Funes said, “I fell straight forward and I wasn’t fast enough to put my hands down. That’s when my friend helped me up and took me to the aide and when my mom was called.”
She admits she didn’t say much before last week, because there weren’t many witnesses.
“She was very clever,” Funes said about her alleged attacker. “She knew when not to do it. She doesn’t do it when the teacher is looking. She’s doing it when the teacher is not looking.”
A letter sent to parents by the Gardner Grade School District No. 72, said in part, “The district worked collaboratively with law enforcement, and took immediate action in response to the student who committed the misconduct.
“The district takes all incidents of misconduct seriously and our student’s safety is always our first priority.”
Lopez questions the school district’s response, however, saying that no student should have to endure what her sister has gone through.
“They’re failing all the kids in the system.”
Asked why the family decided to speak out, they said they wanted to voice their concerns before things went too far.
“I want to see a bullying zero tolerance,” Lopez said. “I want my sister to walk into school and feel safe.”
The other student involved was suspended for three days and will undergo at-home learning for the remainder of the school year.
WGN talked with the girl’s mother over the phone Tuesday afternoon. She says she’s willing to meet with Funes and her family to talk over what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Funes’ family has agreed.