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Rocky Mount School responds to bullying situation after letter to Santa goes viral

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. -

A third grader's early letter to Santa asking for help for his bullied twin sister has a Rocky Mount school reacting.

Eight-year-old Ryan Suffern sent a letter to Santa asking him to help get classmates to stop teasing his twin sister, who is overweight.

Ryan and Amber Suffern attend Rocky Mount Preparatory School, where Amber has been the victim of bullying.

"It was online before we knew anything about it," school CEO Doug Haynes said.

Ryan's mother, Karen, had asked her children to think about what they want for Christmas this year. So Ryan wrote his letter to Santa, which contained a plea to have the kids at school stop teasing his sister.

Ryan's letter, read in part:

"I wanted a (remote control) car and helicopter, but I don't want that anymore. Kids at school are still picking on Amber and it's not fair because she doesn't do anything to them at all. It makes me mad. I prayed that they will stop but God is busy and needs your help. Is it against the rules to give a gift early?"

The letter went viral after blogger Tony Posnanski posted it on his Facebook page and later sent it to CNN's iReport.

The school said the letter went viral this past weekend. On Monday, during a conversation about another matter, the boy's mother brought up the bullying issue.

"Our assistant principal was talking to her about something else and learned that this apparently had gone viral after she put it on Facebook over the weekend," Haynes said.

CNN reported that Amber had been repeatedly subjected to name-calling and teasing from classmates due to her being overweight and multi-racial. Ryan witnessed the abuse firsthand this year as the siblings ended up in the same third grade class.

Haynes said he can not discuss the specific details about the incident, but said the school took immediate steps to deal with the situation.

"We checked with the mom continuously, and she feels like we have addressed their concerns," Haynes said.

In addition to creating buzz online, the story was a hot topic of conversation in Rocky Mount.

"I had a couple of tears. It was kind of sad, but I was proud of the little boy for stepping up for his sister," said Rocky Mount resident Mary Beth Chappell.

But others question why the children's mother would post it online first.

"I would have gone to the school first and demanded they do something," said Rocky Mount Resident Mary Saxton. "If they did not, then I would have went to Facebook and the news."

WNCN was unable to reach Karen Suffern. She reportedly is in New York City for a television interview.

Meanwhile, the school said it is using this incident as a teachable moment to remind parents they need to talk to their kids about bullying.

"Make sure you bring it and encourage your kids to bring it to the teacher's attention and the principal's attention," Haynes said.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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