Former Apache Belle claims she was bullied by members of dance t - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Update: Former Apache Belle claims she was bullied by some members of dance team

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Follow-up statement from Tyler Junior College:

For over 65 years, the TJC Apache Belles have a proud history of preparing young women for leadership and success beyond college and TJC will make sure the proud traditions of the Belles and otherstudent organizations continue to benefit future students.

While civility and safety issues are of the highest priority at TJC and any bullying is absolutely prohibited, it is always critical to conduct a thorough investigation before concluding that one person's account is factual and tells the entire story.

 College officials have been investigating this matter for over a week and expect to conclude their investigation sometime next week. There are conflicting accounts from multiple witnesses that do not support the accounts of the persons that reached out to the local media, but student privacy regulations and the need to complete a thorough investigation prevent the College from providing more details.

No evidence of bullying has been found to corroborate the reported allegations thus far.

 The former Apache Belle, Jessica Williams, was removed from the Apache Belles on Nov. 6 after another student alleged that Ms. Williams made threats against her. Ms. Williams was moved to another residence hall building pending completion of the Student Code of Conduct investigation, which continues. On Nov. 13, Ms. Williams withdrew from classes at TJC and vacated her residence hall.

 The College has also appointed a task force to review and update guidelines for all student groups to insure they reflect current expectations for student behavior.

 


 

TYLER (KYTX) - The Apache Belles are known for their precision dance and head turning production numbers.

When Jessica Williams made the dance team this past spring, she was excited to be a part of a Tyler tradition that dates back to 1947.

"I thought everybody was so nice and generous and just sweet," said Jessica Williams.

But, the Dallas native says, that all changed during the summer.

"Whenever I walk down the hall, people would push me and call me names, but yet the captains and people over them would just watch and not say anything about it," said Jessica Williams.  

Jessica says other Apache Belles would make her do their homework or give them answers on tests.

"And they told me If I didn't do their work or go and do their errands for them, that I was going to get punishment and I did get punishment," explained Williams.

That punishment allegedly involved waking up early in the morning and running for long periods of time.

Jessica says she was often silenced when she tried to explain her issues to the captains of the dance team.

In the Apache Belle freshman handbook, it states that members are not allowed to speak, unless spoken to, even when they desire to explain themselves or when they believe they're correct.

If they are spoken to, they must respond "yes ma'am."

"She's driven all the way to Dallas, two hours way, 2 am, just crying, saying I can't stay down there. I can't sleep there," said Alecia Estes, Jessica's mother.

Jessica's mother, Alicia Estes, says her daughter hit a breaking point after being called the "B" word as she was pushed and tripped in the hallway.

"That night was the night I learned of her driving herself to the emergency room and a stranger finding her, and there was talk of suicide, because of that point she didn't know what else to do," said Estes.

She says the harassment escalated to Jessica's car being vandalized.

Jessica's mother says some members of the belles had allegedly taunted her daughter about having a new car. A police report was filed, but it hasn't been proven if any belles were involved.

Alecia says when they brought up their concerns to the director of the apache belles, it only made matters worse.

"Just because we did open the door, I think that just brought more of the bullying her way," said Estes.

Jessica says she was eventually suspended from the dance team.

She wasn't given an exact answer why, except there was some type of investigation involving her. She wasn't told the details and neither were we.

We also tried to call Jasilyn Schaefer, the Director of the Apache Belles. Our call was returned by a representative of TJC, who said she was unavailable to speak right now.

Jessica's mother did tell us Mrs. Schaefer had addressed the bullying concerns with the team. Jessica says some girls apologized, but others continued to bully her.

 

Statement from TJC about alleged bullying:

"Tyler Junior College is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment in which to live and learn. We take this situation very seriously and have launched a thorough study into the matter surrounding the student's claims. The inquiry will involve multiple interviews with students, faculty, staff and administrators. We take these allegations very seriously and will pursue the appropriate course of action."

Statement about wording in Apache Belle Handbook:

"The Apache Belles have a proud history of performance and service to others. For 66 years, Belles have gained leadership skills and tools for success that have served them throughout their professional lives. However, historical documents created to reflect organizational expectations during the Belles' early years have not been subject to recent review, and may not accurately reflect current culture. As a result, Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Juan Mejia – who joined TJC in October – has been appointed to chair a student review committee that will examine the documents and practices of all student groups and organizations. Necessary revisions to documents will be implemented post-haste."

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