After school administrators failed to respond to Chris Eicherle’s repeated reports that his stepson was being bullied, Eicherle decided to take matters into his own hands.
When his stepson’s school bus pulled up to Ripley Road, Eicherle, 35, stepped onto the bus and addressed the middle-schoolers.
“If anyone messes with Josh,” he told them, “they’ll be dealing with me personally.”
The bus driver didn’t escape Eicherle’s wrath either; Eicherle promised to have the “incompetent” driver replaced.
Now, Eicherle has been charged with two misdemeanors: trespassing/impeding a bus and communicating threats.
Eicherle’s stepson, 12-year-old Josh Hamilton, is a student at Overhills Middle School in Harnett County, N.C. Hamilton was born prematurely and weighed a mere pound at the time. Heavy doses of steroids have now left him oversized; the 5-foot-4 boy weighs 220 pounds.
Eicherle recalls telling his stepson that he was “going to get picked on” as he went into middle and high school.
“If it gets too bad, just call an adult,” he advised Hamilton.
Eicherle’s prediction wasn’t entirely correct. Hamilton had no trouble in class or in the hallways, it was only on the school bus that he found himself tormented by his peers.
When Josh was punched, Eicherle sought help from the Harnett County schools. The school told him they would “take care of it”; Eicherle, however, never heard back.
In January, the bullying escalated to a new level. Josh told his stepfather that kids on the bus had had a fight with hand sanitizer, during which someone came up behind him and rubbed the hand sanitizer in his eyes.
Eicherle proceeded to file a report with the Harnett County sheriff. He also talked to school resource officers. However, no one witnessed the assault – at least not on record.
Because he saw no results both times he went through official channels for reporting problems, Eicherle decided it was up to him to stop the bullying.
“It’s my responsibility to protect my children,” Eicherle said, “and I will do whatever I have to do to keep him safe.”
Only after his arrest did Eicherle find out that some of those very students had been suspended from school. Suspending the bullies, however, was a temporary solution: when those students came back to school, the bullying resumed.
“We’ve had no problems since I stepped on that bus,” the 6-foot-4 man said of his intervention on his stepson’s behalf. “Josh was glad to see somebody actually stand up for him.”