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High school athlete speaks out about being bullied

CREATED Feb 11, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb 11, 2014

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At a previous school, cross country runner John Winne was bullied. He felt a change was needed.

The state has a zero tolerance policy with bullying, but unless there is some sort of proof or documentation something happened, student athletes can't just move to another school, and play on that team.

Wade Labecki is with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. He explains "If they believe they have a case, the athletic director should make a ruling... and we make a decision in our office."

Labecki insists his role is not to be a road block, and he wants to do what is best for the students.

As a Deputy Director of Wisconsin's high school governing body, Labecki approved 65% of all cases reviewed for transfer during the 2012-2013 school year. With 22 reviews of alleged bullying incidents last season, the WIAA approved 17--with just 5 denied. It's Labecki's role to determine which claims are real, and which ones can't be backed up.

"If it's for a better athletic situation that's fine, but you have to do that before your sophomore year, or you can't play at any level," Labecki says.

Bullying is a touchy subject. If you don't have documented proof after completing your Freshman season, you have to sit out a year. Winne had proof, so his transfer was granted, and his return was memorable. Winne recalls, "Even my coach said he's never seen anyone run faster in his first race."

Winne hopes others can gain strength and learn from what he went through. "I I could do it all over again I would. It was a good education, I think there is a future for me."

Meanwhile, Labecki stands by the WIAA's 77% approval rate for bullying reviews during the 2012-2013 season--with documented proof.

"I want to be consistent and uniform," he explains.

An athlete can make multiple appeals, if they have different recorded pieces of evidence that bullying or another incident occurred.