Ohio father Matt Cox is standing by his decision to make his 10-year-old daughter Kirsten walk five miles to school over a three-day period after she was suspended from the school bus for bullying.
On Monday, Cox, of Swanton, shared a Facebook video of Kirsten walking to Evergreen Elementary School in Metamora after she had been kicked off the school bus a second time for bullying a classmate. The footage quickly went viral — garnering more than 15 million views — sparking both support and backlash from social media users.
“I absolutely do not feel I went overboard at all,” Cox, 39, says of the criticism he’s received as a result of the video. “I decided to put the video on my social media … to show my immediate friends and family that just because we love our children and would do anything for them does not mean we have to turn a blind eye to their actions.”
Cox says he was “disappointed” when Kirsten returned from school one day with news that she had been suspended a second time for calling a student names and blocking the student from leaving the school bus. After her first offense, Cox says he grounded Kirsten and took away her TV, so he was “disappointed that she did it again.”
That second time, Cox made Kirsten walk the five miles to school over the three-day suspension period (she walked the final two miles on Wednesday) and says he’s sure Kirsten has learned her lesson.
“At first she was upset that I told her she had to walk, but after the first day she realized it was her fault and her actions that got her into trouble, so she was okay with it after that and understood,” Cox tells PEOPLE.
“She was safe as I was following behind her, so she was never in any danger and she now seems to have a great appreciation for her morning school rides on the bus,” he adds.
In the footage, Kirsten is shown walking on the side of the road as Cox apparently followed behind in his vehicle.
“Let me make this extremely clear: bullying is unacceptable, especially in my household,” Cox is heard saying in the video.
“A lot of children today feel that the things their parents do for them is a right and not a privilege, such as parents taking their children to school in the morning. Or even bus rides to school in the morning,” he says in the clip. “All of that is a privilege and should be treated as such. So today my beautiful daughter is going to walk five miles to school in 36-degree weather.”
Cox says he never expected the clip to go viral, but he’s grateful to shed light on bullying.
“I had no idea that making it public so that one of my friends could share it with others would turn into this, but now that it has happened I am totally okay with it,” he tells PEOPLE. “It is bringing awareness to the bullying epidemic we have in our country today.”