Friday, April 30, 2010

California: Sheriff's department probes claim that bullying led young girl to attempt suicide

Sheriff's deputies are investigating reports that a 12-year-old Mentone girl was bullied so severely this week that she tried to take her own life.The child, a sixth-grader at Clement Middle School in Redlands, suffered superficial cuts to her wrist. Her parents called school and law enforcement authorities fearing the alleged bullying could escalate.
The dangers of bullying made headlines in recent weeks after Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old girl in Massachusetts, committed suicide after a nearly three-month campaign of verbally abusive, assaultive behavior and threats of physical harm at school.
"We have it as a documented incident," Sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire said of the local case. "The parents were referred back to the school because the incident occurred on a school bus and was under the authority of the school district."
Deputies were set to take a more detailed report Thursday night before deciding how to proceed.
Clement Principal Robert Clarey disputed the version of events put forth by the victim's parents' and said the issue was blown out of proportion.
Still, the principal has changed one class for the victim so that she no longer shares any classes with the alleged bully.
The alleged victim will also be taking a different bus home. 909-386-3894

Massachusetts: Ayer twins seek conviction repeal

By Lisa Redmond,

Dan McGuane
BOSTON -- Attorneys for twin brothers Daniel and Peter McGuane are set to argue before the state Appeals Court on Wednesday that their convictions should be overturned because the trial judge improperly let the jury hear of one brother's past bullying of the victim.
The McGuanes were convicted of manslaughter in the 2005 beating death of 19-year-old Kelly Proctor of Ayer.
Although the McGuanes, also Ayer residents, have been released after serving the low side of their three- to five-year prison sentences, they have appealed to get their convictions overturned.
Through their attorneys, they claim the judge committed several errors during the trial, and prosecutors failed to prove that the twins caused Proctor's death.
Peter McGuane
before the suicide of South Hadley teen Phoebe Prince made headlines due to the tragic results of bullying, Daniel and Peter McGuane were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter with "wanton and reckless conduct and battery" for the 30-second fight during the Ayer fireworks festivities on July 2, 2005.
Proctor died of a fatal concussion. The 2004 Nashoba Valley Technical High School graduate was a popular high-school athlete who lettered in track, football and basketball. His nickname, "Dr. Proctor," was inscribed on his class ring, friends and family said.
Conversely, the McGuane brothers had a reputation for bullying and harassing their peers, according to prosecutors.
Defense attorney Robert O'Meara, representing Daniel


McGuane, argues in court documents that Judge Diane Kottmyer improperly allowed the jury to hear that when Proctor was in middle school, Daniel McGuane slapped him, believing Proctor had an incident with McGuane's sister.
He argued that allowing the jury to hear about that incident was "too speculative, prejudicial and remote."
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Anne Pogue denied O'Meara's claims, saying the slapping incident was "strikingly similar to an injury Peter McGuane inflicted
Kelly Proctor
here (the Proctor killing case)."
She added that the incident was relevant to the twins' "motive, intent and their relationship with the victim."
Pogue argued that there was ongoing animosity between the McGuanes and Proctor, including "trash-talking." It was relevant because at trial, the McGuanes' attorneys argued that Proctor's death was an accident or self-defense.
The defense attorneys moved for a mistrial, which was denied by the trial judge.
The trial was mired in controversy after the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, one month before the trial, was forced to reduce the charges to manslaughter from first-degree murder after a botched autopsy report from state Medical Examiner Dr. William Zane.
Zane initially ruled that Proctor had brain swelling and bleeding due to blunt-force trauma after being severely beaten by the McGuanes. But a neuropathologist from the medical examiner's office contradicted Zane's results, testifying she found no swelling or bleeding and could only suggest the cause of death was a fatal concussion.
Zane admitted on the stand that he had made a mistake. Zane was later placed on restricted duty, while his boss, Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum, was fired by Gov. Deval Patrick.

North Carolina: Mother Asks Lawmakers to Update State Bullying Law

Staff Writer
6:58 AM EDT, April 30, 2010
The mother of a girl who committed suicide after receiving bullying text messages attended a meeting in Greensboro to ask lawmakers to update the state bullying law, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

Christine Rogers, whose daughter Ashley Rogers committed suicide on April 14, is continuing her crusade across the state to push for tougher bullying laws. Earlier this week, Rogers attended the Forsyth County School Board meeting to discuss the problem.

Rogers claims that may have contributed to her daughter's death by sending her hateful text messages. The current bullying laws in North Carolina do not cover text messages.

Investigators say Ashley Rogers, a sophomore at Glenn High School in Kernersville, had received bullying text messages from other students days before her death. The Rogers are hoping their daughter's story can help change state law, and they met with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board Tuesday to talk about their ideas.

"Teachers have to be aware, social workers have to be aware. You may have a fragile student that's smiling on the outside, but if there's an indication or a red flag, something's wrong," said Christine Rogers at a meeting earlier this week. .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Muncie, IN: Parents, students claim bullying out of control in Muncie

Students and parents talk to Fox59 News about recent bullying at Wilson Middle School in Muncie. School officials say they are investigating, but so far, have not found anything out of the ordinary.

Heather MacWilliams
12:53 PM EDT, April 29, 2010
Muncie, Ind.
A Muncie 8th grader says bullying at Wilson Middle School has gotten so bad, she's afraid to reveal her identity for fear of retribution.

"I call it prison. Me and my friend call it prison," she told Fox59 News.

Forget name calling or spit balls, the violence she describes is real.

"The kid got a fork out of his pocket and stabbed him in the neck and the police officer grabbed him and didn't arrest him or nothing."

She claims she has been punched, beaten and had her glasses broken. When she told administrators, she said nothing was done.

"They just say stop it."

A seventh grader said he has had similar experiences.

"They're going to kill somebody or they're going to do something to somebody and you tell the principal and they don't do nothing," he said.

The boy claims he's been the target of serious death threats for more than a month now. His mother demanded a meeting with administrators but says it never produced results, so she was forced to file reports with police... Twice.

Her son said things have only gotten worse.

"When I'm walking down the hallway I have to look all around me to make sure nobody's coming."

Principal Gary Brown maintains bullying at the middle school is never violent.

"It's more name calling and that sort of thing," Brown said.

No matter the situation, Brown said each report is always thoroughly investigated.

"We take every situation that's reported very seriously because the student's safety is of the utmost importance," he added.

As far as why so many students are coming forward with allegations of violent bullying, Brown believes its for attention.

"I think any time something like this is made public you have copy cat responses."

It's an answer Lynn Nichols said isn't good enough. She fears the school will need a major wake up call before things start to change.

"Somebody loosing their life, somebody seriously getting hurt. I think that's what it's going to take," said Nichols.

The principal said they have counseling services available to students who've been bullied as well as bully boxes placed throughout the school where students can voice their complaints anonymously. As far as Brown can recall, no student has been expelled at the middle school due to bullying.

California: Vigil to honor teen who died by suicide

2010-04-29 11:53:49
San Clemente High School students plan a vigil Saturday night to remember student Daniel Mendez on the anniversary of his suicide last May 1.
The vigil will begin at 7 p.m. at the greenbelt along Camino de Los Mares in the Forster Ranch neighborhood of San Clemente. Parking will be available on Via Sage.
Mendez was a 16-year-old sophomore at San Clemente High when he died of what authorities determined was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body was found along Via Sage with a revolver beside it.
Family members have pointed to bullying by other students as the cause of his suicide. In August, Mendez's parents sued the Capistrano Unified School District, alleging administrators did not do enough to prevent bullying. The district sought dismissal of the lawsuit, but in February, an Orange County Superior Court judge tentatively allowed it to move forward. The district has again filed court papers seeking dismissal, and another court hearing is planned for May.
The vigil is organized by Cool to be Kind, commonly known as C2BK, an anti-bullying student club. The club plans to host a weeklong bullying-prevention forum in June at the high school. The forum had been scheduled for this week to coincide with the anniversary of Mendez's death but was postponed due to the teachers strike.
For more information, contact club adviser Katie Mann at 949-370-8184, e-mail or visit the club's Facebook page.
Contact the writer: or 949-492-5135

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baltimore, MD: Girl Says Bullying Almost Drove Her To Suicide

BALTIMORE (WJZ) ― A Baltimore girl threatened to jump from a classroom window because of constant bullying. Her former school is accused of ignoring the problem.

Derek Valcourt reports on the accusations and how some parents are defending administrators.

In Massachusetts, a teenage girl killed herself after repeated bullying by fellow students.  Daqwan Jamison's teeth were broken in half by a Baltimore bully and now 8-year-old Shaniya Boyd's mother says bullying pushed her daughter to the extreme.

"My child said she wanted to jump out the window," said Geneva Biggus.

Shaniya, who has cerebral palsy, says she's been bullied since she was six.  At Gilmor Elementary School recently, Shaniya was beaten by three other students.  She's since been transferred to another school, but her mother says administrators at Gilmor aren't dealing with the problem.

"You have to fix it. You can't just keep pacifying it and that's what angers me and that's what makes me mad," Biggus said.

Other students at Gilmor have come forward saying they've been bullied.  In fact, this school year, 17 students there have been suspended for harassing other classmates. Three of them were suspended this week for Shaniya's abuse.

Now school administrators say they're launching a full investigation into those complaints.

"Any time that you have even one student that is doing something that distracts themselves or other students is cause for concern and that is something that we want to address," said Jonathan Brice, Office of Student Support.

Outside Gilmor Wednesday, many parents came to the school's defense.

"They are really taking consequences against these children and it's being handled the right way," said Takia Santana.

School officials say Gilmor's principal will be speaking to each grade to teach an important lesson about bullying.

If you want to report bullying to the school system's tipline, that number is 410-396-SAFE.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Indianapolis, IN: Father: Older Boy Pushed Girl Found Dead Into Pond

Police Investigate Claims

POSTED: 5:19 pm EDT April 26, 2010
UPDATED: 6:46 pm EDT April 26, 2010

The father of a 5-year-old girl who was found dead in a retention pond on Indianapolis' southwest side said she was pushed by a 6-year-old boy.
The stunning allegation comes a week after the body of Chesney Allen was pulled from a pond near the Valley Brook Mobile Home Park, near Kentucky Avenue and High School Road, on April 19.
Mike Allen said that Chesney's death, tragic by any account, was both deliberate and preventable, 6News' Joanna Massee reported.

"She was knocked in. It was revenge," Allen said. "(She was knocked in) by the boy that was picking on her."
Donna Steele, the mother of the 6-year-old boy, insisted that her son was not involved in Chesney's death and said she didn't know the boy had been accused of bullying the girl.
"They're trying to take the blame off themselves," Steele said. "I think it's stupid for them to be blaming a kid when they could be blaming themselves."
"You don't want to hear what I have to say (to that)," Allen said.
Asked if he thought the boy was capable of killing the girl, Allen replied, "Hell, yes. They're not any different than an adult."
Steele admitted that her son had expressed anger in the past, but said he was just talking and wouldn't intentionally hurt someone.
"He all the time goes around here threatening to kill people, but it's just the way he is," she said.
Allen said he wants Indianapolis police to take a closer look at the case.
"I know if nothing gets done, he needs to be watching over his shoulder, cause I will know where he's at every day of his life," Allen said, referring to the boy. "I will keep track."
Indianapolis police said they are looking at the case from every angle, including the allegations that came out Monday.
Allen said he wants fences put up around retention ponds. There was not a fence around the pond in which Chesney died.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cadillac, MI: Teen's suicide prompts schools to take on bullying

CADILLAC, Mich. (AP) — Tom Harrison isn't an expert on bullying, even by his own estimation.
"I'm just a dad," he says, as he paces back and forth in school gymnasiums, telling any student and teacher who will listen about his son, whose life ended in suicide last year.
What he can show them, with the help of a photo slideshow, is a bit about Alex Harrison, the quiet, brainy teen who died far too young, at age 16.
What he can tell them is how Alex endured harassment at school, often with few people knowing because his son rarely told anyone, even his parents or his closest friends.
It is a story that resonates with students, especially when news of bullying-related suicide has become more common. In one high-profile case in Massachusetts, several students have been charged in the death of a 15-year-old Irish girl, who killed herself in January. And that's just one case.
"Who in this room has ever been bullied?" Tom Harrison recently asked a group of students at Holton High, a small, rural school northwest of Grand Rapids, Mich., and one of many he's visited since Alex's death.
About half the students raised their hands.
"Who knows someone who's been bullied?" he then asked. Almost everyone solemnly raised a hand.
It's the kind of response that has driven Alex Harrison's parents to take their private anguish public, even though some in their small northern Michigan town quietly wish they'd stop talking about it.
His parents want people to know Alex's story so they feel compelled to stand up for others like him.
"Do it for me," Tom Harrison implores his audiences. "Do it for Alex."
Somehow, they say, something good must come from this tragedy.
On its surface, Cadillac, Mich., where Alex went to high school, is the picture of serenity, a community of about 10,000 in Michigan's northwest lower peninsula, known for its lakes, nearby forests and small-town politeness.
Those who grew up here certainly remember divisions in the schools in decades past — the "jocks" and the "burnouts," for instance.
But in this school district and many others across the country, officials say they are seeing a troubling change in student culture. These days, they say, it's more common for popular kids, good students and athletes to use bullying to jockey for social position. Often, this culture of meanness is amplified by text messages and social networking.
"There really is a dramatic difference in the way students treat one another," says Paul Liabenow, the superintendent of Cadillac Area Public Schools who grew up in the area and began as an elementary school teacher in the district years ago.
He knew Alex Harrison from the time he was a primary school student and remembers him as a quirky, likable kid who was "extremely brilliant."
At that age, his parents say Alex was already studying college-level anatomy. By age 13, he'd built his own computer, using a book to guide him.
That was about the time his parents — a pharmacist and a speech pathologist — got an inkling that their son was being teased.
He came home from junior high one day and announced, "I found out it's not cool to be smart."
There were other signs of conflict here and there. In high school, his parents were aware that at least one player on his tennis team was giving Alex a hard time, calling him names and forcing him off the practice court. The coach had dealt with it, and they thought that was it.
In fact, in the months before his death, many observed that Alex was coming out of his shell.
He'd just gotten his driver's license. He had a girlfriend and a core group of friends. A longtime Boy Scout, he was also on the ski team, in addition to playing tennis.
Alex was still intensely private and socially awkward, his parents say, but he'd found his own way to show them he cared.
His mother, P.K. Harrison, recalls how he'd come up behind her and, having gotten buff in more recent years from working out, would lift her off the ground.
"Is that you saying, 'I love you, mom?'" she would ask him, smiling.
"Yup," he'd reply.
In a birthday card he gave to his dad two weeks before his death, Alex wrote in teenage scrawl, "I return the gift of love. I just do not voice it."
Nor did he give voice to whatever was bothering him.
Harold Falan, a Michigan State Police trooper, was one of the first to arrive at the Harrison's home on a secluded country road after the 911 call came in the morning of Feb. 7, 2009, when Alex took his life.
As Falan got out of his car, he heard P.K. Harrison's tortured screams a half mile away and ran as fast as he could through knee-deep snow, into the woods behind their house.
"I've never heard a mother scream like that," said Falan, who has since retired. "It's one of those things you never forget."
He found P.K. Harrison in the woods, clinging to the body of her only child. These were parents who'd already known the grief of losing a child. Before Alex was born, their infant daughter Angela was stillborn. Now this?
The unthinkable had happened.
Near Alex's body was a shotgun that he and his dad were supposed to have taken skeet shooting that morning. Falan estimates that his body had been there since 2 or 3 a.m.
His mom still remembers the college sweatshirt Alex was wearing. She recalls looking at the braces he would've soon gotten off his teeth and thinking, "He's still just a baby."
There also was a notebook that Alex had taken with him into the woods that night to scribble a few notes to his parents. He told them he loved them and that he was very sorry.
"But I can't take it anymore."
At that point, his parents weren't sure what "it" was. He'd showed no signs of depression, they say. Toxicology tests also found no alcohol or drugs in his system.
So Falan investigated further, talking with a number of students and a few teachers whose stories added up to a conclusion that even his own parents didn't know: Alex had been harassed and ostracized at school, mostly by a small group of students.
Among other things, his parents say Falan's report detailed eyewitness reports of a lunchroom incident that happened the day before their son died.
They say Alex had approached a table of popular students when one of the girls at the table used an expletive to tell him to him to go away.
Then she added, "Don't you know everyone hates you?"
There were reports of other incidents, his parents say, with a small group of students surrounding and taunting him in a secluded hallway with no cameras when no one else was around. Some also frequently chanted "Creeper, Creeper," using a nickname they'd given him.
His parents say yet another student spread a rumor that Alex was looking in her windows at night, which his parents insist wasn't true.
Still, Alex remained stoic.
"Is it the total reason he took his life? That is unknown," Falan says. But he does believe "it is part of the 'why.'"
Though no criminal charges were filed in this case, Liabenow, the Cadillac superintendent, responded to the findings by heightening efforts to combat bullying in his school system.
Teachers and students now attend anti-bullying workshops, some of that training funded by a group that formed after Alex died.
More cameras have been added to school hallways, Liabenow says.
Staff members who monitor those hallways, and the lunchroom, also are on "high alert."
Since Alex's death, the Harrisons have received e-mails and Facebook messages from parents in the school district who've said their children are being harassed, too. Liabenow has vowed that each one of those claims will be investigated by his staff.
Such efforts are part of a broader attempt from Michigan's education department — and of schools nationwide — to address bullying.
The Michigan Legislature, so far, has rejected bills that would require schools to have such policies, but is reconsidering one version this session. Many states already have these kind of laws.
Even so, some in Cadillac and elsewhere have questioned the emphasis on anti-bullying measures, and on Alex's suicide.
"We need to focus on teaching our children coping skills, not glorifying suicide or blaming bullies," one resident wrote in a letter to the Cadillac News, the local newspaper. "Certainly schools should not accept unruly behavior, but when our kids leave school, they are subject to all kinds of abuse, even in their homes."
Increasingly, however, school administrators say they have no choice but to address bullying.
"We can't avoid having these conversations because the kids are talking about it, anyway," says Ann Cardon, superintendent of Holton Public Schools, where Alex's dad spoke this month. She says bullying also was a top concern among parents in her district who were recently surveyed.
So she has made a public promise to students who are bullied or witness it: "If you go to an adult, something will happen. That's our commitment to you."
Tom Harrison has yet to be invited to speak at Cadillac High School, where his son was a sophomore when he died. Liabenow says psychological consultants who deal with suicide have advised him that it would be too difficult — "too close" — for the students right now, though he envisions that changing, eventually.
In the meantime, the Harrisons have passed out thousands of brown rubber anti-bullying bracelets in Alex's honor. They've also placed a memorial, a large boulder with a plaque on it and a park bench, next to the lake that borders the high school and junior high campuses.
The memorial has drawn worries from some community members that it, too, glorifies suicide. But the intent, the Harrisons say, is to have a constant reminder to "See it. Hear It. Stop It." That has become their anti-bullying mantra.
Sydney Maresh, a good friend of Alex Harrison's, wipes away tears as she sits on that bench and talks about him.
He'd be surprised at the response to his death, she says, recalling the long line at his wake that stretched out the building and far down the sidewalk.
"Everyone says, 'If only he'd known how much he mattered to so many people,'" says Maresh, a 17-year-old junior at Cadillac High.
She spoke about losing Alex at her school's recent Challenge Day, a workshop used by schools across the country to encourage unity and respect.
It was an impressive moment of togetherness, she says — one that she hopes will somehow endure at her school.
"Now," she says, "it's up to us."
On the Net:
Alex Harrison Facebook memorial:
Challenge Day:
Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at) or via