A tragic school death

We have talked before on these pages about school bullying and the damages it can cause. A recent survey showed that more 43 percent of middle school students were bullied within the past month.

Now a story just out of Massachusetts is especially chilling. For more than three months, a 15-year-old girl who recently moved to this country from Ireland was unrelentingly bullied in person and online. Unable to bear it any longer, she killed herself on Jan. 14.

Yesterday, six teens — four girls and two boys — were arrested on charges including statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly and stalking. Three younger girls face delinquency charges.

There are steps that schools can take to help prevent incidents such as this, said Patrick Fiel, ADT’s public safety advisor.

“It’s really hard to imagine that teachers and other students were totally unaware of what was happening,” he said. “It’s obvious that we need to spend time training students, teachers and parents to look for the signs of bullying and how to stop it.”

Also, he said, security cameras can play a role by monitoring hallways, stairwells, lunchrooms, locker areas, playgrounds and areas around restrooms, where bullying is most common. A risk assessment can identify the optimal placement.

A hotline that allows anyone to anonymously reports incidents of violence can also help, Fiel said.

“This was an incredibly sad end to a young girl’s life,” he said. “Too often we minimize the deep emotional scars that bullying can leave on a child. As adults, it’s up to us to take the necessary steps to minimize bullying in our schools.”

-- PSW Staff