Tri-State Alliance held a vigil in hopes to shed light on the issues of bullying outside the EVSC headquarters leading up to the school board meeting.
Organizers said EVSC has downplayed the problem of bullying in schools for years and want action to be taken. The superintendent addressed them directly in tonight’s meeting.
“I’m a great-grandma and I’m in my 70’s for crying out loud there was bullying when I was a child,” Carol Tenhumberg says.
Bullying has been around for years.
EVSC Superintendent Dr. David Smith says, “Frankly nearly everyone can remember when they’ve been bullied or when they felt like they were treated unfairly.”
Tonight, many stood with lights outside the EVSC building leading up to the school board meeting. The vigil comes after a former Central High School Student died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound outside the school last week. Some friends and family say his death was due to bullying when he was a student at Central.
Lead organizer Wally Paynter, president of Tri-State Alliance says, “I think any time there’s a suicide there’s obviously quite a few issues that are going on. It’s just a tragedy but we’re trying to broaden the discussion it’s not just about one student it’s about students of every school in this corporation.”
That discussion was addressed tonight.
“We have been here for years,” Dr. Smith says. “We’ve been trying to work on this for years.”
But some disagree.
“Bullying is real and it’s time the school corporation takes it seriously,” Paynter says.
“No child should have to go through this, be embarrassed be afraid that they end their own life by suicide,” Tenhumberg says. “It just breaks my heart.”
While it is still unclear if Roman Kellough’s suicide was due to bullying, Dr. Smith said it was a case of a mental health crisis.
“We have to do better for our kids,” Dr. Smith says. “Does bullying exist? Absolutely. If anyone can ever find any evidence that I said bullying does not exist and doesn’t exist in EVSC please see me and I will resign my position on the spot because then I would be lying to the public.”
Through loss and disagreement, some hope lights up the night, hope that something positive that can come from this tragedy.
Dr. Smith says, “I hope the positive of this is that we stop pointing fingers at one another and start working together because I think together we’re so much stronger then we’re ever going to be apart.”
Organizers of the vigil said they want the public to contact school board members in hopes that something will be done about bullying.
Dr. Smith says he hopes the community can work together to further help prevent bullying in schools.