PREVIOUS: Parents of Triad student who killed herself sue school
These statistics call for nation-wide reform, said Paul Thompson. Thompson is suing the school after his daughter, Bethany Thompson, killed herself almost two years ago.
“Hopefully other families don’t have to go through this,” Thompson said. “That schools do change their policies and really do have a zero tolerance like they say they do. I kind of feel that they do not. They just rather turn a blind eye on it.”
He also said parents should make sure their kids aren’t bullies.
“My mission is no family or child ever has to go through this and try to spearhead any situation,” Thompson said. “Try to be proactive and not reactive.”
Bethany survived the cancer she was diagnosed with when she was 3-years-old. However, during brain surgery to remove a tumor, a nerve was hit causing her to develop what her family affectionately called a “crooked smile.”
EXTRA: Bethany Thompson’s Story
Her parents say kids at the school made fun of her for it.
The federal lawsuit filed last month alleges school leaders knew the girl was being bullied and was considering harming herself. The lawsuit alleges the school failed to act.
Bethany’s parents are suing the district, former superintendent Chris Piper, former principal Duane Caudill, middle school counselor Jessica Gronas, along with students and other employees who are not named.
Attorney Douglas Holthus, who is representing the school and its employees, said the district does everything possible to protect students.
“The district continues to take all precautions to identify student needs, be responsive to reports of concerns and bullying, protect students, and provide students with support at school. District administrators and teachers are trained and encouraged to take actions to address concerns of student safety, report any misconduct immediately to proper authorities, and to keep parents of the involved students informed,” the statement says.
Thompson and Bethany’s family’s attorney, Natasha Well-Niklas, said the lawsuit is focused on putting pressure on schools across the country to handle bullying appropriately
“What we want to try to accomplish is to help families that have gone through something really, really bad and to bring something good out of that,” Wells-Niklas said. “Their hope is to raise awareness of bullying and childhood suicide and we are hoping through this lawsuit we can force reform at Triad and get this message across statewide and even nationwide.”
READ: Champaign County seeks solutions after 3 youth tragedies in 7 months
Thompson said he feels not enough was done to protect his daughter.
“The frustration is they knew about it and it was swept under the rug,” Thompson said referring to the bullying. “It was turned a blind eye and it could have been taken care of.”
“Let’s take care of things now and reform things at school and their bullying policies,” Thompson said.
The statement by Holthus says the district is committed to protecting all students and are currently doing so.
“The district continues to take all precautions to identify student needs, be responsive to reports of concerns and bullying, protect students, and provide students with support at school,” the report says. “District administrators and teachers are trained and encouraged to take actions to address concerns of student safety, report any misconduct immediately to proper authorities, and to keep parents of the involved students informed.”
A statement released by current Triad superintendent Vickie Hoffman also says that she is committed to making sure students are safe.
“Safety of students is of utmost priority for our school district and its administrators, and we are committed to providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for our students,” the statement says.
Thompson says he didn’t realize his daughter was in such a dark place that she thought killing herself was the only way out, he said and encourages parents to talk with their children about their issues.
The lawsuit filed in federal court does request the court to grant Bethany’s parents monetary awards for their suffering but is unclear how much they are seeking.
Police report/ lawsuit
The federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on the two year anniversary of Bethany’s death alleges the school knew she was being bullied.
Champaign County Sheriff’s Office reports say through an investigation they found Bethany told her friend she was having suicidal thoughts about a month before her death.
“(Bethany’s friend’s father) indicated that there have been prior threats of suicide from the victim,” a report completed by detective Glenn Kemp said. “He stated that approximately one month ago, (his daughter) spoke with him stating that the victim ‘was going to kill herself.’ He indicated that he relayed that information to the school.”
Wendy Feucht and Thompson, Bethany’s parents, said the school did not contact them about the incident.
The police reports say Bethany told her friend the day she committed suicide that she was going to kill herself. The friend told her dad about the threat when she got home and the dad tried contacting Bethany’s parents , however, it was too late, the report says.
MORE: Champaign County girl beat cancer, couldn’t overcome bullying
The report also says Bethany’s friend told authorities a group of boys had made threats to her and Bethany just days before Bethany’s death.
School staff told authorities that Bethany appeared to be in a good mood the day of her suicide and was seen putting “good luck stickers” on various student’s lockers.
The lawsuit filed by Bethany’s parents says the school didn’t do enough to protect her.
“The severe and pervasive bullying, verbal harassment, physical harassment and discrimination were not “handled” as promised by the School District and the severe and pervasive bullying, verbal harassment, physical harassment and discrimination continued and worsened in the 2016-2017 school year,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says Feucht also contacted the school to ask staff to stop the harassment but officials “did nothing to stop the bullying.”
The Springfield News-Sun broke the story around Bethany Thompson, an 11-year-old Triad student who killed herself two years ago and has provided unmatched coverage about bullying in Clark and Champaign County schools.
Facts and figures
- More than one in five Clark County high school students reported being bullied in a recent survey
- Bethany Thompson committed suicide on Oct. 19, 2016
-Bethany Thompson was the second Triad student to kill herself in five years