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Parents: Kerens ISD Won’t Address Bullying

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NAVARRO COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) - A small town in Navarro County is trying to move forward after a difficult last week.

An eighth grade student in the town of Kerens committed suicide on May 6, 2014.

Family and friends of John Reed say the boy was incessantly bullied by other students.

His death lead to a demand from many in the community that the Kerens Independent School District do more to address the issue of bullying in the schools.

On Tuesday, Reed, 14, shot himself while sitting in a pickup truck parked out front of his family’s home.

A linebacker on the eighth grade football team, his mother, Elizabeth Reed, describes her son as happy at home.  He loved church, his family, and ducks – his favorite animal.

Elizabeth Reed says other kids in John’s class began picking on him three years ago.

“They called him jambalaya. Donut.  [He was] overweight, honestly I don’t know why else,” Elizabeth said of the bullying.

Kerens ISD has a population of just 600 Kindergarten through 12th grade students.

The Reeds say, John repeatedly went to the principal or teachers at the middle school to point out the bullying, but the family says those school leaders did not help him.

Elizabeth says John got in trouble last week, and took his own life out of frustration.

“He cried out for help,” said Reed, who said John’s sister was also bullied when she was a student at Kerens.

Friends of the Reeds – and strangers in the town – are supporting this family through a difficult time.

The owners of L&L Graphics in Kerens printed t-shirts in Reed’s memory.  Half of the proceeds from sales went toward paying for his funeral service.

Even more have donated to the family – more than $8,000 to a fund set up in the teen’s name.

The death of John Reed led to outcry from other parents of Kerens students, who say bullying is a constant problem on the school campus.

A day after Reed’s death, Kerens Schools investigated a student-rumor of an alleged threat on campus. The student was removed, and the superintendent says, the threat did not materialize.

With emotions running high, several parents kept their kids home from school on Thursday and Friday.  Extra police officers were present on campus.

Some parents say the concerns for safety in Kerens began before last week.

“It wasn’t just one or two of us. It was quite a few,” Said Tracy Schilhab.

Tracy Schilhab, a mother of a 7th grade girl, went to the Kerens School Board meeting six weeks ago, and spoke for over an hour about her concerns.

“We approached [the board of trustees] with many of these issues and were assured that they were going to take care of many of the problems that they have not done,” Schilhab said.

Her daughter was also bullied, and Tracy says, the school leaders did not thoroughly address the issue.

“There’s something drastic that we’re missing [in Kerens}. I don’t know what it is,” said Schilhab.

Another mother, Laurie Glasgow, says she is considering pulling her 12-year-old daughter out of Kerens and moving her to another school.

6th grader Presley Glasgow explains her experience while at school.

“I was hit every day for at least two weeks,” explained Presley.

Presley says she also saw the students as they bullied John Reed.

“[John] went to the principal more than once. They didn’t do anything about it,” said Presley.

The girl says she only wishes she’d been able to do more for John before last week.

“I feel really bad because I felt like I should have said something about it. But I didn’t,” said Presley.

Her mother Laurie says the bullying took a toll on her daughter at home.

“I hate seeing my daughter go through this. I hate seeing anyone go through this. I can’t imagine what he went through,” said Laurie.

She says her heart goes out to the Reed family.

“I don’t know this little boy (John). But I know that he’s someone’s little boy. I just felt for him. Presley and I shared some tears.  She’s been very upset about remembering him,” said Laurie Glasgow.

Another parent, Michelle Coxx, had already pulled her son out of Kerens ISD. She says after years of unchecked bullying, it was the best option for her family.

“The schools are not investigating. And if they do investigate, they do it for the paperwork and they don’t correct the issue,” said Cox.

Kerens Schools has a no-bullying policy.

The Superintendent, Kevin Stanford, says the employees have gone through anti-buillying training, and will go take part in another program this summer.

While Standford says he feels that Kerens is proactive in its approach, many parents disagree.

“Too many kids are telling us they’re not taking the kids serious,” said Schilhab.

Aside from reading the superintendent’s post on the district’s webpage offering condolences, Elizabeth Reed says she has not received a single phone call or email from a Kerens school administrator about her son’s suicide.

Superintendent Kevin Stanford declined to speak with CBS 11 News on camera about the accusations of bullying and what parents say is lack of accountability.

Emails sent to each member of the Kerens School Board of Trustees by CBS 11 News asking for information on bullying prevention, were not returned.

“I don’t want this on any mother,” said Elizabeth Reed.

Reed says she plans to donate the money left over from funeral donations to the organization, Mothers Opposing Bullying.

She and other parents are hoping to affect change.

“Find out what’s going on in school Stay involved. Implement programs so other families don’t have to do this. Programs that will help the one being bullied and help the one doing the bullying,” said Reed.

Reed adds, “Hug your kids. Hold them tight and don’t ever let them go.”

 

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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