TOOELE — A group of parents and children in Tooele County says bullying is a persistent, districtwide problem and claim administrators are doing little about it.
The group gathered at a Tooele park Tuesday evening to share their personal stories and frustrations. Kylee Dean, 16, said she’s been bullied since the eighth grade.
“They would rip necklaces off our necks and call us filthy names,” Dean said.
As a student at Grantsville High School, she said it got worse. “I stopped attending school, like sloughing, because it hurt so bad and I couldn’t take it anymore,” she said.
Kelsey Pritchett, a sophomore at Tooele High School, said she found a concerning letter in her locker last Friday. The one-page, handwritten note was full of crude language and said, “You have no friends, and I wish you dead.”
Pritchett gave the note to her mother, who went to school administrators.
The school investigated the case, Pritchett said, and administrators also looked at school security video to try to determine who put the letter in her locker. But she hasn't heard much about the investigation since then.
While the letter was hurtful, Pritchett said, she’s trying to ignore it.
“I don’t want it to happen to the wrong person and have them take their (life),” she said.
The family of 16-year old Lindsy Gardner blames bullying for her suicide in November. Her stepfather said she reported to a school administrator just days before she took her life, but little was done and no one contacted her family.
He said Tooele High School's principal told him the information on his stepdaughter's death would be forwarded to the Tooele Police Department.
"No one has contacted us about what they have gathered," Gardner's stepfather said in a statement.
A Tooele County School District official said he couldn't comment on specific cases but said the district has a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.
“In Tooele County School District, we want students to feel safe in our schools,” said Hal Strain, director of secondary schools.
Strain said each school has its own policies and programs to deal with bullying. Tooele Junior High, for example, has a texting hotline for students to report bullying. Tooele's superintendent of schools also plans to continue community meetings to address bullying and suicide, Strain said.
“It needs to be a partnership between the parents, the students and the school, and we have to keep the communication open,” he said.
But for the families who showed up at the park, they said they feel like they aren’t getting much help.
“The principal does nothing, and the district doesn’t return phone calls,” Shawn Bennett said. He claims his son was harassed, then attacked by a bully at Grantsville Junior High School last year.
The experience compelled Bennett to start the Facebook page Zero Tolerance-Stop Bullying in Tooele County to raise awareness about the issue. His son is now being home-schooled.
Dean hopes these stories will be a wake-up call for the district. Two months ago, she switched to private school.
“I reported it, and they said they would do something, but they never did,” she said.