An Ohio school board meeting (video below) held to discuss whether bullying played a part in the suicide of a 13-year-old girl became heated when an unhappy parent spoke out against the board’s actions.
Roughly three dozen concerned parents and community members showed up to a Fairfield City school board meeting in Ohio on Thursday. They wished to discuss the way the school district handled the suicide of Emilie Olsen, 13.
Though her parents claimed that bullying played a part in her death, the school’s superintendent Paul Otten gave a statement to the community in which they asserted that there was “no credible evidence that bullying was a factor” in Olsen’s death.
Reporters found emails, social media accounts, and official school reports that appear to prove the superintendent's statement wrong.
Joan Parret, a mother of two, had a gay son who was bullied in the same district as Olsen a decade ago. She currently has a daughter going into fifth grade at Fairfield and volunteered to speak at the meeting.
“I’m here because that could have been my son that decided to take his life,” she said to the school board. “I’m here to stick up for all of our kids.”
Jerome Kearns, the board president, interrupted her before she could finish speaking, saying, “You’ve exceeded your time, so if you could begin to wrap it up.”
Upon hearing this, Ray Schmitz, a father of two students at Fairfield, spoke up.
“Come on, give her some more time,” he said. “This is important. This is the only important thing we’ve talked about tonight. Quit hiding from it.”
According to Schmitz, his daughter had gotten into fights with other students for defending Olsen. He commented that the bullying Olsen experienced was “relentless.”
"It's not just something that Fairfield can ignore," Parret continued. “I want to know why Fairfield doesn’t care. If it was any of their children, they would do something about it. Does it have to get to the point where they have to go through it for them to do something about it?”
After the board attempted to move the meeting on to other issues, Schmitz spoke up again.
“I can’t believe you guys would bury your head in the sand like that," he yelled. "Shame on you guys."
Kearns then warned Schmitz that he would be asked to leave if there was another outburst, to which he replied, “I want you to leave. You. Leave our district. Our kids deserve more than that.”
He was then asked to leave, which he did.
Wendy Scalf, the mother of Olsen’s seventh grade boyfriend, was also in attendance at the meeting. She was let down by the response from the administration.
"I wanted to hear that they were going to implement a new bullying program, that they were going to do something to combat this,” she said, “...and to try to have some kind of accountability.”
According to Kearns, her son was bullied so much in school that she had to remove him from classes.
“[School officials] basically told me maybe [the district] wasn’t the place for my son because the problem had gotten so big," Kearns said. "It was bigger than anything they could handle."
She made mention that she would be willing to help start a bullying awareness program in the schools.
The board members did not answer her persistent questions.
The school board vice president Balena Shorter spoke to reporters about the situation.
“I think there are a lot of emotions involved with this,” Shorter told WCPO. “All I can say is, I believe in Fairfield.”
Photo Credit: Raw Story