Bullying: One victim's story
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION/BOB FORD Bullying is unfortunately a common occurrence in schools.
Jenn Fox sits next to her 13-year-old daughter in her living room on an afternoon when the seventh-grade girl should have been in school.
She is staying home based on advice from her psychiatrist.
The girl met with the doctor after she had attempted suicide by cutting her wrist. She says being bullied in school and not getting help from teachers led her to take such drastic action.
Fox said the doctor advised her not to let the girl return to school yet because the situation which led her to cry out for help hasn't been remedied.
Fox is disturbed that school officials didn't take more proactive measures to protect her daughter when she went to them. Her daughter said a guidance counselor made her return to class after she admitted she was suicidal.
Fox said she was notified of her daughter's suicidal condition by the guidance counselor after the girl had boarded her school bus to come home.
Fox, a native of the Panther Valley area, moved to Hazleton for a number of years. She moved back to Summit Hill in 2012, with her daughter and 10-year-old son.
She said immediately her daughter became singled out, mainly by two girls in the school.
Although her daughter asked that her name be kept confidential, she wants to talk about the ordeal.
She said she doesn't know how else she can get the torment to stop.
She joined cheerleading and was bullied there. She was victimized in the cafeteria and in the school hallways, too.
It was so bad that there were times she would cry during lunch in the school cafeteria.
The bullying consisted of loud, verbal insults. Fox said these two girls turned her daughter's friends against her.
"I made numerous phone calls to the school and they weren't returned," Fox said. "I also showed up at the school principal's office."
She said she was assured by one extracurricular activities instructor that the matter would be taken care of.
"It wasn't," Fox said.
Others cut wrists
The girl said she wasn't the only one bullied. Others in the school were also victims of the demeaning comments. She said others have also cut their wrists.
Fox said, "On March 18, my daughter wrote a note that she couldn't take it anymore and was going to take her own life."
The note was passed to a friend, who gave it to a teacher, and who then forwarded it to the guidance counselor.
Fox said the girl said she was asked by the guidance counselor if she was just doing this for attention.
"I was never contacted," her mother said, her voice indicating frustration. "Crisis intervention was never contacted."
That night, after everybody was in bed, the girl went to her attic, got a piece of glass, and cut her wrist. Fortunately the cut wasn't severe enough to be fatal.
She put on a long-sleeve shirt the next day to hide the cuts, but a friend noticed them. The friend told the teacher, and again she said she was sent to the guidance office.
Back to class
Fox said the guidance counselor asked if she meant to try to commit suicide. She at first said the scratches were from her dog, but then admitted her intention.
"She was told to go back to class again," Fox said.
"I wasn't contacted until she got on the bus to come home from school," Fox said, noting these actions contradict the guidelines for bullying and suicide attempts listed on the school's website.
On March 20, Fox had a meeting with the middle school principal and guidance counselor. She said she tried to meet with Superintendent Rosemary Porembo, but without success.
Fox said that after it was deemed that her daughter cut her wrist, "A teacher was supposed to be with her until I got there. They didn't even contact me. What if she had gone in the bathroom and did it there? What if she had done it on the way home?"
Fox said at one point she was advised that for a temporary measure, her daughter should leave classes 15 minutes early and report to the next class 15 minutes early.
The girl, who said she has been on the honor roll several times, said she has never been in trouble, was on the cheerleading squad and does charity work.
"She loves school," Fox said. "She wants to go back but I'm afraid to send her."
When contacted, Porembo said on the advice of the district solicitor she cannot comment until the investigation is completed.
"It is taking time to sort through the conflicting information which has been provided to the district, but when we have completed the investigation, then with the permission of the parent, we will be in a position to address these claims publicly," Porembo said.
The Summit Hill Police Department is also investigating the matter.