As an 11-year-old boy remains on life support after he attempted suicide following months of bullying, parents in the Chicago school district are demanding change.
A small group of parents along with education advocates and community leaders gathered for a meeting at Heritage Cafe March 2 to discuss what needs to happen in schools so that bullying doesn’t continue to affect their children.
One mother, Sequoia Williams, said her 8-year-old son attended Carter G. Woodson Elementary and dealt with repeated bullying as a second-grader. The frequent torment led to a broken arm.
“My son had been pushed down steps and they tried to pretend like it was an accident. But I then found out that it was on purpose,” Williams explains to ABC 7 Saturday.
Woodson Elementary is the same school that fourth-grader Jamari Dent attended before he wound up hospitalized after he tried to take his own life on Feb. 18 following months of bullying. His mother, Teirra Black, said it wasn’t just students who tormented her son, but teachers too.
On March 5, Black shared an update on her son’s condition on the GoFundMe campaign page she launched Feb. 22.
“Jamari is breathing better but doctors suggest an extended period of time before we know the full extent of injury while we wait for him to wake up,” the update read.
Additionally, community activist Jedidiah Brown, who has been working with the family as they seek justice, tweeted Sunday that “doctors suggest pulling the plug, [we’re] asking God for a miracle and CPS to fire the staff… ”
He also tweeted that “the bully who drove Jamari to a suicidal state is a teacher protected by a principle.”
Meanwhile, the parents gathered at the cafe over the weekend said they have spoken to school officials about their worries through emails and at board meetings with officials but nothing has changed. The hope is that uniting will force changes to occur.
“We’re watching our neighborhoods and communities crumble, so we need to take a step back and say, ‘How do we rebuild our community and it starts with the schools?'” CPS parent Brian Mullins says.
While Heritage Cafe owner Deion Steele supports the parents in their efforts, the former charter school principal cautioned them not to point the finger solely at school administrators as they press officials to take bullying seriously.
“I’m not speaking in defense of principals,” Steele explains. “I just know what the resources are like when it comes to the schools, so I want the parents to demand the resources for them to be able to do what they’re doing.”
The school system released a statement assuring the public that it is looking to foster a safe environment and emphasized its intolerance for bullying.
“CPS is fully committed to creating safe and supportive learning environments for all students, and the district does not tolerate bullying or harassment in any form,” the statement read. “To prevent and respond to bullying, CPS utilizes a robust anti-bullying policy that outlines the steps all schools must take to ensure students are supported.”
Meanwhile, parents and community leaders plan to meet as many times as necessary until they see changes happen in the school system.