Perry High School is under scrutiny after three students were bullied and committed suicide. Family and friends of those students rallied outside of the school last week to bring awareness to the problem.
The Superintendent of Perry Local Schools, Scott Beatty, said he is working with his students and staff to address the growing issue of students taking their own lives, but called it a work in progress.
“We can't be a school system, where we do this one thing,” said Beatty. “This has got to be something that changes the identity of Perry Local Schools.”
Beatty said the issues are deeper than just one problem.
Perry High School under scrutiny for its response to bullying after three students commit suicide
Raistlin Brown was the first student to commit suicide in the beginning of the school year. He took his own life after his mother said he was bullied at school and online.
"This all has truly been the hardest thing I've had to do,” said Emmaline Brown, talking about dealing with her son’s sudden death.
Just a month later, another student, Nick Borck, also took his own life. His mother said he was having issues on the football team, which caused him to quit. He was then kicked off the baseball team, and was dealing with issues with his girlfriend.
Then, Kyleigh Crawford also took her life on Halloween. Her family members said she was dealing with a strained relationship with her mother and her ex-boyfriend.
In addition to dealing with these different problems, these teens all had two things in common: they were battling depression and cyberbullies.
“One girl said that she can't wait until he (Nick) drops dead on Twitter,” said Kari Howard, Nick Bork’s sister.
Superintendent Beatty said cyberbullying is an issue, but he added that the schools cannot monitor all of the students' social media activities.
“It's really impossible, and generally our rule of thumb is... 'How does it impact the school day?' Lots of boyfriend, girlfriend issues come up," said Beatty. "This isn't really within our halls. It's a fine line.”
Kyleigh’s father, Jonathan Forney, said many of the students at Perry High feel broken and hopeless. He hopes they get the help they need.
"Listen more to these kids. Care more, get more staffing,” Forney said. “That's the only thing I can think of because there's just so many kids, and they just don't have the time."
The school district is adding two more guidance counselors at Perry High and additional resources at other schools. The district is also working on possibly hiring a clinical counselor, who specializes in mental health.
This school year, Perry Local Schools also launched S.O.S. -- Signs of Suicide Program. The program’s goal is to help staff members recognize the warning signs of suicide.
“Mental health, socioeconomics, family breakdown… We're seeing a multitude of things we need to address,” said Superintendent Beatty.
Meanwhile, the parents said they are still trying to heal. Raistlin’s mother told News 5 she did not know her son was dealing with cyberbullies until after his death.
“I think about him all the time. It’s just sad that I didn't do more to help him before it came to this,” Brown said.
The Perry High School Student Council is holding events to help students heal. There are also a number of resources available in Stark County, outside of the schools.
Here are some numbers to contact:
Crisis Intervention & Recovery Center
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (24/7) or Text “Go” to 741741