Parents protest bullying at area h.s., after recent suicide
SEDALIA, Mo. — Parents and students in Sedalia, Mo., gathered Thursday afternoon for what became a loud and at times angry protest at Smith Cotton High School.
They say they want to spotlight the recent suicides of three students. They believe the school district is complicit in not doing more to stop bullying.
“It does no good for parents to complain because nothing is ever done,” said one parent who emailed FOX 4.
Students and parents took turns expressing their despair, frustration and anger over what some called the bullying toxicity at Smith-Cotton High School.
Some parents and students put the blame on Principal Wade Norton and began chanting, ‘Get rid of Norton! Get rid of Norton!’
The school district announced in a Facebook post on Monday that Smith-Cotton High School Principal Wade Norton met with individual classes to talk about bullying and the recent suicide of Riley Garrigus, 16, on April 8.
Ralph Garrigus, Riley’s dad, is expected to be at the walkout/protest, set for 1 p.m. Thursday, April 13. Garrigus told ABC 17 News in Jefferson City that Riley’s death was the fifth suicide to occur within the district in just two years.
“Another life lost would be one too many,” said Steve Tripplet, Sedalia School District assistant superintendent. “We just really want to send that message to our young people at our schools.”
Tripplet said they have anti-bullying programs in place, similar to what you’d find at other schools. However, the district said that new anti-bullying policies will be in place by 2018.
“We come to work everyday to give 100 percent, and we may not always get it right but we are trying to do the right thing day in and day out,” he said.
The district said it would provide the protesters space so they would not disrupt class learning time.
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Below are two postings on the school district’s website about bullying and support available after Riley’s death.
Statement from Sedalia School District 200: Sedalia School District 200 is grieving with our community over the death of Riley Garrigus. We are aware that a community group has planned a peaceful gathering on Thursday, April 13, at Smith-Cotton High School to raise awareness to issues of concern. School and district officials will be in attendance to maintain a peaceful and productive gathering. We will provide designated space on school property for the gathering. Our priorities are to ensure the safety of all involved and to ensure that the educational mission of the high school is not disrupted. To our knowledge, no similar activities are planned at any other Sedalia 200 campus. Classes will continue without interruption; students choosing to leave school must be checked out through the attendance office as usual. Questions and concerns should be directed to Assistant Superintendent Steve Triplett at 660-829-6450.
On April 10, Smith-Cotton High School Principal Wade Norton met separately with each grade level in the school to discuss suicide and other student concerns. He explained that in recent months, the district and its crisis team have implemented professional development for staff members to recognize students in crisis; they also have been pursuing a credentialed, appropriate suicide prevention program that would connect positively with students. The program Signs of Suicide (https://mentalhealthscreening.org/programs/sos-signs-of-suicide) will be implemented as soon as possible, with teachers, staff members and a group of student leaders receiving training within the next few months; the program will be implemented fully by the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. Another initiative that began earlier this month is Link Crew, which will team upperclassmen with incoming freshmen to provide the freshmen with a stronger connection to the school, activity groups and support options. Norton also reminded students that there are bullying report forms in the counseling office and that anyone can submit an anonymous tip through the Tip Line on the home page of the district web site (sedalia200.org) or through the district’s smartphone app. Students had the opportunity to ask questions or make comments about their perception of the school’s and district’s efforts in these areas. Norton pleaded with students to let teachers and staff know about issues so they can take appropriate action and get students the help they need. We ask that questions and comments be directed to Norton at email@example.com