Last month, a bullied 14-year-old New Jersey high school girl committed suicide after a video showing her being beaten by four of her tormenters went viral on the Internet.
A month later, her fellow bullied students now say that nothing at Central Regional High School has changed policy-wise in the wake of Adriana Kuch’s death.
“You guys have done nothing. I’m trying so hard to just talk and try to get you to listen to me,” one such student, 17-year-old Danielle Ledesma, tearfully said at a school board hearing this week, according to the Daily Mail.
“I had been cutting. It’s the only escape that I have. I am going home scared and threatened. ‘There are some people who don’t belong here,” she added.
She meant that she’s been cutting herself because of the bullying she continues to experience at the school.
Below is a clip another student, Milo Luga, speaking out at this week’s hearing:
This is Milo, an 11th grader who tells Central Regional BOE about how they’ve been bullied at the high school. pic.twitter.com/a3B0guqRHJ
— Brenda Flanagan (@BFlanaganNJ) February 17, 2023
“Since I’ve been at this school, since the 7th grade, people in this room have made fun of me. … I’ve been called slurs, had stuff thrown on me. I’ve not been allowed to sit next to people on the bus because I smelled apparently so bad,” Luga said.
“Last year I got recorded. I had pictures taken of me. I had them posted on Instagram, on Snapchat, on every single social media platform. I’ve had people try to jump me because I’m gay in this school. … I’ve been to mental hospitals. And I’ve been suicidal. And I’ve self-harmed in the past because of things I’ve seen in this school,” she added.
Echo McNichols, a former student, said she was “bullied out of school” at the age of 13.
“These people and a few more I didn’t know told me I was ugly and fat and that I should kill myself. They sent me pictures of guns and said that they were going to send people to rape me,” she said.
“I saved myself [by voluntarily leaving the school] because you couldn’t do it. The silence says everything,” she added, directing her comments toward the school board.
Also speaking at the hearing were parents and some teachers.
“This school system is under national spotlight and you are failing our students. These children and we the parents don’t feel like we’re being listened to it’s your job to care and educate,” one parent, John, reportedly said.
“You need to stop thinking parents are ignorant, we’re not, you need to tell us what is happening to our kids in school,” he added.
Meanwhile, one former teacher said the school had been “a hotbed of homophobic bullying,” as the Daily Mail put it, during her time at the school.
Watch more testimonials below:
In separate but related news, disgraced former Central Regional School District Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides is reportedly still being paid.
As previously reported, Parlapanides recently resigned in disgrace after he made public remarks essentially smearing Kuch. Speaking with the Daily Mail via email, he seemingly sought to blame her death on both her alleged drug use and her father’s alleged “affair” with the woman who later became her stepmother.
“After [Adriana’s] mother’s suicide since her father was having an affiar [sic] at the end of her 6th grade … Her father married the woman he had an affair with and moved her into the house. Her grades and choices declined in 7th and 8th grade,” he wrote.
“We offered her drug rehab and mental services on 5 occasions but father refused every time. We tried helping her several time but mother’s suicide was a major reason she started making poor choices,” he added.
The stunning words prompted massive backlash, leading him to resign in disgrace. Now fast-forward to this week’s school board hearing, when a concerned father asked school officials whether Parlapanides is still being paid.
In response, the board turned to attorney Christopher Dasti, who reportedly said, “He is still being paid.”
“The response was met with a visceral roar from the crowd,” according to the Daily Mail.
The last piece of news comes from acting Superintendent Dr. Douglas Corbett. During a press briefing this week, he said the real problem is a lack of communication between school officials and parents/students:
A public relations firm retained by the Central Regional School District invited the media to a press conference where interim Superintendent Douglas Corbett explained the district’s plans to address social media and bullying. (Photo by Chris Lundy) pic.twitter.com/06h7DYlb6j
— Jersey Shore Online (@jshoreonline) February 16, 2023
“I think the biggest problem we’ve had is communication. One of the things I’m definitely going to do better is to communicate the good things that we’re doing, the services that we provide and the responses that we already have in place so the students understand that we’re here to help always,” he said.
He also defended the school district’s bullying policies.
“Our current harassment, intimidation and bullying policy and procedures are current and comply with all state laws and department of education requirements. All complaints filed by students, family members or others in our school community are documented and investigated, the outcomes of these investigations are confidential,” Corbett claimed.
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