MARKSVILLE, La. (KALB) – The suicide of Marksville High School student Terry McCann in September sparked a parish-wide discussion on bullying.
News Channel 5’s Emileigh Forrester (Twitter: @EmileighKALB) investigated school policies and sat down with the student’s guardian, Jimmie Cole, to discuss what can be done to prevent bullying in the future.
Cole said 15-year-old Terry McCann took his own life in September. “It was just a shame what happened to him. He was being bullied at school and I was unaware.”
The student was bullied last year, according to Cole, who said it continued up until the day he died.
“He was afraid of retaliation. He tried to stand up for himself last year according to [Terry’s mom] and was suspended from school for fighting,” said Cole. Now, Cole plans to change the law with help from local legislators, making punishment more intense for those who pick on other students.
“I intend to try to get some teeth put into the bullying law in our schools in Louisiana.”
After Terry’s death, many KALB viewers said bullying has been an issue in Avoyelles Parish schools for years.
However, superintendent Blaine Dauzat said he believes it is unfair to put the blame only on Avoyelles Parish. “It’s a very unfair statement to say this is an Avoyelles Parish problem. This is a problem nationwide,” said Dauzat.
Dauzat said the school system follows all bullying policies put forth by the state.
“If a child or a parent reports a bullying incident to us, obviously we ask them to put it in writing. We ask them to give us a statement and a thorough investigation is conducted and if we find evidence of bullying then discipline takes place,” he said.
The problem, Dauzat said, is that it is not always easy to find that evidence.
“It’s normally, not always, but it’s normally very hard to prove. We have trouble getting statements. We have trouble getting students to step forward.”
That is why they have cameras in the schools, but, Dauzat said that protection is not always fool-proof either.
“Students who are going to do the bullying usually are smart enough to do it in those areas where there aren’t any cameras,” he said.
According to Dauzat, the punishment for bullying depends on the severity of the act, but it can range from suspension to expulsion.
Both Cole and Dauzat agree students need the help of witnesses to put an end to bullying.
“You see it, you hear it, you go to an authority figure,” said Cole.
“They’re the key to us, if not stopping bullying, at least putting a lid on it. That’s the key. Anyone who sees it happening can do one of two things: number one, they can stand up for the child who’s being bullied. If they’re afraid to do that or think it’s going to put them in a dangerous situation, then they need to let us know. They need to let an adult know on campus,” said Dauzat.
As the school system tries to increase awareness of bullying and its consequences, Jimmie Cole said he plans to work towards the goal of preventing what happened to Terry from happening again.
“It’s too late for Terry. Terry’s gone, but maybe if we can all get together, pull together, work together, we can save some other child from going through the same thing,” said Cole.
The Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office continues investigating Terry’s case.