Rachel Ehmke, a 13-year-old seventh grader in Mantorville, Minn., died April 29 after hanging herself at her home. The months leading up to the tragedy were a whirlwind of peer abuse instances, her parents say.
Now following Rachel's Friday funeral that was met with widespread community condolences, Rick and Mary Ehmke are speaking out against the bullying they say their daughter endured at Kasson/Mantorville Middle School and online.
Rachel's family and friends say the teen fell victim to school bullying last fall when her chewing gum was stuck to her textbooks and the word "slut" was scrawled across her gym locker, the Austin Daily Herald reports. And while she was outgoing, athletic and friendly, the same group of girls reportedly threatened Rachel and kept calling her a "prostitute," though she had never kissed a boy, according to KMSP.
Two days before Rachel's death, an anonymous text was sent to other students at the school, KARE reports.
"It was pretty explicit. Something to the effect of that Rachel was a slut and to get her to leave the Kasson-Mantorville School, forward this to everyone you know," parent Chris Flannery told the station.
But after the text was reported to authorities, it was traced to someone who wasn't a student at the school, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The district's bullying policy prohibits threats both in person and online, and promises investigations within 24 hours of any reported bullying.
Rachel reportedly pleaded with her father not to mention the bullying to school officials, for fear of worsening the situation. A note that her parents found after her death read, "I'm fine = I wish I could tell you how I really feel," alongside a picture of a broken heart, according to KMSP.
Dodge County authorities plan to meet this week to discuss possible criminal charges, the Star Tribune reports. But Rick Ehmke says the family doesn't plan to press charges against those who bullied his daughter.
"They're kids. They made some horrible decisions. If these kids would've known this would happen I'm pretty sure they never, ever would have done what they did," Rick Ehmke told Minnesota Public Radio. "Sadly enough, even those kids that know who they are will carry this bag their whole life. That's a sad thing too, it really is."
He also notes that the school should have taken heavier measures against the bullies when the taunting was first reported in the fall, adding that technology like phones and social media may have worsened an already bad situation by allowing the bully to essentially follow students home.
"Words hurt. Word can kill," mother Mary Ehmke told KARE.
Read the rest here.
[sigh] Okay ... someone tell me ... WHY Am I Reading This?!? Why did this kid have to die? Why after all the attention and the programs and the movies and everything else going on did a 13-year-old feel as though she had no recourse ... and WHY is no punitive action being taken against those who perpetrated it?
I wonder ... did the kids who did this ever feel helpless or disempowered or not listened to? Has anyone actually bothered to talk to them, to get their reaction? Are we dealing with overblown egos here or with incipient sociopaths?
Anyone got any answers? I got LOTS more questions.
@Laurie You know better than most how horrible it is to be bullied, learn that lies have been told, reputations smeared for no good reason. Bullying is serious and should be taken seriously. You would be a great advocate for kids who get picked on or who experience name calling and all the ugly things that one person does to another. You are smart, wise beyond your years, able to speak up and stand for decent and civil behaviors. With your new training, you learn tools to take stands that empower people. I wish you didn't have to be as strong and confident that you need to be, but if the task of speaking out against such behaviors is to be done, it will be done by a person such as yourself.
Thanks to Loren Miller for this cite.
Thanks for posting Loren. This is really sad news. Such a waste. Such a tragedy. I've crossposted this elsewhwere. Alas, I do not know what the answers are. Poor kid.
I am a teacher, a parent, and I wish we the schools did this experiment-
I know most school boards and parents would freak out by the mere suggestion of intentionally discriminating children but we mainly learn through experience.
If a little discomfort prevented real pain in others, would it be worth it?
I would like to think lessons and videos and explanations would be enough, but until you experience it, it is hard to understand things not genetically programmed.
Direct experience may not be either the kindest or the gentlest teacher ... but it's lessons have a tendency to sink in and stick with a person!
Well, well, well, the long lost Matt. How you doing man?