Family says school district knew 11 year old who took her own life was bullied
LOGAN COUNTY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Bethany Thompson was 11 years old when she took her life two years ago. Her parents said she was bullied for her crooked smile, and that the Triad Local School District was aware of the bullying but didn't do anything to stop it.
"They say sticks and stones can break your bones but words can't hurt you," Paul Thompson said. "That's not true."
Thompson said words matter, and it's one way his daughter Bethany was bullied.
"Threats that were getting to her," he said. "Shoving, rocks thrown at her, verbal abuse because she was a cancer survivor when she was a toddler so it changed her appearance."
He said Bethany was harassed while attending Triad Local Schools.
"Eleven year old Bethany Thompson faced relentless bullying at her middle school," family attorney Natasha Wells-Niklas Niklas of law firm Kisling, Nestico & Redick said. "As a result she ended up taking her own life."
Now, two years later, Bethany's family has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district, saying faculty knew she was being bullied.
"Bethany's family actually brought it to the school's attention on numerous occasions," Wells-Niklas said.
"They knew the situation and they turned a blind eye," she continued, "and didn't take care of it as they should have."
They said a month before taking her life, Bethany told one of her friends about the bullying and threatened suicide. That friend told her father, who notified the school.
"It's our position the school had an opportunity to bring this information to this family to potentially prevent this tragedy," Wells-Niklas said, "and it fell through the cracks."
"Everyone says they have a zero tolerance, but I haven't seen a zero tolerance yet," Thompson said.
Triad Local School's new superintendent issued a statement. In part, it said staff and students continue to grieve over Bethany Thompson and the district takes seriously all bullying and harassment concerns, investigates them and immediately takes action.
Superintendent Vickie Hoffman's statement also said research shows it's rare that a single aspect of a child's life results in suicide. Hoffman wasn't at the district when Bethany died.
Just a few weeks ago, Paul Thompson told ABC 22/FOX 45 he was having problems getting school documents related to Bethany's case. We reached out to Hoffman then and helped Paul Thompson get those records.