Dept. of Justice notified about alleged bullying-related suicide in Polk county

COPPERHILL, Tennessee(WDEF) – The founder of a national anti-bullying foundation has weighed in on the alleged bullying-related suicide of a student at Copper Basin Middle and High School
Lowell Levine is the founder of ‘ Stop Bullying Now. ‘ It’s a non-profit organization based out of Palm Beach Florida. The organization’s primary mission is to raise money for school districts around the country to address and eliminate the ongoing dangerous of student bullying. 

Levine told WDEF that if Copper Basin Middle and High School leaders truly knew that Jazmine Harris, 13, was being repeatedly bullied and did nothing to correct the problem, they’re liable for her death.

"The ones that knew about it and did nothing about it are accessory to the situation. That’s the administrators and the school system," Levine said.

On Tuesday, Levine contacted the U.S Department of Justice to inform officials about the situation at Copper Basin Middle and High School.

Last Friday, the 13-year old committed suicide in her family’s living room. Her body was discovered by her her grandfather. Her family told WDEF the suicide was a result of repeated bullying throughout the school year.

The student’s death comes within two months of Patrick Griffin, 17. His suicide is also linked to alleged bullying at the same school attended by Harris.

"This had to happen over a period of months in order to build up to where the children gave up. Most children give up because no one is listening to them; no one is listening to their parents and they are hopeless," Levine said.

According to Harris’s mother, the bullying was reported to Principal David Turner but no action was taken to discipline the students accused of bullying Harris. Turner will not talk to reporters about the allegations.

Last week, Polk County School Superintendent James Jones told reporters his office was aware that Harris was being bullied. He was also visibly upset that two children at the same school took their lives because of reported bullying.

"For it to happen once to a school system is unbelievable; for it to happen twice in the same school is just a tough blow," Jones said.

Levine has a track record of helping schools across the nation deal with bullying. He told WDEF he wished Polk County School leaders contacted his office for assistance if they knew students were being bullied.

"When a school calls me, I give them my advice of what to do, and it works 100-percent of the time," Levine said.

Levine also explained how reports of school bullying should he handled.

"What they’re supposed to do is call the parent of the student being bullied to the office with the child so they can find out who is doing the bullying. Then they bring in the parent of the bully and find out what’s going on and why their child is bullying. Then after that step, all the parents should be brought in together to have an open discussion of what’s going on and how the problem can be solved before it’s too late," Levine said.

He also told WDEF that when he finds out a student is a bully, he immediately recommends  that child be sent to a licensed mental health counselor.

"I also recommend they get involved with community volunteer work with the school," Levine said.

In the wake of what is now two student suicides linked to alleged bullying at the same Polk County school, Superintendent Jones told WDEF in last weeks interview that  the district will seek additional help.

"We’re adding a behaviorist that will be working with students and groups of students to help identify bullying," James said.

But identifying bullying is only half the solution.

"Whoever knew about the bullying problem; whether it was the principal, the teacher, the guidance counselor, superintendent, the nurse; they must take assertive action immediately," Levine said.

In the meantime, the family of Jazmine Harris continues to receive support and condolences from people across the world.

The mother of Jazmine Harris told WDEF on Sunday that she is going forward with plans to file a civil lawsuit against the Polk County School district.

WDEF has also learned that an eye-witness to the reported bullying has come forward.

{Jazmine’s mother requested WDEF to show the picture of her daughter in an open casket to illustrate the consequences of bullying. That picture is located in the slideshow.}

Categories: Local News, Polk County

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