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LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) -
A Livingston Parish school principal and assistant principal stopped by a student's home Thursday afternoon. That student happens to be the subject of an I-Team report on alleged bullying.
"I'm 14 years old, and about four weeks ago, a girl started calling me bad names," said a teen we will call 'Jane.'
On the surface, it sounds like something many teenagers might deal with at some point. The question is how do they respond?
Jane: "I grabbed my chain, and I put it around my neck." Kiran: "And what were you going to do with that?" Jane: "I was going to choke myself." Kiran: "Why?" Jane: "Because if I would be in heaven, nobody would bully me no more."
Jane is a student at Springfield Middle School in Livingston Parish. She told the I-team that for the past month a girl on her school bus and other children in the school hallway call her derogatory names.
"A bitch, and a ho and a slut," said Jane.
They're three words that forced Jane to take drastic measures last Thursday morning.
Jane: "I don't want to be here no more." Kiran: "Be where?" Jane: "Be here with my family. I want to be with my uncle." Kiran: "And where is your uncle?" Jane: "In heaven."
Jane's brother, passing by her bedroom, saw the chain around her neck. He ran and got his mom, and the two of them stopped her.
Kiran: "What was the thought process at that moment when your son came and told you this?" Mother: "That I was about to lose my child."
The mother, who we are not naming, has three other children with the 14-year-old girl being the youngest. She describes her baby as a "happy, go lucky kid who loves playing with her brothers and Godchild." But the past week, she was not herself. She said she never mentioned any bullying until Monday a week ago. Then Thursday, she tried killing herself.
"They need to open their eyes because bullying is serious. Kids don't think. They're not just kids. They don't think it hurts anybody when you're bullying them, but it does," said the mother.
The mother told the I-team she has since reached out to the Livingston Parish School Board and the Springfield Middle principal.
Mother: "The principal told us that my daughter could not come to school with having the suicide thoughts and all." Kiran: "So she's not allowed back at school?" Mother: "No, not until we bring her to the medical, the hospitals and get her checked out."
The mother and her daughter both believe school officials are not doing enough.
Kiran: "Have you gone to your school administrators?" Jane: "Yes ma'am." Kiran: "And what happens?" Jane: "They don't want to do nothing."
"All that was told to this little girl was to not have contact with my daughter, but it's kind of hard not to have contact with my daughter when she rides the same school bus as my daughter," said the mother.
The I-team requested records on bullying from the Livingston Parish School District, including the number of recent complaints and the number of students disciplined for bullying. We also asked for an on-camera interview with Superintendent John Watson. We did not get either, but the school district did send a statement.
"The Livingston Parish Public School System is committed to providing a safe and caring learning environment for all students free from any disruptive behaviors including any form of bullying. Our school staff is proactive when supervising students in all areas of the school campus and watch for signs of bullying and respond appropriately. Our school administrators will investigate all reports and complaints brought to their attention to the fullest extent and take appropriate action when necessary. The Livingston Parish Public Schools System works hard to ensure that each school campus is a place where every student is valued and supported."
"Bullying is an incredibly serious factor, and it's something that needs to be addressed," said child psychologist Dr. Jesse Lambert.
Dr. Lambert said bullying comes in many different forms including verbal abuse. He added that teens are going through a state of development when friends and socialization become key and that phase can have short and long-term effects.
"By constantly being called names, and being spoken down to, that will cause the victim to really start to doubt themselves. It'll affect the belief about themselves, their belief about others," said Dr. Lambert.
"We've received several calls and in some cases, parents have been telling us school officials have swept it under the rug. Can school officials actually do anything to stop bullying or prevent it?" asked WAFB's Kiran Chawla.
"It's a difficult task but I believe they can," said Dr. Lambert. "There need to be a number of interventions. First of all, monitoring is essential, second of all, dealing with the individuals who are performing the bullying."
As for the mother and daughter, school officials cannot act fast enough.
"Please stop bullying me because words do hurt," said Jane.
"I want them to make the bullying stop, not just for my child, but I don't want any other family to have to go through this," said the mother.
The mother did admit her daughter into a hospital and she was released Wednesday. The I-team did ask the Livingston School District specifically about this case, they said they could not comment on any specific student. The mother said the Springfield Middle principal and assistant principal went by her home today with papers the mother could have signed taking her daughter out of Livingston parish schools all together. The mother had not made up her mind if she was willing to sign or not.
If you have a bullying complaint, reach out to your school principal. If you have information on a bullying incident, you can call Crime Stoppers at 344-STOP anonymously and they will forward your information to the proper authorities.
The I-Team also reached out to State Superintendent Dr. John White. We were told he did want to sit down with us on this issue but his schedule did not have any immediate availability, but did send us a statement in the meantime. "Bullying should not be tolerated in any shape or form in schools across our state. Our students deserve to go to a school where they not only feel safe but are also in a supportive learning environment," said Dr. White.