August 20, 2014

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Bullying claims following suicide spur school district investigation

SHEFFIELD LAKE — Sheffield-Sheffield Lake Schools Superintendent Will Folger said school officials are conducting an internal investigation to look into claims made by family and friends of Parti Holland, who died in an apparent suicide Saturday.

Parti Holland II

Family and friends said Parti, who was a seventh-grade student at Sheffield Middle School, had been bullied at the school, and they contend teachers and staff did little to address the reports of bullying.

On Tuesday, Folger said he was unaware that Parti had been bullied. Sheffield police Capt. Tony Campo said the same, although Parti had been involved in a fight on a school bus for which he was suspended. Assistant Principal Angela Terella and teacher Sheree Mumford, who he said he complained to about the bullying, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Parti’s aunt, Jeanie Workman, said Parti generally avoided confrontations despite his large size, but she said the fight occurred after Parti punched a white student who made a racial slur against him.

Folger said there have been no changes to school policy after Parti’s death, but he said anti-bullying programs have been in place for the past year. Every time the school receives a bullying complaint, the complaints are investigated by the office, he said.

“Reports about bullying are addressed within 24 hours,” he said. “The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to verify them.”

Folger said a lot of alleged bullying is a result of he-said, she-said. If a report is confirmed, that student will be disciplined and could face expulsion.

There are 12 anti-bullying programs at the middle school, according to Folger. Peer mediation is available, as well as a tolerance program and a program recognizing students who make good choices.

Folger said the school also has a suicide prevention program in place — an awareness survey identifying at-risk students. Students also can report complaints by filling out forms.

Folger said the school will move lockers and change school buses to keep those who are having problems away from one another.

“If students are having problems, we try to separate them as much as possible,” he said.

Parents are encouraged to contact law enforcement if bullying occurs outside the school, and Folger said the school will contact police if a serious incident occurs.

Folger called Parti’s death “very sad.” He said Parti’s family has contacted staff at the school since his death, and school officials have been responsive.

“We’re looking into all of the concerns that have been expressed to us,” he said.

Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story. Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.