SOUTH BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– Zion Halsey was 10 years old when he died Monday, June 20th, 2016, and his mother, Chanelle Halsey, wants to make sure everyone knows his death was an accident. “His death was not a suicide, his death had nothing to do with bullying, my son’s death was an accident”, explained Halsey. She felt compelled to clear the air after parents at South Buffalo Charter School, where her son was in the 5th grade, started posting on Facebook, claiming his death was due to bullying. “I’m grieving. I lost a child; no one knows how I feel, my heart is broken and to hear people … saying he’s bullied and this caused his death, it’s not true”, she clarified.
Lackawanna Police confirm they ruled the death accidental, echoing Halsey’s statement that it was not a suicide and had nothing to do with bullying.
Other parents at the school say it doesn’t change the fact that bullying is a major issue in the building, and they don’t think school officials are handling it appropriately. Christy Bauer’s daughter is middle-school aged, and held a sign at the rally Wednesday morning declaring that she was a victim of bullying. “It’s been going on for the last three or four months. I’ve addressed it, I’ve written a note, called the guidance counselor… Kendallyn (her daughter) went to three teachers”, Bauer told News 4.
At least half a dozen other parents have told News 4 similar stories of bullying, without discipline from the school. The superintendent, Brian Wiesinger, says the school has an anti-bullying environment with a variety of ways to report abuse directly to adults, including an online submission form for anonymous reporting, and character boxes in the building. “We investigate all allegations of bullying, it’s a very serious issue that faces I think any school and we do take it seriously”, said Wiesinger. He added the school has a progressive discipline policy that could start with a warning or detention, and escalate to suspension or expulsion. Wiesinger says the school has not expelled anyone this year for bullying, but has suspended people for it. He was unable to provide an exact number of suspensions related to bullying.
A parent who wishes to remain anonymous finds it difficult to believe the school takes action against bullies, because his own daughter has been a victim of it he says for two years. He claims one girl is responsible for bullying his 5th grade daughter, and has never been suspended or punished, despite several reports to the school from him and even from teachers.
Superintendent Wiesinger dismissed claims that the school would suspend any student who wears an anti-bullying t-shirt or who works to spread an anti-bullying message, saying they support what the students and parents are trying to do. “We wouldn’t discipline kids for wearing that I think it’s a great message to send. ”
Parents like Christy Bauer want something to change, soon. “My daughter comes home and says that she doesn’t want to live. My daughter comes home and says she’s worthless and that she doesn’t want to go back to school. and what do you do? what do you say?”, she explained about her frustration with the problem.
Wiesinger says they will continue to investigate claims of bullying, and he welcomes any parent to bring their concerns to him so he can address them.