Bullycide: Tessa Middlebrook's Story
Bullycide Victim 2012
When No One Hears Your Silent Cries For Help
There was a girl Tessa Middlebrook who was just another average teenager, living in Louisiana. She attended Pointe Coupee Parish High School and held a 3.9 grade point average. With a full ride scholarship to a university in Arizona, it looked to everyone she her whole life in front of her. With great artistic talent, no one would suspect from looking in from the outside, that there was turmoil that would make her kill herself.
So when Tessa's 17-year-old body was found hanging from the school's bleacher's, their was question's as to why would she feel she needed to kill herself. Her uncle claims its probably because of the fact she was being bullied.
Derson, Tessa's uncle, said that he knew that there was something wrong when she didn't get off the school bus. His mother had called to tell him and the feeling was there, something was wrong. He didn't hesitate and went to look for her, heading to the last place he knew she would have been, her high school. When he arrived he saw the ambulance emergency vehicles and also within his view, her body.
Her body had been hanging on the side of the school's football stadium for nearly eight hours before she was found.
When journalists asked the school officials and administrator why she went so long without someone finding her they wouldn't make any comments.
Before the girl's death, her grandmother was made aware of the bullying and contacted the school. It is understandable that the family wants the school held accountable for not doing what they could to protect her. When the statement from the school was released they stated they are sorry for the family's loss.
Facebook Image Provided By Family
Tessa's mother died of cancer in mid-2011 and not three months later she started her last year in high school. After school, her family would talk about the bullying problems that she was still suffering from. She had combated the problem by building a support network that included friends at the Centre where she worked and their church family. However the new hope that they all had found was short lived when she committed suicide not long after, in March 2012.s
Derson explained that she had been bullied for the last year and dozens upon dozens of the kids at the school knew about all of it. No one stopped it and no one did anything about it. Students commented that she was teased quite a lot because when she talked she sounded like a white girl and not the black girl she was. Her clothes and the way she talked was also something they picked on her for.
Students have reacted to Tessa's death and already students have started talking to the kids that were considered outcasts. These kids also have stepped up to fill in as there are not enough adults that the kids are comfortable opening up to, so they gladly are helping other students deal with their emotions and reactions of this tragedy.
Charges Not Ruled Out
Sheriff Bud Torres has told media that charges have not been ruled out in connection with Tessa's death. He stated that anyone that goes outside the scope of the law could be charged with a crime, the investigation's findings will influence the course of action they intend to take. The autopsy report of course found that the suicide was unassisted.
The investigation will continue to interview students and staff in regards to the alleged accusation their were students bullying Tessa and the school knew about it and did nothing.s
The CEO of Baton Rouge ( the organization that runs the high school ) turned down the request for an interview in regards to Tessa. The news team was trying to locate someone to speak to and complained because they couldn't get basic questions answered. They also tried to speak to the principal, Joe Griffin. Family says that is who the met with yet nothing was done.
After trying to talk to Baton Rouge organization and not getting anywhere they released a statement that they couldn't release any details or respond to questions about the incident, citing child privacy laws. Still, at this point, there was only speculation to the question if charges could be brought. There are no cyberbullying or bullying laws and they may only get stalking or harassing. School can be charged to if deemed negligent by ignoring the bullying.
The investigation ended up finding that there was no bullying that was a factor in the girl's suicide. Apparently a couple students had told the investigators that she hadn't been bullied for two years. In response her closest friends have a video of Tessa talking about the bullying and other proof they would more than happy bring to detectives but as of now...the official word is that no one contributed to her suicide and the school is not going to be held negligible.
While its understandable how they might not speak to the press, it's baffling how in the aftermath of the suicide, Derson tells the press that they ignored his family. He even cited Derson the federal laws. While Derson was looking for his own information it came to his attention that his niece did attend her morning classes and went missing midday so why didn't the school notice the girl was now truant? The principal had offered them condolenses twice but when they went to the school for her memorial he wouldn't answer their questions.
So the local press went to nearby schools and talked to their administrators to find out how they keep track of their students. At one high school the kids role is taken at the beginning of first period and sent back to the office. The attendence is entered into the computer system and forwarded back to the teachers by the end of the period. So if the student doesn't show up to second period, the teacher will notify the office and the office request the student to report to the main officer over the school's P.A. system. As they are doing this a school officer and an administrator look around campus for that student. If initial efforts fail to locate the missing students they immediately notify the parent or guardian and then contine the campus search.
Two other schools they spoke to had described pretty much identical practices they had in place.
When Derson became aware of these practices in place at other nearby school's he wanted to know what his niece's school's have as their procedure.
Step 1: Teacher Role Book
Mark child's attendence each class period
Official document/Keep accurate record
Step 2: Each class period list is checked
Report missing child to office
Fill our no show form
Step 3: Locate Student
Make every effort to locate student on campus
school officer and administrator
Step 4: Contact Parent
After contact continue search
Protocol's may vary slightly school to school
Do you think the school should be held negligable since they failed to notice Tessa missing and didn't contact family?
Sheriff Had Trouble Defining The Term Bully
When journalists from the local news station were given the statement from the sheriff that there was no bullying associated with this suicide, they asked him to define bully and he struggled with its definition. Derson, Tessa's uncle, confirmed that the lead investigator of this tragedy was Det. Richard Torres.
Phelps mentored Tessa and kept a binder of information that she had turned into investigators to help the investigation. When Phelps shared the folder with the local news station, it contained suspicious text messages and emails from students in the hours that surrounded the suicide. Some said that Tessa was dead before the body was even found. She confirmed that the evidence she had provided the investigators showed very little interest in. Later she tried but wasn't successful, to meet with the detectives.
Det. Torres claimed that Tessa left behind a suicide note but wouldn't say what it contained. It was reported and written an the website examiner, that the note was given to the media anonymously after this denial of release of information and this is what it reads:
“For I have made up my mind. I will not see my mother or great God above. I have refused to partake in any other educational reasons for these violent hands will turn against my own nature and bring a deal of sorrow in as I am out. I cannot go on and have lost all interest in what is beyond my present. On the day before of the total is the day I will give all my love.”
The note was crumpled and found in the crack of a desk. ( Why would it be in a crack of a desk and not near the body?) They don't know who wrote it or when it was written. When a friend of Tessa viewed the note she said it wasn't Tessa's. The writing was in cursive and Tessa rarely wrote in cursive. She also noted nothing was spelled wrong in the note and Tessa had really bad spelling. Lastly, she said Tessa had a problem with misusing a big word in the wrong way and she didn't see that either.
Derson said that he was contacted by the detectives, but never did the come to the house, ask to see her computer, or request anything she had written that may suggest bullying. Tessa died Friday and the sheriff's department didn't contact the detective until that Sunday.
Mike Derson is a police officer for the town over and would have knowledge of how they might have should conducted this investigation. So, when the investigators (he found out) didn't even go to the school or request their documents, he was greatly disheartened. The documentation at the school would prove she was bullied since a couple of her bullies had been sent to the office for the bullying and were reprimanded. The girl was suspended and that created a paper trail.
The family recalls that when they did speak to the detective, he would make notes but only the first three letters and he would begin doodling all over the paper. He didn't look through a binder provided to him for evidence that day and he had been overheard stating he didn't have time for the case because he was just over-run with sex offender cases.
When the case was closed, Tessa's uncle requested her personal affects back and he denied the request.
The Middlebrook family sued the high school saying the school failed to protect Tessa from bullying. The lawsuit includes the claim the school failed to account for Tessa's whereabouts after she attended homeroom even though she was on a school watch list and was supposed to be monitored.
No one took role in the classes that followed and didn't take the attendance to the office where they didn't notify further teachers as they were supposed to. They are asking for funeral costs and other unspecified damages.
The suit included information that Middlebrooke's mental state was such she had been hospitalized after an emotional breakdown the previous school year.