Family starts petition over SCS bullying policy after teen takes his own life

Family starts petition over SCS bullying policy after teen takes his own life

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s been more than two months since a White Station High School student took his own life after his family says he was bullied.

Fernando Montiel’s family and friends started a petition demanding changes within Shelby County Schools. At last check – it has more than 500 signatures.

Since the day Fernando took his own life back in April his family hasn’t given up hope.

“It’s because of him that we’re doing this work,” Fernando’s cousin Gisela Guerrero said.

“We’re going to stay on it. You can believe that we’re going to stay on top of it and we’re not just going to let it be another case of bullying," Fernando’s brother Enrique Montiel said.

After the 15-year-old passed away, his family started looking into bullying within Shelby County Schools.

“Part of that was finding out more about what’s already happening in Shelby County Schools to help with this and then finding out where we’re lacking. Where we need to do more," Guerrero said.

They’ve since started a petition that demands four things from Shelby County Schools.

  • To conduct and publicize the results of an anonymous student survey asking about bullying and requesting ideas for solutions.
  • Implement an updated, clear and accessible method of reporting
  • Promote resources and support in schools and the city
  • Implement intensive and continuous curriculum on bullying, violence prevention, intervention and suicide prevention

SCS currently has a bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment and intimidation manual, which outlines mandatory training, includes forms and additional resources.

But Fernando’s family says they’ve spoken to students and families who say the manual is vague and often times, not helpful.

“Just in the handbook, I think it needs to be clearer how the students and families actually need to go about reporting," Guerrero said.

They say the change is for other families, too.

“We want to keep pushing and we want to be there for those 500 people and the ones that haven’t signed the petition yet," Enrique said.

Shelby County Schools released the following statement in response the petition.

Shelby County Schools is building internal capacity to support district-wide social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, heighten mental health awareness and offer suicide prevention resources. We intend to work closely with students and families to provide updates about our reporting process.

We have identified topics for Summer professional development sessions specifically designed to address classroom management and de-escalation for teachers. Counselors and Social Worker job duties have been realigned to focus more on student support in the area of SEL. In order to identify best practices outside of our community, school teams from 29 schools will be attending the National Building Resilient Schools Conference this Month. These teams will champion the implementation of trauma responsive practices in their schools and throughout the District.

All District Administrative staff, Counselors, and teachers will receive required training on SCS Policy implementation and how to investigate and properly report all incidents. The District is also working to enhance a student tip hotline and develop a mobile incident reporting app.

Lastly, our SCS proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school includes significant investments in SEL, operational support and community support. The current $8 Million investments include:

•30 reset or calming rooms to support student’s individual needs

•A new Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum

•Professional development for all employees to become a trauma-responsive District and improve restorative discipline practices

•Increased translation and interpretation support for our non-English speaking families.

Shelby County Schools encourages any student or staff member experiencing mental health challenges to reach out for help.

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