ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Administrators of Minnesota’s largest school district say they’ve found no evidence that bullying pushed six students to commit suicide in the past 15 months, contradicting an often-made claim.
Anoka-Hennepin School District officials tell Minnesota Public Radio News that their findings were based on conversations with teachers, parents and others who knew the students.
“Based on all of the information we’ve been able to gather, none of the suicides were connected to bullying or harassment,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson in a voicemail sent to staff.
It has been alleged at recent school board meetings that district employees stood by while a student was bullied, but Carlson says there’s no proof of that.
Carlson said he sent the message because the notion that bullying was the only cause of some of the suicides was being taken as fact, citing two recent newspaper editorials he’s seen.
“To jump to simple conclusions, I think, is a real mistake,” he said. “And to blame us for those simple conclusions is something that is very hurtful to our staff when we’re working so hard to keep kids alive.”
At least one grieving mother disagrees with the district’s conclusion.
Tammy Aaberg’s son, Justin, who was gay, killed himself this past summer. She can’t say for sure that bullying caused Justin to hang himself, but she said she knows Justin was bullied. Aaberg wants the district to change its policies to make it a more inviting place for all students.
“So many kids have come to me on Facebook that aren’t even in the district anymore, that have dropped out or are in alternative schools — that have been bullied and they didn’t do anything,” she said of staff.
Carlson said suicide is an issue that requires mental health resources, and there aren’t enough for children. But he also said schools can’t be expected to be the only institutions addressing the issue of youth suicide.
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