A candlelight vigil was held at Bradwell Institute Friday night for a 13-year-old Snelson-Golden Middle School student who died Tuesday.
Wednesday, Hinesville Police Department Assistant Chief Bill Kirkendall confirmed there is an investigation into the matter, but the girl’s cause of death has not been released.
Her identity is being withheld by the Courier, though other media have reported it.
The mother of a SGMS student said Wednesday a girl had committed suicide Tuesday night as a result of bullying.
The woman, Latoria Chisolm, said her daughter is also being bullied at the school and was dismissed early Wednesday afternoon after an incident involving two other girls.
HPD has not confirmed the woman’s allegations.
At Friday’s vigil, which was closed to photographers, people gathered together and somberly walked a lap around the BI track. Some wept while others remained silent during the walk, holding their candles tightly.
Some students held hands, comforting fellow classmates.
At the end of the walk, the two girls who organized the vigil spoke fondly of their friend.
“She is probably looking down and seeing just how many people she impacted,” one girl said addressing the crowd.
“I already miss her terribly,” the other added when she spoke to those gathered. “But I know she is in a better place and is no longer hurting. No longer in pain.”
Hinesville Interim City Manager Kenneth Howard spoke. He offered condolences to the teenagers’ family, who stayed huddled together. Howard said he knew the family must be going through a difficult time but they should keep their faith in the Lord when seeking answers.
At the end of the ceremony, blue balloons were released by the family and those in attendance.
As the balloons swirled in the breeze, people lined up to offer the family hugs and condolences.
The family asked the community to “respect the wishes of our family now in our time of mourning,” according to a statement released Thursday.
“We understand that there are many people concerned and hurting at this time but please respect the family. Collectively pray for our family, loved ones and our community.”
Chisholm claimed the girl was being bullied.
Chisolm said her daughter fears going to SGMS and has also talked about ending her life. The woman said she has contacted the Liberty County School Board regarding the bullying, and said she is angry with both board officials and SGMS Principal Roland Van Horn, and claims they haven’t done enough to stop the harassment of her daughter.
Chisolm said her daughter was jumped Wednesday, and fought back.
“The two girls are being suspended and they were going to suspend my daughter too because they said she initiated the fight,” Chisholm said. “But they pulled the tapes to show me and the girl pulled my daughter’s hair and my daughter fought back. So I told them they weren’t about to suspend my child for defending herself.”
Chisholm said the school did not suspend her daughter, but allowed her to be dismissed early.
She said one of the students who had continued to harass her daughter by text message.
“I told the school…you are just suspending them for a couple of days and they are already texting my daughter. What makes you think they are going to change,” she said, adding her daughter has a right to attend a safe school.
The Liberty County School System issued a statement Thursday. It said:
“On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, the Liberty County School System lost one of our beloved students. The school system sends our sincere sympathy and condolences to the family. The student will be greatly missed by the family, friends, classmates, and staff. Although this news is very upsetting to each of us and we all grieve in our own way, we encourage you to think of the family during this difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family in their time of grief.”
The school system will continue to support all students and staff members, according to officials.
Counselors have been available to the students and staff and will be available as long as there is a need, they said.
Two weeks ago, a fight between female students at Bradwell Institute ended with one girl placed in a youth center and another with knife wounds.
In that incident, a girl reportedly brought a knife to school after being threatened by two other female students the night before.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than one out of every five students report being bullied and 64 percent of children who were bullied did not report it.
The rates for cyberbullying, or using social media and the internet to bully others, have increased.
Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems than students who only bully or are only bullied, according to the Center for Disease Control.