The suicide of a 14-year-old girl after she was allegedly assaulted at her high school is prompting students and teachers to protest what they say have been years of failures by school district officials to take bullying seriously.
Residents of Bayville, New Jersey, gathered across the street from Central Regional High School on Wednesday, demanding change from the school district and justice for Adriana Kuch. Four students are facing criminal charges in the alleged attack, which was caught on video and shared on social media. Outrage has also focused on superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides, who resigned after suggesting in an interview that trouble in Adriana’s home life caused her death.
“Bullying has been an issue for many years, in Central High School and in schools all across the country,” Brittany Ryan, whose children attend elementary school in the district, told BuzzFeed News. “I am scared for our kids' futures and for all kids who are currently in school and being bullied with nothing being done.
“There are children who are scared to speak up, and us as parents need to be the voice for them,” Ryan continued. “The schools need to start taking accountability for their actions, having more people to speak to about situations that they may be scared to talk to their parents or others about.”
In Adriana’s case, she was walking in a school hallway with her boyfriend on Feb. 1 when she was allegedly attacked. Video shows one student throwing water in her face, apparently without provocation, and another slamming her down. Other students can be heard in the background cheering them on.
Two days later, after the video was spread online, Adriana’s family found her dead in her home.
One student has been charged with aggravated assault, another student has been charged with harassment, and the other two have been charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer told BuzzFeed News in an email. Their names have not been released because they are under 18.
Billhimer told BuzzFeed News that all four juveniles and their guardians were given copies of the complaints, and they were released pending future court appearances.
More than 400 parents, students, and community members have begun organizing on Facebook, saying that the Central Regional School District has a pattern of ignoring bullying and bears some of the blame for Adriana’s death.
Parlapanides, the former superintendent, earlier this month seemed to point the finger at Adriana, telling the Daily Mail in an email that “her grades and choices declined in 7th and 8th grade.”
“Her father was having an affair at the end of her 6th grade. Her father married the woman he had an affair with and moved her into the house,” Parlapanides wrote in an email to the Daily Mail. “We offered her drug rehab and mental services on five occasions but the father refused every time.”
Adriana’s father, Michael Kuch, told the New York Post that Parlpanides was unfairly blaming his daughter, adding that she did not have a drug problem.
“Central Regional’s superintendent was able to resign, which is ridiculous to be able to just walk away from the situation with a pension that nobody believes he deserves,” Ryan told BuzzFeed News.
In a post on Facebook, Jennifer Ferro, another relative, described the 14-year-old girl as “a one-of-a-kind kid.”
“Our family and her parents would describe her as a beautiful girl who was happy, funny, stubborn, strong, loved animals, could make friends so easily, would draw all the time, she loved going on runs with her older brother and our dogs when she came to visit us during the summer, and she always wanted to try out new hobbies… but would get tired of them fast,” Ferro wrote.
Dial 988 in the US to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).