A week after a 14-year-old freshman committed suicide, students and parents at a high school in New Jersey are demanding cultural reforms. According to her father Michael Kuch, Adriana Olivia Kuch committed herself on February 3—a few days after a video of her being attacked by four classmates went viral at Central Regional High School in Bayville.
According to News 12 New Jersey, students staged a walkout on Wednesday to protest bullying as part of his demands for the school district to take action.
The school district, according to the grieving father and other kids, hasn’t taken enough action to stop bullying, particularly at a time when suicide rates nationwide are on the rise. According to early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in the United States increased by 4% in 2021, with a 7% increase in suicides among those between the ages of 15 and 24.
Michael Kuch stated, “I want this out,” referring to the circumstances of his daughter’s abuse and bullying, which experts say can be a contributing factor to suicide but is not often believed to be the sole cause.
“I want them to fix this broken system,” Kuch said.
A female student approaches Adriana as she is walking down a school hallway and starts repeatedly striking her in the face with a water bottle. The girl continues to yank Adriana’s hair and pound her in the head as she collapses to the ground. Off-camera, at least two kids can be heard encouraging the assault.
After about 30 seconds of fighting, two school personnel rush to stop the attack, which left Adriana wounded and battered on the ground, according to her father.
Adriana was taken to the nurse by Central Regional High School staff, but the Berkeley Township Police Department was not notified of the assault. Triantafillos Parlapanides, the superintendent, claimed that was in keeping with school policy.
“We normally just suspend,” Parlapanides told News 12 New Jersey. “If a parent wants to press charges, they can with the police.” Kuch, who later filed a police report, said school officials did not give him a clear picture of what happened.
“The school lied to me, and covered up how severe my daughter’s assault was,” Kuch said. Three students connected to the incident have been charged with third degree felony assault and one student with disorderly conduct, News 12 reported.
“The entire district is shaken by the loss of such a young child. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Parlapanides said in a statement.
Parlapanides didn’t answer queries about how the Central Regional High School District handled the assault and video or complaints that it did little to stop bullying on campus. Requests for a response from Mayor Carmen F. Amato, Jr. were not answered.
All children were excused early following the demonstration on Wednesday at the school, according to a notification posted on the district website. According to Maureen Brogan, a certified professional counselor who directs the Painful Loss Coalitions for Youth at Rutgers University, being bullied may be a traumatic experience that can cause emotions of dread, isolation, and a lack of belonging.
Bullying is not regarded to be the sole cause of suicide, according to research, but it can be a contributing factor, she said.
“What we know in the field is that suicide is an extremely complex issue,” said Brogan, who sits on the state’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board. “It’s multi-faceted. It’s not one thing that causes it, but it is a combination of risk factors.”
According to the most recent data from the state Department of Education, school districts in New Jersey recorded 18,576 occurrences of violence, vandalism, weapons, drug use, harassment, intimidation, and bullying in the 2019–20 school year.
According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five high school students in New Jersey, or 16.4%, reported being harassed on school grounds in 2019, while 13.8% reported being cyberbullied (CDC).
The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System discovered that in 2019, 9.1% of high school students in New Jersey reported getting into a physical altercation on school grounds, while 7.6% were hurt or felt threatened with a weapon there. Tragically, 14.5% of students who responded to the study stated they had thought about trying to kill themselves, and 5.9% said they had really succeeded.
Adriana’s family and friends are invited to public viewing on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Mastapeter Memorial Home in Bayville, which will be followed by a private burial. Donations to the Jersey Shore Animal Center in Brick may be made in Adriana’s honor in place of flowers.
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