Alleged bullying victim files suit against school district
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (WSVN) -- A mother is filing suit against the Broward County School District after she says her daughter tried to take her own life when her complaints about bullying fell on deaf ears.
Twelve-year-old Breann used to be a student at Ramblewood Middle School in Coral Springs, until, she says, some students at the school teased her mercilessly. "I didn't really feel like going to school. I just wanted to stay home everyday," said Breann.
According to Breann, she was called names and racial slurs while attending the school. She said she was even physically abused by one of her peers. "One [student] did push me near the end of the school year," she said. "He shoved me when I was going to my bus."
Breann's mother, Randi Vanderheyden, mentioned how helpless she felt when she heard about the bullying her daughter was enduring. "I felt sad, hurt that, one, they weren't protecting her, and two, I couldn't do anything about it," said Vanderheyden.
Vanderheyden said her daughter was abused by her peers for months, but none of the school's faculty did anything to stop it. "[Breann] said a group of kids would start calling her Pinocchio nose. [The kids said,] 'Anytime she turns her head, she'll hit you with her nose,'" Vanderheyden said, "and then, it progressed to white slut and white b****."
Vanderheyden and her husband contacted the Broward County superintendent of schools about the alleged bullying. At that point, Vanderheyden said, Breann's principal finally called her home. "I was shocked that she was putting the blame on my daughter," said Vanderheyden. "She was saying, girls like to talk, maybe [Breann] started it, [Breann] needed to get thicker skin, this is what teenagers do."
Breann tried to commit suicide as a result of the bullying, she said, she was facing at school. "I really just felt like I wanted to kill myself. I just didn't want to get bullied anymore. I was tired of it," Breann said.
Vanderheyden said, "Me and my husband found her trying to choke herself. We took her to the hospital. We got her admitted."
Breann's family is now suing the Broward County School District for failing to provide a safe environment for the young girl. The lawsuit claims that Breann was a victim of discrimination, hate crimes, bullying and harassment, among other things. Vanderheyden said, "I requested that she be moved. They did let us pick a school, but we also told them we wanted a bus, and they refused bus transportation."
The 12-year-old is now taking on-line classes and attending therapy sessions.
Vanderheyden feels that those responsible for bullying her daughter should face consequences for their actions. "These boys, anybody that bullies, needs to be punished," she said. "They need to stop it before something happens because we're very lucky that we didn't lose our daughter, but many families have."
7News contacted Broward County Schools for comment but was told that the district does not comment on open investigations and/or lawsuits.
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