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News outlets from the New York Post to NBC to Britain’s Daily Mail are covering the February 3d suicide of Central Regional High School student Adriana Olivia Kuch. The fourteen-year-old killed herself in her bedroom closet after four Central High students beat her in the hallway and “ruthlessly taunted” her on TikTok and Snapchat. From the Post: “They kicked and punched the teen and dragged her down the hallway. They also pulled her hair and hit her with a 20-ounce water bottle as onlookers laughed.” A staff member took her to a nurse but the police were not informed and no formal action was taken. On Saturday, after a community outcry, the Central Regional School Board (Ocean County) held an emergency meeting and accepted Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides’s resignation.
This is not the first time the district has made the news: last March two new school board members posted blatantly racist statements and images on social media.
According to the Daily Mail, Parlapanides claimed in a series of emails that Adriana’s suicide was due to grief that her mother committed suicide seven years ago because her father was having an affair, as well as drug abuse. ‘We offered her drug rehab and mental services on 5 occasions but father refused every time,” he said, adding, “we tried helping her several time but mother’s suicide was a major reason she started making poor choices.” The superintendent also said he was following district policy by not reporting Adriana’s assault to the police. Her father, Michael Kuch, responded, “this guy is a piece of shit…I can’t begin to tell you how angry I am at the school, at the police department…If those videos hadn’t been posted, these girls would have ended up with a one day suspension or in no trouble at all…’The [school] has done nothing. They should not be in charge of our children’s safety.”
‘It was like she was attacked twice. It used to be you’d go to school, get bullied and then you left. But now you come home and you keep getting bullied – they still keep picking on you at home.’
“The Central Regional School District board of Education has accepted the resignation of Dr. Triantafillos Parlapanides,” a message on the district website read. “The Central Regional School District is evaluating all current and past allegations of bullying.”
— Central Regional School District (@CR_Schools) February 12, 2023
The four girls have been charged now, three with fourth degree assault, and one with disorderly conduct. It is unclear if they will be prosecuted as adults or minors. They have been suspended from school.
The Star-Ledger reports that this past October Racheal O’Dea, the mother of a Central Regional High School student, sued the district on behalf of her daughter, who was sent text messages by another student threatening to harm her. Then three students started harassing her in school and two of them assaulted her in the hallway and a video was posted on social media. Her daughter asked for help from a teacher, a guidance counselor, and several administrators but they did nothing. O’Dea has a petition up at Change.org called “STOP THE VIOLENCE AT CENTRAL REGIONAL.” It has almost 11,000 signatures.
Adriana’s suicide reflects a sharp increase in the number of teenage girls who report feelings of “persistent sadness,” twice as many as teenage boys. The New York Times reports today on the adolescent mental health crisis and quotes Dr. Victor Fornari, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who links the increase to the smartphone’s release in 2012. Although its full impact on adolescents’ mental health is still unknown, he said, there is “no question” of an association between the use of social media and the dramatic increase in suicidal behavior and depressive mood.
“Kids are now vulnerable to cyberbullying and critical comments, like ‘I hate you’, ‘Nobody likes you,’” he said. “It’s like harpoons to their heart every time.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.