Family blames bullying for suicide

April 14, 2008 4:38:33 PM PDT
Monday was a heartbreaking day for a local family, who had to bury their 12-year-old daughter.The young girl took her own life, and her family says she decided to commit suicide because she was bullied at school.

Eyewitness News reporter Art McFarland has more on the emotional fight to find out what happened.

The family of young Maria Herrera consoled each other after the burial. Their pain is made worse by their belief that the young girl killed herself over school bullies.

"They used to beat her up, they used to harass her, curse at her, call her 'train tracks' because she had braces, they used to cut her hair," mother Mercedes Herrera said. "I went to the school, they didn't do nothing about it."

Mercedes found Maria hanging by a belt in a closet of their home last week. She died later at Brookdale Hospital. The family blames bullies for Maria's death, but they also blame the school, PS 72.

"She made a statement last year that she wanted to kill herself to the guidance counselor, and he never got help for her," Mercedes Herrera said.

Mercedes she made no fewer than 20 visits to the school to complain about bullying and ask for help, but there is apparently no documentation of those visits.

As part of a statement, the Department of Education said, "This situation is a tragedy, but there is no record that this student had been a victim of persistent bullying, or that her parents had complained about persistent bullying at the school."

"It's hard to understand how there isn't any record of it," father Eduardo Esparra said. "We want justice."

Maria's parents say that among flowers and mementos were notes that appeared to be from children who had bullied her, apologizing for their actions.

Research shows that girls who are frequently victims of bullies were 32 times more likely to be depressed and 10 to 12 times more likely to think about or attempt suicide compared to girls not affected by bullying.

Maria's parents say they are considering legal action.