School officials stunned by bullying link to girl's death
Posted November 17, 2011
Chadbourn, N.C. — Columbus County Schools officials said Thursday that they haven't been able to find anyone who witnessed any bullying of a 10-year-old girl who committed suicide this week.
Chadbourn police are investigating whether bullying played a role in the death of Jasmine McClain, who hanged herself with a belt in her bedroom on Monday evening.
Police Chief Steven Shaw said he was about to close the case as a suicide when he started checking posts on Facebook and other social media about Jasmine and her death. Students were stating that she had been repeatedly bullied at school, he said.
"There have been a lot of issues that we've discovered in different places," Shaw said. "I don't think there's going to be one contributing factor. There's going to be several."
School Superintendent Alan Faulk said all school counselors and principals in his district are trained to recognize bullying. If they hear of any bullying in the schools, they alert law enforcement, he said.
No one has told school officials that they saw Jasmine being bullied, Faulk said.
Chadbourn Elementary School Principal Deanna Shuman said the school is working with police and is also conducting its own investigation into the bullying allegations.
Jasmine's mother, Samantha West, said she knew children teased her daughter about her clothes, her shoes and her hair, and Jasmine didn't like going to the school.
West said, however, that she never knew how badly Jasmine had been tormented.
Jasmine lived with her mother and grandmother, Frances Smith, and Smith said the girl didn't have a Facebook account or a computer in her room where she could read anything bad posted online about her.
Smith said Jasmine hadn't shown any signs of depression, noting that she was "playing around like she normally does" in the hours before her death. Yet, she said she believes her granddaughter was bullied to death.
State lawmakers passed two anti-bullying laws two years ago. One made online bullying of children a misdemeanor, while the other required school districts to adopt policies to prohibit bullying without specifying the punishment for violators.
Shaw said it's too early to determine whether anyone could face criminal charges in Jasmine's death.