BULLY RALLY (10/10/17)

Local area people gather against bullying Saturday at Marshall Avenue near the entrance of Mattoon High School. 

MATTOON -- Local area people were fired up to demonstrate Sunday against bullying and what they consider an apathetic school administration in the wake of the Mattoon High School shooting.

“We are just ready for zero tolerance to be zero tolerance,” Tina Lee, a demonstration organizer said.

Lee and Jessye Lawrence, another organizer, were inspired to set up the gathering calling out what they considered a lack of support both in schools and at home to combat bullying, especially after the most recent school shooting.

They both saw it as an issue that is not given enough attention by adults who can make a difference. Lee was particularly disappointed in the school districts responses to the shooting.

“(Mattoon school district) put out their response that they couldn't find that any of this (the shooting) was due to bullying,” she said. “I think it is important for the school district to know that we don't believe them at all."

“We know it was due to bullying because it is swept under the rug all of the time” she continued. “Half of us here have students or kids that have been bullied in the school district.”

As previously reported, some sources have indicated that bullying might have been the motivation for the Sept. 20 shooting in the school's cafeteria.

In a statement made Sept. 29, school administrators and local police leaders cautioned the public about the media’s or community’s assumptions or rumors, including bullying, that led to the shooting.

No one in an official capacity who is involved in the investigation has confirmed any motives or specific situations that led to the shooting.

School officials could not be reached because local schools had an extended weekend for Columbus Day. 

The group of about 10 demonstrators stood near the entrance to the high school on Marshall Avenue carrying signs calling for bullying to stop.

One of those that showed, Rachel Hill, said she had her son in mind as she stood with the others.

“My son, Trenton, has been bullied since the fourth grade and his teacher told him that he would not help him anymore,” she said.

Hill said the bullying from students and the apathy from teachers just escalated when he got into middle school.

“They would just nag on him about talking about it,” she said.

Trenton is now in the Bridges Regional Safe School and Beacons Programs where the first time ever he said school was “fun,” Rachel noted.

For Rachel, her son’s experience was reason enough to demonstrate.

That was a similar case to others at the rally many of whom were parents or relatives of someone who was bullied. The group started waving their signs as cars went by following a prayer by retired minister Joe Techau.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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