Bullying concerns raised by parents following teen deaths

Posted at 11:18 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 23:18:50-04

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. – Some parents in Muskegon County are expressing concerns over possible bullying at Montague Public Schools following the deaths of two students who officials say committed suicide.

Superintendent Jeffrey Johnson tells FOX 17 that Montague High School has a no bullying policy, saying it’s important to provide a safe, nurturing environment for all their students.

Johnson told FOX17 earlier in the week the recent tragedies are not linked to bullying.  A freshman died three weeks ago, and a sophomore, on Tuesday.

“We did our due diligence as far as these situations and speaking with the families,” said Johnson. “In all of our investigations and what we`ve looked at, we do not have that. And the families we`ve worked with that have lost loved ones say that is not the case.”

Parents with ties to the district are concerned that bullying is a real issue.  Tarise Roth said she pulled her child out of Montague Schools because of it.

“Two years ago was when I took my son out, he was coming home saying, ‘they were calling him gay,’” said Roth. “We didn’t tell them why we were moving him we just moved him. They didn`t deal with it at all, they didn`t want to deal with the bullying, the bullying of a gay kid.”

Tarise said her son Ethan Ross was bullied, claiming there were physical attacks, with students pushing Ethan to the point of self-harm and suicidal actions.

He’s since transferred to Whitehall High School nearby. Tarise said she’s close friends with the grandmother of one of the recent suicide victims at Montague, concerned bullying could very well still be an issue within the district. We took those concerns to the Montague superintendent on Friday.

“Obviously bullying is something that`s extremely realistic,” said Johnson. “  If there are instances of bullying that are found, we can look to improve upon those as well. At this point we don`t see or haven’t heard from anyone with students or parents who see bullying as an issue in the school district and we always take everything in a serious nature, and look to improve ourselves.”

The superintendent tells me he was not employed at the time of Ethan Roth’s unfortunate experience at Montague High School. Johnson plans on reaching out to him and his mother hoping to provide the students and community of the area the best service possible.