Bullying not the cause of 13-year-old girl’s suicide, police say

Posted May 02, 2013, at 5:24 p.m.
Last modified May 03, 2013, at 12:20 p.m.

THORNDIKE, Maine — Although a police investigation has found that the March suicide of a Troy 13-year-old was not connected to bullying, her family is not convinced — and the RSU 3 superintendent said Thursday that the school community is going to continue to work harder to implement policies already in place to combat the problem.

Kitty McGuire, a sixth grader at Mount View Middle School, killed herself at her home in what her family and some other students have linked to the trouble she was having at school, including bullying she endured around her sexual orientation.

“There is no evidence of any crimes committed related to this incident,” Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton wrote in a press release issued this week after the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office completed its investigation into her death. The investigation included interviews with family members, school officials, friends, reviews of school records and the report from the Medical Examiner’s office. It looked into “all aspects” of her home and social life, Trafton said. It won’t be made public, however, because it contains so much personal information about family members and Kitty’s friends, he said.

“The attorney general’s advice to us was not to release any of it,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

Ultimately, detectives weren’t able to establish that bullying was a factor in Kitty’s death.

“We weren’t able to pick out any one situation,” Trafton said. “We don’t know. She didn’t tell us. Her family may very well strongly believe that that’s why she did what she did. We weren’t able to establish that.”

Tim McGuire, her uncle, said Thursday that he and most of the other family members hadn’t yet had a chance to discuss the investigation’s results with police — but intend to do so.

“I guess it boils down to they couldn’t find specific instances,” he said. “We know that bullying happened, but it’s a damn hard thing to prove.”

He said that RSU 3’s position is that Kitty was teased but not bullied at school, and without more students coming forward to speak out about specific situations, the police can’t do anything. He mentioned a time when Kitty was kicked on the school bus by another student during an incident when students were calling her names connected to her sexual orientation. Because she fought back, the incident was considered to be a fight rather than bullying, according to her family members.

“It’s frustrating,” McGuire said. “I just hope the school does move forward and come up with some better ways of preventing bullying at the school, instead of using [the police report] to get off the hook. Some parents have said that their kids are still getting bullied.”

Heather Perry, the RSU 3 superintendent, said that while the police have wrapped up one investigation, the school has not completed its own.

“We’re looking at a two-pronged approach in our investigation,” she said Thursday. “We’re looking at the specific circumstances surrounding the suicide, and we’re also looking much more broadly, as a school, at the policies currently in place and how they’re implemented.”

That is part of the ongoing work she said that the RSU 3 community is doing to make the schools better for students.

“The students want our schools to be the absolute best. They want them to be bully-free,” Perry said.

The school’s leadership team will be meeting with members of the Maine Department of Education on May 22 to look at information connected with bullying and will make plans from there, she said.

Trafton said that there are no easy answers around Kitty’s suicide.

“It’s a horrible thing, that a 13-year-old would feel she has to do that,” he said. “I learned a long time ago that until you walk in someone else’s shoes, you just don’t know.”

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