WATERVILLE, Maine — The numbers were few but the passions were great as a group of advocates for children turned out at the Alfond Youth Center on a sunny Saturday morning to raise awareness about bullying in schools.
The gathering included several relatives of Kitty McGuire, a 13-year-old Troy resident who committed suicide March 25. Family members maintain that she was the victim of bullying at Mount View Middle School in Thorndike. The Waldo County Sheriff’s Office investigated the sixth-grader’s death and concluded it could not determine that bullying prompted her to take her life. The school, however, acknowledged that she had reported she had been the victim of teasing on at least three occasions.
“It was a real tragedy what happened,” said Ty Kerr of Student/Athletes Anti-Bullying Community.
Kerr, a former varsity baseball coach in Winslow and Mount View and a former educational technician, said his son has been the subject of bullying.
His son’s experience led him to get involved in efforts to prevent bullying and to the organization Student/Athletes Anti-Bullying Community. He said the efforts of the group have prevented three potential suicides of youths from as far away as Canada and Australia.
Kerr said he lost his job as an educational technician after he reported bullying against his son by a student athlete. He appealed his dismissal before the Maine Human Rights Commission but the board ruled against him last summer.
Another organizer of Saturday’s 5-kilometer race to benefit the anti-bullying organization, Katherine Foster Dall of Waterville, said she was disappointed with the turnout, which numbered fewer than 20 people. She said she distributed 800 fliers around Waterville, posted signs and had worked “24/7” for the past six weeks to get the word out.
Dall said her grandson has endured years of bullying at a local school. She said his experience was the impetus for her to work on the issue.
“Children do count. We want to educate people. We are not bully bashers. We are educators who want to show the bully how to be a kid and compassionate human being,” she said.
Organizers decided to hold Saturday’s event in the wake of Kitty’s death, she said.
“We can’t let Kitty die in vain,” Dall said.
Kitty’s aunt Bobbie Pelletier was one of the people who attended the event and one of eight runners.
“I came in memory of my niece and to stand up against bullying,” she said.
Pelletier, of Waterville, said she wanted people to know it’s not OK to bully so that others won’t feel alone.
Cindy Packard of Winslow said she came because she had been a victim of bullying when she was in school and her two children also have been subject to such abuse.
Dall said more events are planned including a battle of the bands to raise money to provide scholarships to local students.
A photo on a previous version of this story incorrectly identified someone as Kaitlyn McGuire.