Dozens of classmates, parents and family members rallied outside of Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia Thursday to remember 16-year-old Riley Garrigus and demand change from the school.
Garrigus, a high school sophomore, took her own life Saturday.
Her friends and family told 41 Action News she was constantly bullied and had visited a school counselor the day before her death. But according to her father, she was told to come back.
No one, he said, saw any warning signs.
“I want my daughter to be the last one. I want [the school] to work with me not next week, not next year. I want it now,” said Ralph Garrigus, the teen’s father.
Riley’s death is the third student suicide at this school in 16 months.
Parents and students holding signs in the parking lot accused the school district of not doing enough to intervene when it comes to bullying.
“It’s just gotten way out of hand,” said Deborah Farris.
Twenty years ago, her son committed suicide. He was just 15 years old.
“We are here to make our lives better. We are here to graduate. Not here to get bullied,” said Cynthia Harding, one of Riley’s friends.
Harding said she too tried to commit suicide after being bullied.
As parents and students yelled, the Superintendent of Sedalia Schools Brad Pollitt listened from afar.
“I am here to listen to the students,” he said.
— Ariel Rothfield KSHB (@arothfield) April 13, 2017
Eventually, Pettis County deputies escorted Pollitt and the school’s principal, Wade Norton, out of the crowd.
When asked by 41 Action News if there was a problem at the school Pollitt said, “I don’t believe the high school here has a bigger problem than any other public school. We’ve had three suicides in the last 18 months. All three of those had different issues.”
Pollitt said the school monitors all bullying situations and investigates every “completed report” within 10 days, as required by Missouri state law. He would not comment specifically on Riley’s specifics.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).