Bullying to Suicide
How HIB fails
It starts with name calling and general hostility, then getting into personal space, finger-poking, then finally, physical assault. That is the progression of school bullying and the reason it needs to be stopped as soon as it starts. In the devastating case of 14-year-old Adriana Kuch from Berkely Township, NJ, according to her father and friends, years of bullying ended in her suicide.
Adding insult to injury in this tragic situation, the district and/or superintendent did not take any responsibility for failing to protect Adriana, as shown by his statements, which outed her personal history and family issues. It doesn’t change the fact that on Feb. 1st, Adriana took her own life by hanging herself in a closet two days after a video of a group of girls brutally beating her with a weapon to the point she blacked out, was posted online.
The superintendent also defended the school’s decision not to call police after Adriana was beaten by 4 girls, saying it was against school policy and insisting the bullies involved were suspended and would’ve suffered a “double whammy” if educators called the cops.
The actual “double whammy” comes from the assailants when they decided to post the video and the audio evidence of their CRIME on TIK TOK to additionally humiliate Adriana. The violent video shows how one of the girls clearly hit Adriana in the face three times, Adriana drops to the floor and one of the attackers grabs her hair then starts dragging her and punching her at the same time.
Adriana saw the video of her assault, reliving the humiliation, watching the mocking comments from her fellow students at her school, seeing them enjoy the violent crime against her. This traumatic experience was more than she could tolerate and she ended the psychological pain the only way she knew how.
Based on the time of the video posting, it was posted from school. So, if the school had truly done their “internal investigation” on the attack, and looked through the girl’s phones for evidence, that video could have been intercepted and taken down immediately, they could have detained all four girls and prevented Adriana from reliving her assault all over again which ultimately ended her life.
One thing is clear…
New Jersey’s Anti Bullying Policy is a FAILURE
Parents all over New Jersey have been screaming for years about the HIB (harassment, intimidation, and bullying) policies that failed Adriana Kuch. When bullying is not addressed with clear, external consequences, it will escalate. When kids are not held accountable for their actions, they continue to push the boundaries. These girls at the highschool committed a VIOLENT CRIME knowing the the police would never be involved. These girls knew they would be treated as untouchable, emboldening them to recording themselves committing a crime and voluntarily offering the evidence m on social media without fear of penalties.
HIB policies do not address criminal actions. There is no procedure for investigations, and superintendents do not know, nor were trained on how to investigate a crime. Schools are not obligated to report criminal actions to the police, apparently the poorly conducted school crime investigation by untrained staff will suffice.
There is no guidance from HIB on appropriate punishment, that is left up to the district. The only thing HIB has done was give schools the ability to be police, prosecutor and judge in their own little world with no appropriate guidance, just like its done in prison. This has allowed schools to artificially suppress crime statistics in their district. They can now say “our school is safe, our crime stats are down” while hiding evidence of a crime from the police and the public.
You can’t expect the school to be a criminal investigator, and be responsible for sentencing for criminal actions because schools were not designed for this.
The schools don’t even have a process to deal with non-physical bullying, let alone aggravated assault. Even the language in the HIB policy is written so poorly that it is often left to interpretation by the district so you have to wonder what is its purpose?
The main critique is with number 3 of the definition of HIB. Due to the law's language, school administrators can only find a HIB violation when the student targeted is of a “protected class” or the alleged bullying is based on an actual or perceived “distinguishing characteristic.” If the bullying is not based on a “distinguishing characteristic," it is often labeled "conflict," and a HIB will not be filed. It appears that the system was set up to fail because the definition excludes a large group of children and many types of behavior we all would consider bullying, harassment, or intimidation.
Adriana Kuch was brutally assaulted in her high school because her tormentors were able to escalate their bullying when it wasn’t addressed for YEARS. Maybe it was because Adriana was not a protected class or targeted because of what the school considered a distinguishing characteristic. Whatever the reason was, we know this system failed her.
While liberal discipline policies are part of the problem and have been linked to increased school violence and bullying, they are not the only problem. School resource officers must have the ability to recognize a violent crime and report it directly to the police without it being brushed under the rug by the superintendent or school principal. Adriana's story proves that anti-bullying legislation to protect all students is not working. The sad part is that kids are tormented daily due to failed bullying policies, and it took a child to hang herself in her closet to get attention on this issue.
Unfortunately, Adriana's story is not unique in New Jersey. In 2017 a 12-year-old killed herself after being bullied. In the wake of that moment, the state passed Mallory’s law, which amended the HIB law. Her parents lobbied hard to update New Jersey’s anti-bullying policies, saying they lacked teeth and accountability. But with the revision, we still have kids assaulted and committing suicide after being bullied.
According to "Mallory's Law" districts must include in anti-bullying policies the specific consequences for a student harassing, intimidating, or bullying a schoolmate. The law also requires superintendents to provide school boards with data on all reports that meet the statutory definition of bullying.
In addition, penalties increased for parents and guardians who fail to comply with court-ordered requirements for their kids to attend anti-bullying classes, rising to $100 to $500 from the current $25 to $100.
The bullying laws not only failed Adriana, but also failed the 4 girls who turned into violent monsters by a school system that allowed them to think that brutally beating another human was a form of online entertainment. What happened in these girls lives that has made them lose their humanity and the ability to feel empathy for another human? One has to wonder, how many other violent or aggressive acts have they committed on school grounds that have never been reported or disciplined? How many times did the school look the other way on similar actions? These girls didn’t one day decide to perform and record an aggravated assault; their unchecked behavior must have ramped up to this point. In order for our children to be safe, bullying can not be let go until the student commits a violent and unthinkable crime within the school walls. And even after the violent and unthinkable crime occurs, the school has a policy to still NOT CALL the police.
The tragic death of Adriana serves as a stark reminder that the current bullying laws and school policies not to call the police have failed to protect our children. Despite numerous alleged reports of bullying and harassment, Adriana was not given the support and protection she needed. This heartbreaking loss should serve as a wake-up call for us all to take a closer look at our laws and policies and take concrete steps to ensure that no other young life is needlessly lost.
Click here to read the tragic story detailed from the father’s point of view. Be prepared to cry.
Excellent article. So much wrong in the schools. In our district HIB reports are left open with no action taken at all. I'm just hearing that there's a lot of bullying going on in the HS . This also brings back a memory of a neighbors daughter being bullied in middle school, she said school did nothing. That was before I knew how bad everything is. Talked with my son yesterday about it.
Heartbreaking. These poor parents. Maybe we should focus less on worrying about letting boys use the girls bathroom, teaching 5 year olds about anal and hosting drag shows and focus more on making sure our schools are protecting kids from these criminals. Naturally the school is passing the buck and not taking accountability. Then again our governor is the biggest bully of them all so what do you expect