SOCORRO, N.M. (KRQE) – Community members marched through the streets of Socorro, demanding something be done to stop bullying. It comes after the suicide of a 13-year-old girl, whose parents say she was tormented all year.
“Socorro is in a real dark spot right now,” says Adam Paz. That darkness was brought on by the death of Tabitha Otero. At just 13 years old, she took her own life. “It’s been going on forever and it’s always been swept under the rug,” Paz says.
Tabitha attended Sarracino Middle School, where her family says she endured endless bullying.
“Five girls are following her. They followed her into the restroom, and jumped her and beat her up two days before the end of school, and nothing was done,” says Lawrence Armijo. “She asked for help several times and they let her down.”
They aren’t the only family who believes the district needs to do more. The family of a Parkview Elementary student recently sued the district, saying the African American boy endured racial taunting and teachers often did little or nothing to stop it.
While district leaders won’t talk about the lawsuit, they did address Tabitha’s case. “It’s devastating news when you hear one of your students has decided that’s the only avenue for them,” says Superintendent Ron Hendrix.
They say they did address the teen’s claims and provided her with extra support. “I’m fully confident that every time something was reported to the school, measures were taken,” Hendrix says.
Marchers say it’s clear more needs to be done. “It is a fail for us, the parents. It’s is a fail for our school system, it is a fail for our city, it’s an all in all fail,” Paz says.
The district says it recently started a program called the “Girl’s Circle,” where local mental health professionals meet and mentor middle and high school girls in an effort to reduce bullying.
This year, the legislature passed a bill requiring all school districts to develop and implement bullying prevention programs. It also gives them more power to deal with it when it appears on social media.