April 30, 2013

Police: Bullying not factor in teen's suicide

Family still believes 'teasing' may have led to Kitty McGuire's death

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

THORNDIKE — A police investigation into the suicide of a 13-year-old Mount View Middle School student in March has found that bullying was not a factor in her death.

The Waldo County Sheriff’s Department investigation also found that no crimes were committed in connection with the suicide of Kitty McGuire, 13, of Troy, said Jeff Trafton, chief deputy with the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday.

“Interviews with family, friends and the school failed to provide any specific instances of bullying at the school,” he said.

Kitty McGuire’s grandfather Fred McGuire said on Tuesday he still believes bullying played a role in her death.

“I still think (bullying) was a main part of this whole thing,” he said. He is Kitty McGuire’s grandfather but had raised her like a daughter, he said.

McGuire’s death was the subject of an ongoing investigation since her body was found March 26 at her home. Many of her relatives and friends have said she was bullied because she questioned her sexual identity, expressing herself through her appearance by dressing in all black and experimenting with her hair and makeup.

Further details of the police investigation are not being released because of their sensitive nature, Trafton said.

“There is too much personal information that is sensitive to the family, and much of it also involves the accounts of witnesses that were minors,” he said.

Trafton said police were not able to identify any specific instances of bullying, but Fred McGuire said he recalls at least one incident that took place earlier this year on a school bus.

“Kitty questioned her sexual identity and some kids started calling her names. One of them kicked her in the shin, and when they did, she punched him,” he said.

He said that because Kitty punched the boy making fun of her, both were taken to the school counselor and the incident was labeled a fight. Both sides were told to apologize, he said.

Fred McGuire said he believes police conducted a complete investigation, but that the school should have done more to prevent bullying in the first place.

He said Kitty went to the school counselor at least six times this school year. He said he also called the counselor once but that Kitty told him that made the problem worse.

“The school called it teasing. Apparently, it happened all the time,” said Fred McGuire. He said that in the days since Kitty’s death he has become aware of other incidents of teasing from her friends and through her Facebook page.

“I don’t know what information the school had on the perpetrators, but I never found out who was bullying her,” he said.

Heather Perry, superintendent for Unity-based School Administrative District 3, has acknowledged that there is bullying at the middle school. The district also includes the towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy and Waldo.

“Like any school in the state and in the nation, we do have bullying; but I have faith that the policies and procedures we have in place can address that problem accordingly,” Perry said recently at a forum to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

On Tuesday, she said she believes police have conducted a thorough investigation into the circumstances around McGuire’s death.

“I can’t imagine that the police would not have conducted a thorough investigation, and I believe their results are the best they could come up with,” she said.

The district is conducting an ongoing investigation into bullying at the school, although it is focused on the climate of the school rather than on any specific people, she said.

“There were a lot of allegations that bullying contributed to this suicide and that it is rampant throughout the middle school,” Perry said. “What is it and how are we dealing with the issue in connection to what happened? These are the questions we are continuing to ask ourselves.”

Part of the school’s own investigation into bullying will include public forums that it is in the process of setting up, said Perry.

She said staff members will meet on May 22 with representatives of the Department of Education to plan the forums.

McGuire said his family is trying to move on and he is not sure what can be done about bullying at the school.

“This is way late. Maybe they’re on top of it now, but I’ve lost my daughter,” he said.

Rachel Ohm —  612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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