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Maine 6th Grader's Suicide Puts Bullying in Spotlight
04/02/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

The suicide of a sixth-grade girl in a small central Maine community has sparked debate over bullying prevention. Harley McGuire - known as "Kitty" - killed herself on Tuesday of last week. She lived in Troy and was a student at Mount View Middle School in Thorndike. She was 13, and according to her Facebook memorial page, was targeted because she was bisexual. Tom Porter has more.

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Her family says Kitty's suicide is a direct result of being bullied. "She had spoken to the guidance counselor several times," says her 26-year-old biological uncle, Tim McGuire. "My dad was actually going to call her again, but Kitty asked him not to. She said it would make it worse."

McGuire says he was more like an older brother to her because his parents were Kitty's legal guardians. Kitty's suicide tops an agonizing year for the McGuires. In April, 2012, her older brother, Edward, who was 20, also killed himself.
According to Tim McGuire, Edward had dropped out of Mount View High School the year before because he was being bullied.

In the case of Kitty, Tim McGuire says the family was upset that the school characterized the bullying that she was undergoing as "teasing."

"We know that school has an ongoing bullying problem that they need to admit," he says. "I would like the school to publicly admit that they have a bullying problem and to tell the community what they're going to do about it."

"We simply don't know a lot right now," says Heather Perry, superintendent of RSU 3, the district that covers Thorndike.
She says the district has launched an investigation into the circumstances leading up to Kitty's death, to run in conjunction with an investigation being carried out by the Waldo County Sheriff's Office.

Perry says she doesn't know if bullying was what prompted Kitty McGuire to take her own life. "Part of the purpose of conducting this thorough investigation is to find out if indeed there's anything to the allegations, and to determine if there is anything to those allegations, then what's behind the scenes on that," Perry says.

Perry points out that Kitty's suicide comes just a few months after Maine schools introduced new statewide anti-bullying measures, laying out a series of steps that need to be taken if bullying is reported.

"If there's any allegation - whether it's founded or unfounded - from a student regarding bullying, whether that's made to a coach, or an ed tech, or a teacher, or an administrator, regardless of the allegation itself, whether there's truth to it or not, we take every one of those very seriously," Perry says.

Perry says that before Kitty McGuire's death, she was unaware of any allegations of bullying at Mountview Middle School.

Meanwhile as the investigation proceeds, Kitty's "big brother" Tim McGuire wants to stress that the family is not angry at those who bullied Kitty. After all, he adds, they're children too, and they need help.

Get more information about suicide prevention.

Learn more about Maine's anti-bullying laws.

 



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