Updated: August 14, 2012 at 12:00 am
A senior at Vista Ridge High School committed suicide last week after he refused to fight a fellow classmate who came to his house with a large group of other students.
Investigators are trying to determine if bullying or harassment might have played a role in the death, police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.
On the second day of school, Aug. 6, Devin Scott bumped shoulders with someone in the hallway and gave him the finger, said Scott’s mother, Angel Bradley. The other boy wanted to fight Scott at a nearby park. When Scott went home instead of going to the park, the boy who wanted to fight and as many as 50 other students drove to Scott’s home and stood outside the door chanting his name, Bradley said.
Scott told Bradley that he tried to call police but couldn’t get through on the non-emergency line, Bradley said. He didn’t want to call 911 because he didn’t need an ambulance.
Scott also told her that he called the school’s resource officer. Bradley was not at home when the students arrived. Scott said of the incident, “I can’t believe so many people hate me,” Bradley said.
After the students left, the teenager was targeted on Facebook for not fighting. He had shut down his account several times during the summer because he didn’t like reading negative comments, Bradley said.
The next day, Scott and the boy who challenged him to a fight met with a police officer assigned to the school.
Scott killed himself later that day, Bradley said.
At a vigil organized by students Friday, hundreds gathered and some students remembered Scott helped them through their problems, Bradley said. Bradley described her son as a gentle person who would sit with people crying in the hall.
“He tried to prevent all of this. How did it happen to him?” Bradley said.
Scott’s stepfather, Cedric Bradley, is critical of the school’s bullying policies, calling them reactive instead of proactive.
School officials would not discuss the specifics of Scott’s death or the circumstances that led him to take his life.
Vista Ridge uses Safe2Tell, a state-run hotline, for students to anonymously report violent, threatening and suicidal behaviors by phone, Web and text, school spokeswoman Stephanie Wurtz Meredith said.
The school has posters about Safe2Tell and the number is printed on the back of student ID cards, she said.
Bullying is the most common behavior reported through Safe2Tell, and reporting rates triple when students learn about the material through school discussion, said Susan Payne, executive director of Safe2Tell.
But the hotline is just a stop-gap measure to address immediate events, said Bill Woodward, a bullying researcher with the University of Colorado at Boulder.
An anti-bullying law passed by Colorado lawmakers in 2011 encourages schools to survey students to identify bullying patterns and where bullying happens.
“If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t understand what the solution may be,” Woodward said.
The law also calls for training to help teachers stop bullying. Vista Ridge staff members recently attended training about bullying, Meredith said.
The law only requires schools to have a bullying policy in place. It does not require schools to have prevention program.
Bradley and Scott’s stepgrandmother, Elaine Apodaca-Martinez, want to honor the boy’s memory by preventing bullying.
“We need to help the kids he used to help,” Bradley said.
Both have set up funds for Scott. Bradley has not finalized plans, but she would like to start a program to help kids help each other.
Apodaca-Martinez wants to spread awareness about bullying by speaking to students in schools in Trinidad, where she lives.
“I want to do something to remember Devin,” she said. “I don’t want him to be forgotten.”
In Scott’s memory, Bradley would like the community to wear blue Aug. 20, Scott’s 18th birthday.
To give to Angel Bradley’s fund, visit an Ent Federal Credit Union and mention the Devin Scott Memorial Fund.
To give to Elaine Apodaca-Martinez’s fund, visit www.giveforward.com/bullyingawarenessfund.