Carterville Schools Superintendent Bob Prusator has sent a letter to parents and guardians in the wake of the Oct. 17 suicide of 15-year-old sophomore Jordan Lewis, which his father said was the result of bullying.
“In the past few weeks, some members of Jordan’s family and some Carterville community members have expressed concerns re-garding the Carterville District’s handling of bullying issues,” Prusator said in the letter, which he shared with the newspaper. “The District wishes to assure them that bullying is an issue that the Carterville District, including Carterville High School, takes very seriously.”
The district has tried to remain sensitive to family emotions and concerns, Prusator said, and it is concerned for the health and safety of its students. The school district will “take any necessary disciplinary actions that may arise out of an investigation into the circumstances of Jordan’s death,” he wrote.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department is investigating Jordan’s death and specifically looking into the bullying allegations, and the district is fully cooperating with the sheriff’s department, Prusator wrote.
The superintendent asks anyone with information about bullying within Carterville schools to contact the sheriff’s department or school administrators, including him.
“An investigation can only happen when information is provided to the district,” Prusator wrote.
Jordan’s father, Brad Lewis of Collinsville, brought bullying issues to light shortly after Jordan’s death by posting a video on Face-book. He also spoke to Southern Illinois reporters.
“He (Jordan) left a note saying the reason he did this was because he was being bullied by children at his high school,” Lewis said.
Contacted on Saturday by The Southern Illinoisan, Lewis said the last sentence of his son’s suicide note read, “Bullying has caused me to do this. Those of you know who you are.”
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Lewis said he attended a Monday meeting conducted by the school board.
According to Prusator’s letter, that meeting was “a community focus group session designed to receive feedback from community members about the Carterville School District” with administrators and board members inviting a cross-section of the community and other interested community members choosing to attend. It had been planned for months.
Although he attended, Lewis said he disagreed with how the meeting was conducted. While he wanted an open, public forum, the district chose to break the attendees into small discussion groups. Lewis also said the superintendent told him he preferred to meet privately.
Lewis said he’d heard concerns from other parents, which made him want an open forum.
A Nov. 12 board meeting has been scheduled to review Monday’s focus group sessions, and it will allow anyone in attendance “to express their concerns and comments to the board at that time,” Prusator said in his letter.
Lewis said he has been contacted by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office to meet with the senator regarding pending federal legislation addressing bullying in schools.
Jordan’s mother lives in Carterville, and The Southern’s attempts to reach her have been unsuccessful.
Lewis said Jordan’s mother disagreed with his posting the video, but he felt it was something he had to do, adding, “This bullying has to stop.”