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Anderson schools talk bullying, suicide prevention following 12-year-old’s death

ANDERSON, Ind. —  Anderson Community Schools hosted a community meeting Wednesday night to talk about student safety, bullying, and suicide prevention with families. They hosted the meeting just over two weeks after student Carson Hankins, 12, died by suicide.

The meeting started with a moment of silence for a student gone too soon and for others who are hurting.

"You just feel like that could be your own kid, I mean it could be any of our own kids," parent Ashley Zimmerman said.

She said she came out because her family has dealt with issues in the past she would consider bullying. Another mother said she was bullied starting in middle school and wanted to see what was being done for students now.

"Just to show support for the students going through it right now," Erin Carpenter said.

The district said they had had discussions on mental health and support for children, but the death of a student moved up their timetable for the meeting. They wanted to make sure families knew the resources available to them.

"We have multiple resources available to children. Anonymous reporting, face-to-face reporting, different avenues that they can reach out to people they feel comfortable with if something is going wrong," Superintendent Dr. Tim Smith said.

He said since August the district has reported five cases of bullying to the state department of education and had 10 cases where bullying was mentioned but it didn't rise to the level of bullying.

Smith said the district has an online reporting system, and they're looking at a way to implement it so the icon is on kids' Chromebooks. Also, bullying boxes are available at elementary schools, and a rollout of a second step social emotional program is already in the works for Highland Middle School next year.

He also said teachers go through suicide prevention training, and they take every mention of it seriously.

"Our bottom line is our kids are very important to us, their safety is important and their mental health is important to us and we're going to take every step and precaution we can ensure their safety and their mental health wellness," Smith said.

Carson's family sat in the audience.

"We had very frank, open discussions and, about all kinds of things and he never, never shared once with me, not once, so not every kid's the same, not everything's gonna work the same for each kid," Carson's mother, Whitney Knight, said.

Knight said she wants to see ways to report bullying more visible to students and would like to see more done at the statehouse regarding the issue.

"If you see something say something," she said.

If you or someone you know needs help you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

More information on suicide prevention and resources available can be found through the state’s website, at Families First Indiana and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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