Parents hope efforts continue after district-wide anti-bullying assembly

ELKHART, Ind., --- Elkhart Community Schools holding another district-wide anti-bullying assembly for parents Thursday, just two months after 12-year-old Rio Allred took her own life after her family said she experienced severe bullying at Northside Middle School.

Parents ABC57 spoke with said although Thursday’s seminar is a step in the right direction, they hope efforts don’t just stop there.

"I’m always worried and me as a parent I shouldn’t have to worry sending my kid to school,” said Elkhart Parent Evelyn Pereida. “She’s not having the best time. I’m hoping freshman year will go better and if not I do have to consider other options.”

The mother said her 8th grade daughter also experiences bullying at Northside Middle School.

Pereida told ABC57 her daughter Natalie was heartbroken by Rio Allred’s death and said Natalie previously spoke about to school officials about the bullying they experienced at the school.

“It took something really drastic to happen obviously for them now to be like okay well we will start doing something but it’s going to take time. No it needs to happen now," explained Pereida.

“Just because we wrapped up one school year that this is not going to carry over into next school year. We’re never going to forget Rio. We’re never going to forget her family,” added another Elkhart Parent Shelby Choquette, who also helped start the organization Rally for Rio.

The district said they recognize the problem nationally and here at home and are now holding a series of district-wide anti-bullying meetings for parents.

“So our session on Thursday evening will be to look at and help parents understand what bullying is. How students can respond to bullying and the things that we do as a district and how that connects to efforts around mental health,” said Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Steve Thalheimer.

Parents also told ABC57 although this is a huge step forward to help combat bullying district-wide they hope the efforts stop when these meetings end.

“I want this to be like a prolonged effort and not just effort right now because the fire is still lit underneath them,” said Choquette.

“They may be listening but I feel like they are always saying it’s going to take time, the thing is us parents we can’t afford time,” added Pereida.

The parents also said they would like to see more counselors and in-depth education about differences in the schools.

In the meantime, the district is set to establish a Safe School’s Team to emphasize bullying awareness and reporting.

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