AYNOR, SC (WMBF) - Just seven days after Aynor Middle School student Taylor Ibarra committed suicide, another young teen attending the same school attempted to do the same thing.
Emma Gibbs is just 14 years old, but she said the bullying she endured at Aynor Middle pushed her to her limit.
Unlike Ibarra, Gibbs’ attempt wasn’t successful. She’s still alive, and she’s sharing her story to make sure no other kid is driven to end their life.
“I walked into the bathroom one morning and heard them talking about me,” Gibbs said.
The ridicule for her started in sixth grade and was perpetuated by those who she considered her friends.
“(They said) how I wasn’t a good friend. I was dumb. I wasn’t pretty enough for them. I was weird. Just hurtful things,” Gibbs said.
“Always seemed like she had a lot of good friends that were supportive,” Gibbs’ mother, Stephanie, said. “I never would have thought that it would have gotten to this point.”
Gibbs was taken out of Aynor Middle School that year and home schooled until eighth grade. She thought she was ready to return, and so did her mom. However, those hopeful feelings wouldn’t last long.
“It started off amazing and then everything started going downhill,” Gibbs said.
She said she was made to feel like an outcast at the school.
“I don’t think anyone who was bullying me, excluding me, I don’t think they know they were … but they were,” Gibbs said. “I just got to the point where I didn’t care anymore, and I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to have to deal with it every day, because it was an everyday thing.”
Unable to express her pain and not wanting to feel like a burden to her parents, Gibbs took her fate into her own hands.
“I was sick of being ignored and being left out, and at just having nobody care because at that moment that’s how I felt,” Gibbs said. “So that night, I got pills and I tried overdosing,” Gibbs said.
“I can’t imagine the parent that has to deal with a child that is successful in that,” Stephanie said.
Gibbs’ attempt at suicide was not enough to end her life, but it did help her get the counseling she needed. She said her therapist suggested that homebound instruction was the best and safest thing for her.
Despite the recommendation, Gibbs said Aynor Middle School did not accept her family’s request to continue being taught at home. She feels that she’s now being forced to return to the school that pushed her to her limit.
“I really don’t want to go back,” Gibbs said. “I feel as though I will be ready to go back when something is done, when it’s recognized that kids are depressed and that they need a voice.”
Stephanie agrees, and she wants to see administrators, faculty and teachers step up and help.
“Something needs to be done, whether it’s detention or suspension or anything,” she said. “There’s got to be an action plan, not just words.”
Stephanie hopes other parents will speak out about the issue.
“These kids are so mean and social media just feeds into it,” Stephanie said. “They just need to be told, from the teachers to the parents to the kids. We have to teach them just be nice, be kind.”
Gibbs hopes sharing details about her close call will help prevent future tragedies at Aynor Middle School.
“Stay strong and stay positive,” she said. “If they are depressed and they want to die, it gets better. It’s not the answer. Dying is not the way to solve it. It’s going to cause so many people to hurt.”
WMBF News reached out to Horry County Schools and the administration at Aynor Middle School. This statement was sent in response:
We have a legal obligation to protect the privacy of all of our students, so we are legally unable to fully discuss any student’s specific case or claims. The law hinders us from providing the public with specific student information or depth of certain circumstances surrounding any alleged allegations. We are also unable to discuss specific steps taken on a student whether it is disciplinary actions, or referrals for counseling or referrals for additional outside support.
However, we do have full responsibility as a school district to investigate all allegations that are brought to our attention. Unfortunately without specifics, it is extremely difficult for us to conduct a thorough investigation. Sometimes the situations are very cut and dry and other times some allegations are just not provable, not all allegations will have witnesses or evidence, but our job is to exhaust all measures possible to determine what happened.
We do have very specific policies and documentation protocol in place at all our schools and provide numerous anti-bullying (and kindness) programs throughout the year, which are age appropriate from K-12. We are focusing on early intervention and awareness instead of waiting to punish the behavior after the fact. These programs are developed and implemented by each of our schools.
Some of our students are dealing with many adult-like issues within their own households like divorce, substance & physical abuse, no electricity or food, etc. and it is difficult for them to focus on their studies when they are witnessing the struggles at home. Horry County Schools provides counselors to assist administration, teachers, students and parents when issues arise. We have internal mental health counselors available to our students and partner with outside agencies like Waccamaw Mental Health and Shoreline if outside resources are recommended for students and their families. Our mental health counselors provides services for screening/assessment, behavioral modification, group/individual/family therapy, psychosocial rehabilitative services, crisis management and family support.
Bullying and harassment is a very complicated social issue that plagues our children across the entire world and can happen in many forms at any time. Although every state have anti-bullying laws, it continues to be a widespread problem, and we are certainly not immune to it. Our job as a school district is to provide a safe learning environment for our students, and we realize that punishment alone for bullies may not curb aggressive or bullying behavior. We need the support of teachers, parents, students and our community to help with this social issue. We certainly cannot do it alone.
On the topic of homebound studies, there seems to be a misunderstanding regarding the approval and extension process. In order to be approved for homebound studies, paperwork is filled out by the student’s physician and is typically granted for a 45-day period. In order to extend homebound past 45-days, an extension is granted once renewal paperwork has been signed and submitted by the student’s physician. Homebound studies and instruction is an important education opportunity for those students who are unable to attend a school in-person due to health or mental challenges. Homebound studies are fully embraced by school administration, and we support what is in the best interest of our students and their education.
Below is the original email Emma Gibbs sent to WMBF News regarding her story:
The full interview with Emma Gibbs can be found on the WMBF News app. Click here to download the app.
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