BEDFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Bedford County School District is taking action to stop bullying after a 12-year-old committed suicide.
Eli Fritchley was a seventh-grader at Cascades Middle School. His parents made the heartbreaking discovery after he took his life in late November.
“This was devastating. As a superintendent you don’t ever want to wake up to a phone call that this is happening in your district,” Bedford County Director of Schools Dr. Tammy Garrett explained.
The call for help came too late for little Eli, bullied by classmates according to his parents often for his sexuality. Eli couldn’t bear the heartache any longer.
“It’s hard, it’s a hard topic and our students are grieving, but we want to address it and make sure we learn and grow from this experience,” said Garrett.
Dr. Garrett said they have planted trees, handed out “kindness matters” bracelets, and are planning events in Eli’s honor as they look deeper at incorporating bullying into their curriculum.
“Teach kids how, what can I do. What can I say as a bystander to stop bullying?”
Next month Kirk Smalley with Stand for the Silent will share his experience of losing his child to bullying with the students.
“What we hope is to start a chapter. He is a gentleman who also lost his son to suicide so we want to work with him through his experiences,” Dr. Garrett said.
This week Dr. Garrett is holding interviews for a new position in light of Eli.
“The social-emotional learning and mental health coordinator hopefully will help us lead the charge to make sure that social-emotional learning is important, as important as academics in Bedford County,” said Garrett.
Eli’s parents said education is key as everyone in his circle failed him.
“I’ve been inspired by Eli’s mom, the way she has handled this. She doesn’t have bitterness in her heart. She wants no other family to go through this and we want to make sure that we collaborate to make Bedford County Schools a better place, one which students are kind. It’s very important. I always say work hard and be kind and that’s important,” Dr. Garrett told News 2.
The Fritchleys said they met with school officials about their efforts and are optimistic that change is happening in the schools that will help other children like Eli.
Eli’s story has resonated with people across the world. A Gofundme account has raised nearly $50,000 dollars to stop bullying in Eli’s honor.