FRANKLIN — A month a lawsuit was filed against the Franklin Community School Corporation accusing them of failing to stop bullying, a 14-year-old's mother and step-father are publicly speaking for the first time.
The student, identified in the lawsuit as R.N., who has special needs, receives special education services for autism, depression and ADHD, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed on May 13 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
“I would say both of us just feel defeated, truly uncared for, and unsafe,” Rachel Tarak, her mother, said.
Mike Tarak, the teen’s step-father, says it has been difficult to see her go from loving to go to school to hating it. He says they filed the lawsuit not just for others at Franklin Community Schools, but for people dealing with bullying.
“This is, for us, being a voice for those who may not have a voice or don’t know where to turn and how to handle stuff like this,” Mike said.
When the teen was bullied at school, Rachel says she would come home upset and talk about what happened.
“Usually after an incident when she comes home from school, she cries,” Rachel said. “She makes comments, ‘I wish I wasn’t autistic, kids know I’m autistic and they’re mean to me because of that, the teachers don’t listen, nobody believes me,’ and it goes on 20 minutes. There have been evenings where it’s been several hours of her just being so depressed.”
When Rachel and Mike brought the concerns of bullying to school administrators, the school would said they were “overreacting,” and suggested R.N. attended school for half-days or become homeschooled, according to the lawsuit.
Rachel hopes by filing the lawsuit, the Franklin Community School Corporation will be held accountable because they ignored their concerns and let the bullying continue.
In 2017 and 2018, R.N. attempted to die by suicide several times.
“Her reasoning when she came to it was to get the bullies out of her head,” Rachel said.
When Rachel would bring the concerns to the school, she says the school said it was a “peer-conflict” and it never met the definition of bullying. She thinks the school district thought they could “just sweep it under the rug.”
While Rachel says fortunately her daughter was unsuccessful in her attempts to die by suicide, other people who attend Franklin Community Schools have died by suicide because of bullying.
“It’s not a good thing to sweep aside because it can happen again, it could happen to another student,” Rachel said. “One incident of suicide is one too many. I want to stop this, absolutely. We owe it to our kids.”
Apps the school district uses to help stop bullying is not enough, Rachel said. She wants to see them redefine their own definition of bullying.
The state’s definition of bullying says bullying is repeated acts or gestures committed by a student or a group with the intent to harass, ridicule, humiliate, intimidate, or harm the other targeted student and create for the targeted student an objectively hostile school environment.
Mike says he wants to see more to come from the lawsuit and additional things need to happen.
"More accountability needs to come from this,” Mike said. “That is what we are after and changes in the processes and policies.”
Rachel says she hopes they can take this issue to court because she wants to let the school district know how serious the issue is.