“I remember the impact of the car hitting the pole, the glass shattering ... I remember hearing my music still going,” Mitchell Herweh, a gay student from Ryle High School describes the seconds immediately following the devastating car accident that he says was caused by students who allegedly bullied him for years. It was Feb. 8, a cloudy Wednesday at approximately 2:37 p.m. when Herweh lost control of his vehicle as he drove home from Ryle High School, less than two miles away. Seventeen year old Herweh-- and several others-- allege the accident is a case of bullying gone bad, and that two other Ryle students, seniors Travis Elliott and Tyler Scott, both 18 years old, caused the accident that almost took Herweh’s life by using their cars to push Herweh into moving his vehicle towards oncoming traffic, eventually losing control. Although this case has been closed by the Boone County Police Department, no one has been charged. The inconsistencies and uninvestigated leads, however, are leaving students scared for their safety.
Several students witnessed a conversation in class earlier in the day prior to the accident, where Elliott allegedly talked about Herweh’s car, and how the police were going to be waiting to ticket him. One witness, who alleges Elliott has since threatened them and wishes to remain nameless unless there is an ongoing police investigation, stated Elliott told others that he was “gonna run this homo down.” This witness also stopped at the scene of the accident and reported the conversation with Ryle Resource Officer Mike Jarman, and also went to the school, with their mother, the following day and reported the conversation to Ryle’s principal, Matt Turner but felt that Turner didn’t seem to understand the severity of it.
Principal Turner says that he has rereleased the anti-bullying hotline information in light of Herweh’s accident and he has explained the procedure in starting a club, such as the Gay- Straight Alliance, to students who have shown concern but this leaves parents and students wondering is that enough? If this did originate on school grounds, whether it was planned in class as alleged, or began in the parking lot after school, isn’t school administration is required to take action to protect children and punish those who are bullying? Here are some statistics about bullying in schools across America from StompOutBullying.com:
- One in every four teens are bullied.
- Nine out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment at school and online
- As many as 160,000 students miss school an any given day because they are afraid of being bullied
- 43% of students fear harassment in the bathrooms at school
- 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month
- 1/3 of students surveyed said they’ve heard another student threaten to kill someone
- 2/3 say they know how to make a bomb, or know where to get the information to do it
Another aspect that is troubling is that in the state of Kentucky, disciplinary records in which these incidents are tracked are expunged each year, making it difficult to properly document cases of bullying in schools because one of the major components of bullying is the repetition of abuse by a specific person to another.
Although Principal Turner would not agree to a letter to the students addressing the bullying issues at Ryle, he said he “ is willing to talk to any student that worries like that.”