SHEFFIELD — No wrongdoing has been found by Sheffield Middle School staff in the March 23 suicide of a 14-year-old student whose friends and aunt said he’d been bullied.
Parti Holland II hung himself in his bedroom in his Knickerbocker Road home in Sheffield Lake, according to Dr. Stephen Evans, Lorain County coroner. A few students and Jeanie Workman, Parti’s aunt, said Parti, who was 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, was bullied because of his size and easygoing nature and because he was black. They said Parti complained in the weeks before he died that staff weren’t taking his complaints seriously because of his size.
Superintendent Will Folger said in a Monday news release that Chronicle-Telegram stories about the complaints prompted an internal investigation and one by Sheffield police. The internal investigation was done by Gary Friedt, district director of pupil services. Capt. Bill Visalden conducted the external investigation.
Visalden said Tuesday he interviewed three people at the school and called the investigation “very uneventful.” He said no criminal complaint was filed and the school district requested the investigation. Visalden wouldn’t release the investigation report, saying parts of it might need to be censored because it concerns a juvenile.
Folger called Parti’s death a “tragedy” for the Holland family and the community.
“It was important that we undertake a thorough internal review of anything that could have or should have been done differently,” he said. “We concluded that all appropriate internal procedures were followed.”
Folger on Tuesday said he wasn’t involved in the internal investigation and didn’t know who Friedt interviewed. While concluding anti-bullying and hazing procedures were followed, Folger said changes may be made because of Parti’s death.
“We’re looking at trying to improve the situation,” he said.
Folger wouldn’t say if the investigation concluded that bullying occurred or if the death prompted disciplinary action against staff or personnel changes. James Kohler, who was the principal when Parti died, said he wouldn’t comment because he hadn’t seen the release.
Kohler said he is taking a job in another school district. Kohler has been replaced by Angela Terella, who was assistant principal.
Folger said he didn’t know if Parti’s parents, Jacqueline and Parti Holland, were interviewed by Friedt. Workman, who didn’t return calls Tuesday, said they had repeatedly complained of bullying.
The Hollands couldn’t be reached Tuesday, and the Knickerbocker Road home was empty. A neighbor said the family had moved.
Parent John Hughes, whose son, Dustin, was a close friend of Parti, said his son has continued to be bullied since Parti’s death. Hughes said he has formed an anti-bullying group of about a dozen parents who have met monthly since the death. Hughes said school staff haven’t returned calls about meeting with the group.
Parent Michele Lazar said her son, Jacob Matthews, was also a close friend of Parti. Lazar said her son had been bullied but hasn’t been since Parti’s death.
Despite the conclusions of the investigations, Lazar said staff needs to be more compassionate to students who complain of bullying because they may secretly be contemplating suicide.
“They’re feeling like nobody cares,” she said. “They’ve had enough.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.