Robin appeared on Fox News Tampabay on Channel 13 May 24, 2012
Lawsuit: bullying led to attempted suicide
ZEPHYRHILLS (FOX 13) -
May 18, 2011 was a bad day at school for Zephyrhills High School student Zach Gray.
According to a Pasco Sheriff's Office report, Gray went to a shed behind his house, looped a dog leash around a beam in the ceiling, put the other end around his neck and hanged himself.
A relative found him.
"He does have a brain injury, but he's getting better, slowly," according to his mother Sissie.
Now, Gray cannot walk or talk. He lives in a rehabilitation facility in Pinellas County, and it's unclear if he'll ever be able to come home.
Zach's family says he was driven to suicide because of relentless bullying at Zephyrhills High School.
"From what we gather, it was a nightmare at school for him," his father Tony Gray said, choking back tears.
The Pasco School District is unable to provide details about Zach's case. Spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli insisted, however "...we take all reports of bullying or harassing behavior very seriously."
The district has a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying.
"We're making sure that we take it very seriously. We make sure we educate our children what is acceptable behavior. Bullying will stop when we can engage our children in helping to fight the problem," Romagnoli said.
The district publishes a flier about bullying. It's filled with phone numbers and websites available to report bullying. The district allows students to report any suspected incident of bullying, yet remain anonymous.
"We do investigate and take those situations very seriously, because we are concerned for all of our students," Romagnoli said.
She added that the district can only investigate cases it knows about. Robin Allweiss, the family's attorney, maintains Zach is like a lot of bullying victims—he kept quiet.
"Kids are embarrassed to tell their parents 'hey I'm being bullied at school. I'm being bullied by my peers,'" Allweiss said.
The school district did investigate, and found no evidence of bullying. But a 20-page sheriff's office incident report quoted a fellow student "....Zachary was not popular...lots of kids picked on him...and called him names..."
Deputies found a suicide note in which Zach wrote to classmates "....just know you can't always push someone around..."
A fellow student who asked not to be identified said she was aware of the bullying, but never thought it would lead to something so drastic.
"I couldn't believe that he (Zach) would do something like that."
She said reporting bullying is difficult.
"Some people, if you do talk about it, they will hunt you down and will actually say something and be mean to you about it."
Anyone who suspects bullying can call the Student Services Department at 813-794-2362, 727-774-2362 or 352-524-2362.