Lewiston Superintendent of Schools Bill Webster on Monday night shared his views about the recent death of a middle school student.

LEWISTON — School Superintendent Bill Webster expressed to the School Committee on Monday his sadness for the recent death of a middle school student.

“As has been reported, Anie (Graham) left the school with her parents, identified at risk. They went to her medical provider, then after that went to the hospital, and with that and a review by those professionals, it was felt OK for her to go home,” Webster said.

The superintendent said he was upset about allegations, implicating the school was at fault, and felt it was important to speak about it at the meeting to discuss current protocol.

“One of the things we learned in this tragedy is that the most common reaction after a suicide is to place blame,” Webster said. “And that’s a natural thing to do, because otherwise, it doesn’t make sense.

“One of the unfortunate aspects of this tragedy was around the accusations — that were made typically on social media — that this student ended up taking her own life because of bullying that the school did nothing about,” Webster said. “I want to assure this board, and the people here tonight, and the people who may view this on film that while it might have happened, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone has seen or heard directly to indicate that this student was bullied in any way.”

Webster said he spoke at length with C. Matt Graham, Anie’s father, about what the school can do better.

“He said he wished the school could have done more,” Webster said.

Webster said Anie’s father wanted the school to do more in communicating with her doctors and with the hospital the gravity of the situation.

“I don’t know how a mental health professional is able to identify those situations,” Webster said. “What’s clear in hindsight is that at some point during that day, she had decided what her course of action was going to be.”

Webster said he will hold a meeting soon with everyone involved to reflect on what happened and if there’s “something that we can do differently another time.”

“I don’t know if that’s the case, but I’m going to make sure that we have that conversation,” he said. “We’re going to discuss that and consider the hard questions.”

Also in light of recent events, Webster announced there will be a forum at 7 p.m. Monday at the Lewiston High School gymnasium. A six-person panel will represent different aspects and viewpoints of the issue of social media.

“The issue of bullying may not have happened, at least in regard to Anie leading up to her death,  but it’s certainly happened after her death,” Webster said. “One thing is clear — regardless of the circumstances of this case — the use and misuse of social media is becoming more pronounced in our community.”

In the old days, Webster said, you may have been bullied — perhaps at school, but at the end of the day, you could go to the safe confines of your home.

That’s no longer the case, he said.

“Our children go home, typically with their phones up to their faces,” he said. “There is no protection at home now from inappropriate comments, some of which rise to bullying.

“We hope that people will leave this session with a better understanding of what is taking place on social media and how it’s impacting students, and the role that all of us can play in improving this situation going forward,” Webster said.

School Committee Chairwoman Linda Scott said she wants to see what can be done to further the discussion on the dangers of social media. She wants kids to take ownership on what happened there, “because parents can’t always see what happens but (the students) do.”

Scott also shared her gratitude to the staff at Lewiston Middle School in the wake of these incidents.

“I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for that staff at that middle school and how they handled themselves,” she said. “We didn’t have a recognition award — not yet — because I don’t know how to recognize a whole school. And I believe they deserve an award for what they have done for our kids.”

The Lewiston School Committee unanimously approved the following four nominations for positions:

• Kirsten Crafts, assistant principal, Lewiston High School. She has been working in the Lewiston school system since 2004.

• Anna Matthews, special education supervisor, Lewiston High School.

• Courtney Lyons, special education supervisor, Longley and Martel schools.

• Ruth Joyce, special education supervisor, Montello School.

During public comment, community member Tina Hutchinson shared concerns about so many administrative changes. She said the “musical chairs of administrators” was doing nothing to help alleviate the negative behavior from students that has increased.

“It’s time we look at this,” she said.

Additionally, Ronnie Paradis, who works per diem in the schools, was concerned about the dress code and its lack of enforcement.

“Is this what we’re teaching the students is appropriate to wear in the workplace?” she asked, explaining that she has witnessed a lot more skin showing on students. “This is not business casual; this is beachwear and around-the-house wear.”

She said male teachers are scared to report dress code infractions, and when staff attempt to enforce it, the students show no respect.


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