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Bullied to the brink: Fenton teen transfers out of Fox C-6 district

"If my daughter is crying at school every day and her voice isn't being heard, if she's contemplating suicide, then you're failing her."

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — The group Mental Health America came out with some startling findings from 2022. One of those findings: 15% of youth experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.

Fenton mother Shaquila Appling said her daughter Ashira was one of those youth.

Ashira Appling, 14, recalled the torment she said she endured at Ridgewood Middle School in the Fox C-6 School District for more than two years.

"It felt like a never-ending loop of the exact same day. Every day I would get called the N-Word, I would hear it in the halls, I would get in trouble for something I didn't do, and it was just repeating like a never-ending void of darkness. I would never want anybody to go through that,” Ashira said.

Shaquila said she tried time and time again to get the school to take action. At one point, she challenged their school handbook on civil rights, telling the superintendent that her daughter’s rights were violated. She told 5 On Your Side there was never any sense of urgency or desire to help their family.

"If my daughter is crying at school every day and her voice isn't being heard, if she's contemplating suicide, then you're failing her," said Shaquila.

The final straw came the day Ashira sent her mom a text message. She had been crying in the school bathroom.

"Mom, I’m tired of hearing the N-Word in the halls, I’m tired of this school,” the text message read.

Once she read the text, Shaquila got in the car.

"I just went and picked her up," she explained.

The Fox C-6 school district told 5 On Your Side it can't speak to specific situations but said:

“The safety and well-being of students is the district’s top priority and takes all accusations of bullying and harassment seriously. Fox C-6 partners with therapists to provide mental health services to students in need. Fox C-6 does offer programs to focus on mental health including anti-bullying lessons and social and emotional check-ins.”

Thirty minutes north, inside the gym at Jennings Junior High, Tina Meier held an anti-bullying forum.

"It is not one school, one place. It is everywhere," Meier said.

Meier has made it her mission to spread anti-bullying awareness since 2006 when her 13-year-old daughter Megan died by suicide after being cyberbullied.

"The hope is that we can really start making a difference and keep discussing these topics," explained Meier.

The Jennings School District first called on the Megan Meier Foundation two years ago when they were having some bullying issues on the cheerleading squad and Meier has been with them since.

"It has to be ongoing, that's where you begin to build the awareness,” explained Jennings superintendent Dr. Paula Knight.

Dr. Knight said her district is perfecting its policies and procedures to handle instances of bullying.

"If you see something, say something. We’re having a lot of conversations with our building leaders and our central office staff because it is an issue and I don’t think it’s going away," said Dr. Knight.

Ashira no longer attends Ridgewood Middle. Her mom found her another school where she's happy and thriving.

Her message to other kids who might be hurting: "It gets better. There will be a point to where you will be happy. Just keep on pushing," Ashira said.

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