TThe last time Haille Engesser saw her best friend Adriana Kuch, they hugged and said how much they loved each other.
Haille, 16, tells The Independent in an interview on Friday that Adriana was a gentle soul who didn’t talk much about her problems and didn’t let on that she was being bullied.
“She would always just say she’s fine. I think she was afraid to say anything,” Haille said.
Days later, on February 1, 14-year-old Adriana was brutally assaulted in a hallway at Central Regional High School (CRHS) in Berkeley Township, New Jersey.
A video of the gang attack was later posted on TikTok. It showed the freshman walking down a hallway with her boyfriend when a student lunged at her and hit her on the head with a water bottle.
As Adriana fell to the ground and lost consciousness, the student continued to smack her on the head and pull her hair, drawing cheers from a watching crowd.
The footage went viral on social media, with some mocking Adriana in comments.
Two days later, she was found dead at her family’s Bayville home.
In previous public statementsAdriana’s father, Michael Kuch, blamed the school’s inaction in dealing with bullying and failure to file a complaint with the police for her suicide.
He said NJ.com Had the school launched an investigation into the attack after it happened, video of the incident might not have been posted to social media.
District Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides responded to criticism of the school’s handling of bullying by blaming Adriana’s suicide on drugs and her parents’ marriage DailyMail.com.
His remarks provoked an angry reaction from Mr. Kuch’s and Adriana’s classmates, who staged a strike in protest. Last week, Mr Parlapanides suddenly resigned after 14 years in office.
More alarming stories surfaced at a heated board meeting Thursday night where students were threatened and beaten. Several students called When they made their claims to the teachers, they did nothing.
Angry parents, including Mr. Kuch, are now taking legal action against the school district and its administrators.
“I wish the school had intervened”
Haile tells The Independent that her bullying was no stranger to being called “anorexic” or “pencil” in middle school. She decided early on not to put up with it, saying she got into trouble for confronting her tormentors.
After enrolling at CRHS last September, she said a male student made unwelcome advances towards her. When she told him she wasn’t interested, she said he threatened to take a gun to the school and shoot her and stab her with scissors.
Haille said she knew the same student had made similar threats to other students and filed a formal complaint with administration. She claimed they “laughed in her face” about it.
She and her mother, Cherice Anthony, filed a police report with the Berkeley Township Police regarding the threats. The police went to the school to examine the boy. Haille claimed the boy left school soon after.
“I wish the school had intervened. It’s scary because nowadays students are actually bringing guns to school,” she said.
Haille added that she’s seen Instagram accounts that glorified bullying and fighting at school. She said her own picture was posted to another Instagram page that showed pictures of students taken without their consent while they slept.
“People shouldn’t feel scared and humiliated about going to school,” she said.
Haille left school in January.
A cry for help
Since Adriana’s death, Haille has organized protests outside the school to raise awareness of what she says is a contemptuous response to allegations of bullying.
Haille also delivered an emotional speech at a school board meeting attended by hundreds of fellow students, parents and community members.
“It’s really, really hard to go to school because of all the bullying and everything that’s happening,” she said.
She told the board that Adriana had asked the school for help on several occasions, but “you guys just sat there and didn’t do anything”.
Several other students at the meeting spoke about their own suffering at the hands of bullies – and claimed their pleas for help also fell on deaf ears.
“I just want to say, fuck you!” — first meeting of the Board of Ed at Bayville High School since 14-year-old Adriana Kuch took her own life. Students and former students described decades of bullying. Say school administrators either ignored them or were bullies themselves. pic.twitter.com/UuP46wzbJC
— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) February 17, 2023
Junior Milo Luga told the board that she was “suicidal” after being bullied about her sexuality “every day” since seventh grade the New York Post.
Emma Smith, a fellow freshman, said students were “terrified to walk down the hallway at Central,” according to the statement NJ1015.
“We’re afraid that we’ll be attacked and jumped because that’s all that happened,” she told the publication.
At one point in the meeting, tensions reached a boiling point when parents, students and community members yelled at the board — and the board chairman threatened to shut down the meeting altogether.
Haille’s mother Cherice Anthony recounted The Independent that she was “disgusted” at how the school had treated her daughter during her bullying ordeal.
At Thursday’s meeting, Ms Anthony said the entire school board “showed no emotion, no remorse, nothing”.
she said The Independent She was proud of Hailie and the other teenagers for speaking out and protesting. “The entire board must be fired and held accountable for all the bullying at this school.”
In a statement released after the meeting, new Assistant Superintendent Douglas Corbett said the school was working on an action plan aimed at preventing high school bullying. There are currently 1,500 students enrolled in grades 9 through 12 from Berkeley Township, Island Heights, Ocean Gate, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.
The statement also said the district will review its cellphone policies, establish a hotline for students to call if they feel threatened, and hire an outside party to investigate the school’s policies and responses to bullying.
“We are committed to learning from this tragedy and listening to our parents, students and our community,” said Dr. corbett
Board Secretary Kevin O’Shea said The Independent The school could not comment further on student matters.
“We took note of all the public comments we received last night and Dr. Corbett will follow up and investigate further,” he added.
“I want Adriana to get some justice”
Four students identified as perpetrators of the attack on Adriana were suspended from school in the days following the attack.
On February 10, the Ocean County Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and molestation against four female students accused of the assault.
Adriana’s heartbroken family said they believe one of the students bullied and threatened her on social media for months.
In a statement to the independent, Mr. Kuch’s attorney, William A. Krais, said he began filing legal action by filing a tort lawsuit against the school district and school administrators, which the state requires before a public entity or its employees can be sued.
“In the meantime, we will investigate not only the vicious bullying by Adriana’s classmates at the school, but also the lack of intervention and monitoring by the administration leading up to this attack and their failure to get law enforcement to intervene immediately after the attack,” Mr. Krais said called. “The government’s role in Adriana’s tragic death is being brought to light and Mr. Kuch will use every possible legal avenue to uncover the truth for his family and community.”
Students protest against Adriana Kuch’s bullying
It’s not the only lawsuit the school is facing.
Rachael O’Dea filed a lawsuit against the school district last year after her daughter Olivia was beaten and humiliated at CRHS in January 2022.
Mrs. O’Dea tells ABC6that Olivia was attacked by two fellow students and that a video of the incident was shared online.
The incident was reported to school authorities, who said Ms O’Dea did nothing.
“It’s a farce that this is going on,” Ms. O’Dea said NJ.com after Adriana’s death.
When contacted by the independent, Adriana’s family said they were instructed not to comment on legal advice.
An online obituary shared by her family said she loved animals, helped children with special needs, and loved skateboarding, riding dune buggies and dirt bikes.
Haille Ensenger tells The Independent that she was planning another protest at school on Saturday and would continue to be a voice for her best friend.
“I want Adriana to get some justice because school completely let her down,” she said.
If you are experiencing or struggling with feelings of hardship and isolation, The Samaritans offers support; You can speak to someone free of charge and confidentially on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected] or visit the Samaritans website for details of your nearest branch.
If you are a US resident and you or someone you know needs mental health help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to befrienders.org to find a hotline near you.