By MICHELLE LOVE | Personal editor
PELHAM- Former Pelham High School student Avri Gillispie completed her senior year remotely due to what she said was intense bullying from her peers.
After graduating, she said she thought it was over, but that was before she recently opened her yearbook.
When it came time to choose her yearbook quote, she chose the quote from Abraham Lincoln, “I’d rather be a little nobody than be a bad person.”
When Gillispie opened her yearbook after graduation, she found her citation was reduced to saying, “To be a bad person.”
Since seeing her quote manipulated in this way, she said it reminded her of all the pain she felt at being bullied.
Her mother, Misty Gillispie, shared the misprint photo on her Facebook page and expressed her displeasure.
“Yearbooks are meant to be the memories you keep forever, something you look back on and maybe show your kids one day,” she wrote. “My daughter was able to open hers and find that her main quote had been changed to this…As a mother, it is heartbreaking and infuriating that this was allowed to be printed and distributed today. After all that she’s been through…that’s what she’s got left.As a believer, I believe that what is done in darkness will be brought to light!
Since posting Misty, Avri has received a great amount of support online and in the community. Avri also took to her Facebook to thank everyone who reached out to express their support. She also called on schools in the town of Pelham and other districts to actively tackle and take action against bullying in schools.
Avri and her parents declined more interviews, but Avri posted a thank you for the support on her public Facebook page:
“I’ve had a huge number of people contacting me over the past few days,” she said. “I haven’t been able to respond to everyone yet, but please know that the messages and reposts from you all mean the world. I’m not looking for revenge for what has been done to me, but rather for awareness of what has happened and continues to happen. I want to see changes in Pelham and other school systems that will keep children safe and secure at school. I am not perfect, I have makes a lot of mistakes like all kids, but it’s the job of the school system to correct those mistakes: not just ignore them. What happened to me should never happen, and I won’t stop talking until that the appropriate changes are made.
Pelham Superintendent Dr Chuck Ledbetter said that upon being made aware of the situation, he and the PCS team immediately began an investigation into the matter. Ledbetter said he felt the same thing the family suspected – that someone had tampered with Avri’s quote with malicious intent.
Ledbetter said after conducting interviews with directory staff and investigating Google forms related to directory submission that enough evidence was found to determine that nothing had been tampered with.
Ledbetter released a statement following the investigation to the public.
“Pelham City Schools concluded that the online form submitted by the student included only the part of the citation printed in the yearbook,” he said. “Digital records prove that no words were subtracted from or added to the citation by a student or faculty member after the form was submitted by the student. We are committed to improving our final verification process for the yearbook in the future.
Ledbetter said the school is printing a correction for Avri’s quote and no yearbooks will be distributed until that correction is inserted.
Ledbetter said he met Avri before coming on board as superintendent and she told him about the bullying she suffered while studying at PHS.
“I was very impressed with her and understood a lot of what she had to say,” he said. “As such, I have been working this summer to see how we can work to care for every child and student and we are creating the culture we want where we build strong relationships between faculty and students so that everyone feels feel supported in the Pelham family. I continue to do this work.
At the Pelham Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, July 26, Ledbetter and the other BOE members endorsed several resolutions related to promoting school safety, and Ledbetter said bullying absolutely fell under that umbrella. .
“We have what you might call security from outside threats, which protects schools from outside threats, and we have homeland security, where we make sure schools are doing a good job of creating a culture where, when the bullying happens, we fix it. appropriately and have appropriate steps to ensure we take corrective action,” he said. “We also have to make sure that we teach our students the right way to handle relationships all the time. These are things that we are going to work very hard on moving forward. »
Both Misty and Avri are determined to continue pushing the charge for change so that others realize the problem of bullying among students in all school systems.