TERRELL — Terrell police were called to keep the peace Monday afternoon as hundreds of incensed parents and students outside Furlough Middle School protested what they say is a systemic problem of bullying on this campus.
“It’s getting to the point where you don’t feel safe sending your kids to school,” said parent Hope Beech.
The impassioned rally was in response to the death of seventh grade student Zusette Moreno, whose family contends she was roughed up by a group of girls in a school restroom last Tuesday.
Zusette mysteriously fell ill and lost consciousness later that night and was taken to the hospital.
She died Friday on what would have been her 13th birthday.
As Zusette's mother knelt in a group prayer outside the school Monday, the family indicated that doctors have told them the student had swelling on her brain. But the Terrell ISD said preliminary autopsy information and surveillance cameras inside the school discount the theory that Zusette might have been injured in a fight on campus.
“There’s no reason to believe trauma or assault,” insisted Terrell ISD spokeswoman Raylyn Smith. “We have no reports [of an assault] filed. We are taking all allegations and rumors seriously.”
One allegation comes from 7th grader Amelia Miramontes, who said Zusette was frequently harassed, and that she personally witnessed a known group of troublemakers roughing up her friend in the restroom just a few weeks prior to the girl’s death.
“They kept pushing her around against the floor, kicking her around," Amelia said. "I tried to stop it once, but they said if I told anybody, I would be next.”
Amelia took that threat seriously, because others complain about the same treatment from the same band of kids.
“My daughter is one of the kids who has been bullied by these people,” a parent said.
Administrators point out that there are anti-bullying programs and strict procedures in place to deal with such incidents. But for a growing number of parents and kids in Terrell, those official assurances are hardly comforting in the wake of Zusette's death.
Parents vow to keep pressing for answers and for changes in the days ahead.
It could be weeks before Zusette Moreno’s final autopsy results are released.