BELFAST—Alissa Grace Clark. Remember her name and beautiful face.
Thirteen-year-old Alissa died May 11 by suicide. Her family said they believe it was a direct causal effect from being relentlessly bullied and cyberbullied from individuals at her school.
Clark’s family does not want Alissa or the tragic circumstances of her death to fade from the public’s mind.
“She was absolutely lively,” said her grandmother Lesa Furbush. “She loved to see people happy. She complimented people all of the time.”
Furbush described a girl who loved to sing.
“She had a tremendous, beautiful voice,” she said.
Her aunt, Lauri Jewett, recalled taking Alissa out on car rides and singing along to the radio with her.
“She liked some of the old-time music; she was brought up on that, but she also liked R&B and Christian music,” said Jewett. “Even if you were having a bad day, she’d do or say something to put a smile on your face. Just a very caring, loving, affectionate girl.”
Alissa was also an avid outdoor person.
“She loved the shore, the ocean, plucking out starfish, and collecting shells,” said Furbush. “She loved to go fishing and deer hunting with her dad. Last year was her first year, and she saw a buck, but was so ecstatic that she had ‘buck fever’—she froze and couldn’t shoot it.”
Furbush struggled to retain her composure when asked what had happened.
“That entire spring season she had been bullied at school,” she said. “Her father was literally on the phone two to five days a week, hollering and screaming to the school about the bullying. And it kept getting swept under the rug; nothing was done about it. It just kept going.”
Furbush said she believed multiple teenagers were involved and that some of the behaviors continued online.
According to Furbush, Alissa’s father became extremely protective around Alissa when it came to the internet.
“She didn’t have a cell phone,” said Furbush. “He stopped allowing her to bring the computer from coming home because of certain things that were happening on the internet. She was only allowed computer use if it were for school use.”
As the case is still ongoing, the family said they could not disclose more information.
Adding to the pain for Furbush and her son, she said is the idea that Alissa’s death will go unnoticed.
“We haven’t heard much from the larger Waldo community,” said Furbush. “There is a sense of shame that is keeping people silenced. I’m angry. We want accountability from the teachers, the students, the police, and the school. There’s no accountability when it comes to bullying.”
In 2012, Maine passed an anti-bullying law requiring all public schools to have a policy against bullying, cyberbullying and harassment that impacts students while at school.
With each incident, the school is required to acknowledge the bullying, respond to the parents of both the bully and the target, and provide remediation, which may include disciplinary actions. The law also requires schools to report incidents of bullying to the Maine DOE after an investigation has been conducted by the school administration to determine if the allegation of bullying aligns with Maine’s definition of bullying.
“I don’t see where schools are backing this up,” said Furbush.
“It needs to be said and I’m ready to fight,” said Jewett.
“We’re hearing from other parents who knew Alissa or know of the benefit we’re doing for her and telling us that their children are also getting bullied to the point of it being extreme,” said Jewett.
Alissa’s death is reminiscent of another 13-year-old girl, Megan Meier, who died by suicide three weeks before her 14th birthday in 2006.
Megan’s death was spurred on by one of the first known cases of cyberbullying known as an Imposter Website. Tina Meier, her mother, set up a foundation in Megan’s name the following year to help parents and teachers. Its mission: “To Support and Inspire Actions to End Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide.”
The family is holding an anti-bullying benefit dinner Sunday, September 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Randall Collins VFW, Belfast, which is providing free space for the raffle in addition to donating a brand new LP gas grill to the raffle. There will also be a benefit raffle on October 31 at 1 p.m. at the VFW in order to help pay for Alissa’s funeral expenses.
The father’s side of the family is also hosting a Go Fund Me page to assist with funeral costs.
For more resources on bullying/cyberbullying visit: safekids.com/bullying-cyberbullying-resources/
Certain details were left out of this story at the discretion of members of Alissa’s family.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org