Two Coloma girls will meet with their superintendent this morning to come up with a way to cut down on bullying at their school. Their best friend, 13-year-old Elizabeth Schaus, committed suicide last Monday.
Elizabeth's mother Treasa tells WSBT the 13-year-old had a history of depression, and that her daughter's death was "pointless." She says her daughter was a kind girl who didn't deserve her treatment. Friends agree the constant bullying at school didn't help her condition.
So Lindsey Fischer, Elizabeth's best friend, started a movement called Elizabeth's Challenge in her honor. With the help of her cousin Abigail Tuttle, the campaign has reached more than 1,000 "likes" on its Facebook page as of Thursday evening.
Many parents and students are chiming in on the page, saying bullying is an ongoing problem at their schools.
The girls say they're challenging their classmates to think twice before saying something that could be hurtful.
"She was really joyful and she always wanted to have a good time and an adventure," Lindsey recalls of Elizabeth.
Lindsey says she was sad to hear that she'd lost her friend, but wasn't surprised.
Elizabeth loved to play football, but her hobby made her stick out at school and brought on mean remarks from classmates.
"Because she had short hair and she played football, one substitute called her a little boy once, and so everybody used to call her a boy in fourth grade," Lindsey recalls.
Lindsey and Abigail are asking their classmates and community to stop spreading hurtful messages.
They say as they get older, the bullying hasn't stopped -- it's only progressed into gossip.
"As they get older, kids talk behind each other's back as opposed to going up and saying mean things to them or joking around with them," says Abigail Tuttle, who is entering 10th grade at Coloma schools this fall.
The girls are meeting with Coloma's superintendent Terry Boguth on Friday morning to propose a stronger bullying policy.
They believe bullies are not being disciplined severely enough.
"Talk to the person getting bullied, talk to the bully, and say it's unacceptable and give them a punishment," Abigail says.
No one knows for sure what was going through Elizabeth's mind when she took her own life, or what drove her there.
But Lindsey and Abigail know, the bullying must stop.
"We're just small-town girls in this small-town community, and we just want to make a change," Lindsey says.
Supt. Boguth says the district operates on a Zero Tolerance bullying policy, meaning every report of bullying is investigated, and then administrators decide whether to punish the student.
The problem is, not all bullying instances are reported, so she encourage students to come forward with their problems.
"We can't help you if you don't tell us there's something wrong," Boguth says.
She says she spoke with the assistant principal of Elizabeth's school, and the administration had never gotten any reports that Elizabeth was being bullied.
Elizabeth's Challenge website: http://elizabethschallenge.weebly.com/
Elizabeth's Challenge Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethsChallenge