From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:
A family hit by tragedy and one Beaufort County lawmaker are teaming up to hold schools accountable to stop bullying through a task force.
Clarissa wills acknowledges there are programs in schools to eliminate bullying but she says students are not well informed on how to use them and claims those programs were useless two months ago when her 12-year-old committed suicide.
"We just thought everything was going as planned, but she suffered," Clarissa Wills said at her daughter's vigil.
Law enforcement is still investigating why the sixth grader, Celeste Wills, shot herself in April. They have not confirmed that bullying was involved.
However, friends of the little girl tell our sister station WSAV bullying is the reason she's gone.
"I think it was bullying and just her struggle through life," Emalee Payne told the reporter.
"The bullying hasn't stopped, for example, Celeste. She took her life 'cause she was bullied, and that's no way to resolve a problem."
Now a new panel proposed by Republican Rep. Shannon Erickson will have more than 20 members including school officials, law enforcement officers and government representatives as well as parents like the Wills.
Wills told News 2 by phone they will push for schools to have mobile apps for kids to report bullying and try having student teachers, counselors and other trained adults to be present throughout the school and lunchroom, getting to know kids and identifying who struggles.
Shortly after Celeste's death her parents said they never saw this coming.
"We were so open with our children, but apparently it wasn't enough because she hid her pain so well," Clarissa Wills said.
Lowcountry Representative Chip Limehouse is working on a separate bullying bill which would make it law for all schools in the state to use reportabully.com.
"It sets up a protocol where school officials have to investigate the matter," he said.
Beaufort County School District said they do have a tip line to anonymously report bullying.
"Obviously it didn't do the job in this particular situation," Limehouse said.
There will be six more meetings this year to define what this task force would do. The Wills family said that first they're looking at the district's procedures and making sure they're followed correctly. Then, they will draft exactly what the task force responsibilities will be.
Beaufort County School District said they would enthusiastically participate with the task force.
Photo Credit: Christian Carollo Shutterstock