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CPS Finds 'No Credible Evidence of Bullying' in Suicide at Peirce School

By  Benjamin Woodard Mauricio Peña and Adeshina Emmanuel | September 16, 2014 5:55pm | Updated on September 16, 2014 10:27pm

 McKenzie Phlipot, 12, committed suicide last year. Her family said a culture of bullying at Peirce Elementary School might have led to her death, but CPS officials said Tuesday that there was no evidence that was the case.
McKenzie Phlipot, 12, committed suicide last year. Her family said a culture of bullying at Peirce Elementary School might have led to her death, but CPS officials said Tuesday that there was no evidence that was the case.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard (inset: family photo)

ANDERSONVILLE — CPS found "no credible evidence" 12-year-old Mckenzie Phlipot was bullied at Peirce Elementary School before she committed suicide in May.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district investigated but could not confirm that bullying contributed to her death.

"As many of you are aware, last school year, the Peirce community suffered an unfortunate tragedy when one student took her own life,"  McCaffrey said. "We have expressed our deepest condolences to the family and undoubtedly this tragedy may continue to impact our students this year."

The statement continued: "After the incident, there were some public allegations that bullying at school may have contributed. As a result, CPS officials conducted an investigation, and there was no credible evidence of bullying."

Ben Woodard spoke to members of Mckenzie Phlipot's family:

But the girl's grandmother, Judy Phlipot, said she doesn't agree with the conclusion of the district's investigation, which began in June after the girl's parents said school officials should have done more to help their daughter.

"I do not agree with that at all," Phlipot said Tuesday.

Travis Phlipot, the girl's father who lives out of state, said Tuesday evening that he had not heard from the district regarding the results of its investigation.

"They haven’t contacted us yet," he said. He declined to immediately comment on the report's findings.

The district hosted a meeting at Tuesday evening speak with parents about the results of the investigation.

During the meeting the administration and CPS officials presented a social and emotional learning program being implemented this year at Peirce Elementary School.

According to Karen Vanausdal, director of the Office of Social and Emotional Learning, the program aims to create a positive school climate and provide students with social emotional skills.

"The schools on top of it," said one parent at the meeting who asked not to be named. "They are taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

But other parents were skeptical of the findings of the investigation that no bullying took place.

"I don't feel like [the CPS response] adds up," said parent Heather Gregg.

"For them to say bullying didn't play a factor, doesn't make sense," she said. "I've heard enough parents' testimonies about bullying during these meetings. Hearing the CPS statement takes you back."

Another parent said she was "flabbergasted" by CPS' findings.

"When the school is taking steps [to improve] the social and emotional climate of the school, there was obviously a problem," she said.

McCaffrey's statement also said the "Chicago Public Schools is serious about providing safe learning environments for its students and does not tolerate acts of bullying. We work with students so they know how to identify and respond to incidents of bullying directed at themselves or at fellow schoolmates, and all employees are required to intervene in and report any instances of bullying."

Before she took her life, Mckenzie Phlipot complained on social media about being bullied at school.

In one post to her Instagram account in December, she wrote, "Like if u hate bullies." A few months later, she wrote, "Look! All the bullies at my school need to stop talking." On the photo, one commenter seemed to defend the practice, saying, "Every body bullies u."

Then, on May 4, four days before Mckenzie's death, she made a final post to her Instagram account.

"If I died, would you cry?" read the text. "Would you wonder if I was happy? Would I be on your mind? Would you ever speak my name again? Would you come to my funeral? Would you miss me? Would you think of me? Would you remember all our inside jokes, the memories we created, even if they weren't that serious?

"Would your heart drop to your stomach when you found out that it was suicide?"

A flyer distributed by Mckenzie's parents after she died said the girl had even ended up in the emergency room after the bullying.

Some of her friends said in interviews that they worried about her because of the bullying.

The school at 1423 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. enrolls 1,022 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

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