Parents of Lafayette Sunnyside student who died by suicide speak out about bullying at school

Part three of a three-part special report on claims of ongoing bullying at Lafayette Sunnyside Intermediate School. This report is sharing the story of a family who claims their daughter took her life as a result of the bullying she faced at the school.

Posted: Jun 24, 2021 11:12 AM
Updated: Jun 25, 2021 3:37 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- A Lafayette family is speaking out a year after their 11-year-old daughter died by suicide while attending Lafayette Sunnyside Intermediate School. They claim she took her life as a result of the bullying she faced. This story follows two other stories News 18 has covered, uncovering claims of ongoing bullying issues at the school.

"If I had known that my daughter, in that school -- she would be bullied... I would have never let her go," said Oscar Chaparro, father of Sunnyside student Ashly.

Oscar Chaparro and his wife Carolina Dehesos-Chaparro are now trying to focus on the good times they had with their daughter Ashly.

"She was a very happy girl. She did not fight. Very cordial. She would help her friends in school. She was loved, except by those kids, those kids who bullied her," said Oscar.

Ashly was nearing the end of her fifth-grade year at Lafayette Sunnyside when she took her life one morning before school. Her parents say she told them she was being bullied but they didn't know how severe it was until after her death. Friends and peers laid out everything she endured to the family's lawyers.

"The kids would bully her because of her shoes, because of her phone, anything really," said Carolina. "She would get kicked, she would get punched, she would get pushed, and that they would tell her that they hoped that she would fall and she would die," added Oscar.

The family visited the school several times seeking answers after her death.

"I went about two or three times to ask why? What was the reason? She was not a troublemaker, there was no violence at home, we don't use drugs, we don't drink," said Oscar. "They told me they didn't know anything."

But according to her peers, that's not entirely true. In an interview with the family's attorneys, Ashly's friend claimed they both went to administrators together to tell them they were being bullied, but no further action took place.

The Chaparros even recall a time when Ashly came home saying if a bully messed with her or a friend again, she would fight back.

"We would tell her, don't do anything like that because it's police there," said Carolina. "And she would say no because the teacher doesn't do anything, the principal doesn't do anything, the police don't do anything."

The parents say they're disappointed with the administrators for not informing them of their daughter's condition the day before her death.

"She wasn't doing well that day," said Oscar. "She had her head on the table and her friend asked her what was going on. Ashley was crying and she was not feeling well and the friend told the teachers that she needed to talk to a counselor and they didn't let her go. She told them many times that she needed to go and they closed the door."

They say eventually teachers told Ashly's friend they would call her parents that day to tell them what was happening with her.

"They never did, because we would have done something if we were told that Ashly was not doing well," said Oscar.

This is what frustrates them most, lack of action and communication from school leaders.

"The children are one thing, but the teachers should know what they're doing," said Carolina. "If the teacher allows it, the child's not going to stop. And I think that the principal has something to do with that."

The family is now pursuing legal action against the school corporation in hopes of finding a solution to the ongoing bullying claims.

"There's a lot of bullying at Sunnyside and I know that there are a lot of children. It's a big school," said Carolina.

They commend Ashly for her strength in all of this. Every day she'd tell them she had a good day, never really expressing what she was truly battling.

"We were not aware because she would get home and she would be happy," said Oscar. "She was really strong."

They're encouraging other Sunnyside parents to speak to their kids about the dangers of bullying and to take action if their child claims they've been bullied. The Chaparros say when Ashly was alive, they offered to go to the school and talk with administrators about the bullying but she told them no in fear of the bullying becoming worse. They hope sharing their story helps prevent this incident from happening to anyone else.

"Be more aware of your children because you still have your children. I could not help mine," said Oscar.

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