A Carl Junction mom and dad, whose son committed suicide last month after apparently being bullied on the school bus, spoke to the R-1 Board of Education on Monday about programs and efforts to prevent bullying and protect other students.
Jessica Nugent, a Carthage High School graduate with family still in Carthage, spoke out a little more than a month after she and her husband, Mika Nugent, found their son, Luke, 14, hanging in his bedroom after committing suicide.
The family has said Luke Nugent was bullied on the bus and that might have driven him to commit suicide.
Jessica Nugent, sat with her father, Carthage Artist Andy Thomas, and more than 40 other family and friends for the Monday evening meeting with the board.
She addressed the board with a short, emotional statement, saying she's heard from some of her son's friends, saying they endure bullying on the bus and in other places.
“(It's) a very terrifying situation for some of these kids,” Jessica Nugent said. “One of Luke's best friends, he rides that bus and I think of him every day. These are kids who have inspired us to really partner with you on a genuine basis to move forward. The reason we find this to be a very genuine outreach or why Mika and I have been inspired to partner with you, even though Luke was our only son and we're no longer parents, is we saw children, Carl Junction Students who stood up and contacted us and they want to be a part of it.”
Tracey Martin, an attorney representing the couple, spoke to the board about the family's wishes to turn the death of their son “into something really positive for the students, the faculty and this community.”
“I'm here on behalf of Mika and Jessica Nugent who lost their son in the most tragic of fashions last month,” Martin said. “And their goal in being here today is really to be commended because they have a very positive reason for addressing the school board today. That is, we want to see this school and our community and our parents and our students partner all together to combat bullying, combat bullying in the schools and combat bullying on school busses.”
Martin said the Nugents have been approached by different anti-bullying programs and efforts to provide resources to battle the problem and the family wants to offer those resources to the school district and other districts across the county.
“ These are people who want to come in and who have had some success with bullying both in other school districts and nationwide,” Martin, a Carl Junction High School graduate, said. “We want to see those people come in and talk to our students because sometimes a professional sports figures can get a lot farther with a bunch of junior high and high school kids. Kids like to listen to those people, I remember when you guys brought them in when I was a kid, we liked those people, we listened to them, and I think we need to offer more of those opportunities.”
Page 2 of 2 - Martin said Luke Nugent faced bullying on the bus, sometimes because he was outspoken and stood up for other children, therefore becoming a target himself.
“Bullies aren't kids that are in a bad mood one day and shove the kid next to them,” she said. “Bullies are people who have a pattern of conduct, repeatedly. Fourteen's a tough age on a good day and it gets tougher when you're sitting on a school bus with someone older than you and you feel you don't belong or you're being harassed. And how do you stand up to someone who is two times your size and four grades ahead of you.”
Carl Junction School Board President Dr. Ron Herron said the district would be open to the kinds of programs Martin and Nugent were proposing.
“It's unfathomable to me as a parent, as I'm sure it is to everyone, what you're going through and our hearts go out to you,” Herron said. “I don't know how else to put that. There will be no obstacle to putting things into place as they're brought to us.”