Family says bullying played role in Hickory Hills Middle School student’s suicide

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 5:08 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The family of a 13-year-old is talking about his death. They said bullying at Hickory Hills Middle School played a part in the decision to take his own life.

“He’s so sweet, and young and innocent, he was so absolutely loving and kind toward everyone,” said Azealia Garrison.

Garrison said her 13 year-old-brother Keygan Garrison was her best friend. Keygan died by suicide last Tuesday.

”This is something that can’t be undone, but what can be fixed is how our school systems handle bullying,” Garrison said.

Garrison said her younger brother was bullied often while attending school at Hickory Hills.

”He told me multiple times that they would yell at him in the hallway and tell him to go kill himself,” she said. “ I cannot tell you how many times I held him in my lap crying, listening to how horrible people would treat my baby brother.”

Garrison said the family made sure Keygan got counseling. As far as she knew, bullying was the biggest issue. Garrison said she doesn’t feel like the family’s concerns were taken seriously.

”We told them what was happening to him, we tried over, and over, and over and they didn’t listen,” Garrison said.

The school district sent KY3 this statement:

Our SPS family is devastated by this tragic loss and our hearts go out to our student’s family, friends, teachers and all who knew and loved him. As we grieve together, it is important for our students and staff to know that they are not alone and we are here for them. We have a crisis response team of counselors at Hickory Hills to provide support for our students and staff. This team will be available for as long as they are needed.

An email went out to parents Monday morning informing them about Keygan’s death, and that the district would be notifying students. The district told KY3 a statement about the death was read to Hickory Hills middle school students this morning, which is the first time students have been in school since Friday, Feb. 12.

The email also included a resource for parents on how to talk to their child about difficult times, like loss.

Garrison said she hopes to see a change in how bullying is handled across all districts, not just Springfield Public Schools. She said her brother was loved by many, and will be missed.

“I know so many people he has had such an impact in their lives, and that’s something I wish he would have known,” Garrison said.

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