The New York Times,February 18, 2000

Facing juvenile detention or school, 13-year-old girl hangs self
By The Associated Press

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) -- Faced with the prospect of juvenile detention as a truant or returning to a school to face taunting classmates, 13-year-old April Michelle Himes decided against both.

On Valentine's Day, she went into her bedroom, shut the door and hanged herself with a belt.

``My daughter felt like she was trapped -- go to jail or go to school and get beat up,'' her grief-stricken stepfather, Steve Clinton, said Thursday.

April, a cherubic-looking blonde, had struggled since starting eighth grade at 730-student Carmichael Middle School. Her grades, once As and Bs, plummeted and she became angry and withdrawn, skipping school a lot.

Her mother, Carol Clinton, said her daughter was being bullied and the ringleader was a popular girl who had targeted her for some unknown reason.

Some kids called her fat, while others threw things at her and pushed her around, her parents said. They even ridiculed her with rumors that she stuffed tissue in her bra.

April took it all to heart.

She attempted suicide in October, swallowing 40 ibuprofen tablets. Her parents admitted her to an inpatient mental health program and sought counseling, but said it didn't seem to help.

On Monday, Valentine's Day, the school called and told Mrs. Clinton her daughter had missed 53 of the required 180 school days and would have to return to school or appear before a truancy board. Mrs. Clinton told her daughter that she might have to go to a juvenile detention center.

``She yelled at me. She hated me and she went in her room. That's the last time I saw her,'' Mrs. Clinton said, choking back tears.

The Clintons have turned the room into an informal memorial. There are banners, fresh flowers and colorful, handwritten cards from friends.

Across the country, a family in New York City faced a similar tragedy.

Police said Thursday that 10-year-old Anthony Richards, apparently upset over his grades, hanged himself from his bunk bed with a belt.

Anthony's body was found Tuesday night by his mother after leaving a note apologizing for a bad report card he had brought home last week.

The fifth-grader's mother, Marvell Archibald, said Anthony's teacher had picked on him because he was short. ``Anthony told me: `My teacher doesn't like me. Please take me out of her class,''' Archibald said.

United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten defended the teacher, saying the 14-year veteran had a good relationship with Anthony. She said the boy was a good student.

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