Bellmar 'hate list' girls receive suspensions
By Rick Bruni Jr.
Published: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 12:26 a.m.
Police are investigating a trio of sixth-graders at Bellmar Middle School for writing what some parents were calling a “kill list” of students the three girls purportedly despised.
Washington Township police Chief Ray Moody said the investigation would continue at least until Monday. Moody declined to say if charges would be filed against the girls in juvenile court.
Belle Vernon Area Superintendant Dr. John Wilkinson said the list was found Feb. 6, and the girls have been disciplined in the form of 10-day suspensions.
But word of the situation continued to spread throughout the community more than a week later.
When asked why the word “kill” was being circulated, Moody said he could not comment because of the ongoing investigation.
Wilkinson said that although the safety of all students is a top priority, he didn't see any of the girls as direct threats and didn't know why the term “kill list” was circulating.
“I don't know where that's coming from. Maybe some people who want to create drama and call it a ‘kill list,' but there's a lot of parents who want to hang these girls from their toes,” Wilkinson said. “I called it a ‘hate list.' In my certified, professional opinion, these girls are not a threat. They had no access to weapons and no prior violations.”
Wilkinson described the students as 11-year-old girls who made bad decisions.
“But they made their bed, and now they're going to have to sleep in it,” he added. “They're paying the price.”
Wilkinson said he received a phone call Feb. 6 after a school counselor found the list, which the girls had torn to pieces.
“The counselor finds it and tapes it back together like a jigsaw puzzle,” Wilkinson said. “The girls made a list of people that they hate … people that were picking on them or that they're jealous of. That paper was so ripped up, you can barely read names.”
Wilkinson said he gave the list to Washington Township police on Feb. 7.
“Once we feel it's a terroristic threat, it goes to the police,” Wilkinson said. “I talked to Chief Moody Thursday and gave him the list after making a copy. He said, ‘Is this all you've got?' and I said, ‘Yes.'”
Wilkinson and Bellmar Principal John Grice last week interviewed each of the girls – who he described as being “in tears” and “remorseful” – and their parents.
After the hearings, Wilkinson handed down the maximum punishment allowed that did not involve expulsion hearings before the school board.
When the girls return, they will have to report to the office instead of homeroom and will eat lunch in a designated area, Wilkinson said. They will also undergo school-based counseling.
“The girls are embarrassed, the parents are embarrassed, and they're going to be in a fish bowl the rest of the year anywhere they go,” Wilkinson said.
“It's a harsh lesson, and you have to learn by sixth grade you can't say these sorts of things. If it were kids in 11th grade, it would be different. … These days, we have to be sensitive, and I'm not blowing it off. But in my opinion, it's three 11-year-old girls who had their feelings hurt and did a stupid thing.
“They're paying dearly for it right now, and I don't want anyone piling on.”
When asked if he thought the girls would be subject to criminal charges, Wilkinson said he is hopeful they might instead receive punishment like community service.
“Is this something that rises to the level of juvenile court? I don't think so, but I'm not a police officer,” Wilkinson said. “I think these girls have learned their lesson. And in support of their parents, I feel confident this will help modify their behavior.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.
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