OKANOGAN OKANOGAN — The mother of an Okanogan sixth grade student says her daughter was bullied to the point of chopping off her long locks and shaving her eyebrows.
Most recently, Venice “Vinnie” Rain, 11, received an anonymous note urging Rain’s suicide.
“Dear Venice, guess what? I heard nobody likes you. Thank goodness because you are a dumb (expletive) any ways! Litterally why do you come to this school anyways? You’re an embarrassment to everybody. Do us all a favor and kill yourself!”
The Okanogan School District and a detective with the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the note. Crime lab experts will review writing samples "to determine if any of the samples match the harassing note," principal Brett Baum said.
He did not say whose handwriting was being analyzed.
“The Okanogan School Districts takes student safety very seriously and as such will be working with our students not only to resolve this issue but also to continue teaching our children to work together to end all school violence and threats,” Baum said.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said the investigation is ongoing.
A photograph of the note and Rain’s school portrait, made public on Facebook by Rain’s aunt, quickly became viral. It had been shared 5,944 times as of the Chronicle’s press time Tuesday morning.
Then, Rain started receiving many more notes.
Her locker and mailbox now hold messages of support from near and far – Okanogan to Alaska – telling the 11-year-old, “Keep being you!” “You are perfect just the way you are,” “You are priceless” and “You are beautiful, strong, kind and amazing. Just remember these things always. Never forget how much you mean to our school.”
“It made me feel good,” Rain said. “I’ve just been blown away.”
Rain said if the note’s author comes forward, she simply wishes for an apology.
Shawna Anderson, Rain’s mother, said she wants the student — or students — to be suspended and required to write a report on the prevalence and consequences of bullying and suicide. The incident should also be included in that student’s permanent record, Anderson said.
“What if my daughter – worst-case scenario – really did commit suicide?”
Anderson said she and Rain discussed organizing a march against bullying, “March for Kindness,” starting in Omak, although no formal plans have been set.
“Why don’t we carry signs that say, ‘Patience,’ ‘Tolerance,’ ‘Acceptance,’ ‘Diversity’?” she said. “Let’s march for kindness. Let’s spread some love. Let’s do a little march down Main Street and Pateros and Brewster and Tonasket and Republic and Oroville – little tiny marches. Maybe that will do something.”
Superintendent Richard Johnson said this on behalf of the district:
“The police and the district are working together to bring this terrible event to a conclusion. To say anything more could easily jeopardize the ongoing investigation and place people in positions that may not be correct or fair.
“When the investigation has been concluded and the facts are then in, that is when the police and the district will release a statement. To do otherwise would not be in the best interest of the student and could prevent the identification of person (people) who may be responsible.”
Johnson did, however, point to a local parent’s comment on the district’s Facebook page that offers a favorable perspective toward Okanogan schools and teachers.
Dawndi P. Lopez, who told the Chronicle she has first and sixth grade students in the district, wrote: “It can NOT be solely the responsibility of our schools to teach our children. Children need to be taught at home as well. I have had nothing but great experiences with Okanogan.
“I was shocked that a student from Okanogan was so cruel to write a note that harsh. Okanogan staff you all keep at what you’re doing. Parents will need to stand up and take responsibilities for their children’s actions.
“Thank you for giving my children the support they have had thus far. And for teaching them. I personally know as a parent my role is HUGE in my children’s lives. Without what you have been teaching them would never go as far as it has!”
The district has been using Facebook as its main medium for publishing news releases and information on the investigation.