HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A local 14-year-old boy's former teacher at Aynor Middle School is talking about her one-time pupil more than a week after the teen took his own life following alleged school bullying.
Heather Johnson remembers her seventh grade class last year, and where Taylor Ibarra once sat.
She found out about his suicide two days ago from a post on social media.
"I read the name and I recognized the name, but whenever I saw the picture, I shattered because that was one of my children and when you read a story it's somewhere far away or something else," Johnson said. "It has an impact, but when it's your child, there are no words."
Johnson took to Facebook to discuss the harmful effects of bullying.
"He was a living, breathing person who could have contributed to who knows what to society. I mean, he was so intelligent. He could have held the key to unlock cancer or reverse AIDS or something," she said. "I mean, he was brilliant. He was absolutely brilliant, but we will never know because now he is gone and this could have been prevented and somebody has to be held accountable because this could have been prevented."
Ibarra's brother wrote these words in his obituary:
Johnson said bullying is real and it exists everywhere, although she's noticed a change.
"Technology is the key difference because what may have been said to a child outside in the common area 20 years ago took place between that child and anyone watching, but now bullying is on cyberspace." she said.
WMBF News reached out to Horry County Schools regarding the death of Ibarra. Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier released the following statement:
"No one can fathom the heartbreak and confusion that we are certain many of our students and families are feeling right now after the loss of one of our students. Crisis counselors will be on-site at the school on Monday, and will be available for any student who may need or want help or any type of assistance surrounding this loss. We encourage parents to also reach out to us regarding the use of our resources as well.
This tragic event occurred over the holiday break and school administration has been in contact with the family. We have also been in touch with local law enforcement and are currently conducting an administrative investigation.
We, too, saw that bullying was mentioned in the obituary and that will be a factor considered in our investigation. In answer to your question regarding Horry County Schools bullying protocol, the South Carolina Department of Education Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying has been developed in compliance with 2006 S.C. Act 353. This act requires each local school district to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying at school, and Horry County does comply with this statute. Our policy is applicable to grades kindergarten through twelve and is included in the school district's publication of the comprehensive rules, procedures, and standards of conduct for schools and in the student's handbook."
Johnson said, as teachers, it is their responsibility to not just teach.
"We are to care for these children. We are to pick up on signs and monitor and pick up what is abnormal and it is our job to report it to administration," she said.
An online petition has been created to "propose an open-forum meeting to begin the process of reforming the anti-bullying policy." Read more on that petition by clicking here.
A memorial service for Ibarra will be held Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Christ United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach.