UPDATE: The After School app posted a letter Friday saying the messages in question were noticed by the app’s moderators and were prevented from being seen in the school’s feed. The original story appears below with the updated information:
The sheriff’s department in Jim Hogg County is investigating the death of an eighth-grade girl who took her own life after allegedly being bullied, according to KIII-TV in Corpus Christi.
The Texas Rangers are assisting in the investigation of the death of Natalie Natividad, 15, of Hebbronville, KIII-TV said. The Hebbronville Middle School student took a deadly overdose of pills on Friday, officials say.
Her family says she was the victim of bullying at school and on social media, and has set up a GoFundMe page where it says so and hopes to raise money for her funeral.
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“They’ve always bullied her alot around school,” her brother told KIII-TV. He said she was tagged on an app called After School and told that she was “ugly” and that “she should kill herself.”
However, a spokesman for the app offered a differing version of the events leading up to her death and said the app’s moderators prevented those messages from being seen on the school’s feed.
The app’s website describes it as an outlet for teens to make new connections and participate in activities in a “positive environment with zero tolerance for cyberbullying, threats, or content that threatens the safety of our online community.”
It allows users to post anonymously, so Natalie’s family couldn’t track the abusive posts, they told KIII-TV. At one point, Natalie’s mother pulled her out of school to protect her, they said.
In a letter posted on the After School App Blog Friday, founders Michael Callahan and Cory Levy offered their “deepest thoughts and condolences ... to Natalie’s family, friends, school community, and everyone else affected by this tragedy.”
They went to say: “Natalie was a member of her school’s network on After School. When we learned of this tragic situation from local law enforcement officers investigating the case, we immediately supported and assisted them in their investigation. The investigation determined that it was not another student who made negative or bullying statements about Natalie. Unfortunately, she had posted the messages about herself. Our proactive moderation prevented these messages from being seen on the school’s feed.”
They also noted that they are partners with Crisis Text Line to connect students with trained crisis counselors 24 hours a day, and added: “In memory of Natalie, we are implementing a suicide detection capability to help prevent self-harm that may be in progress.”
Jim Hogg school superintendent Juan Maldonado wouldn’t comment on the sheriff’s department investigation, but offered his sympathies to Natalie’s family and friends and told KIII-TV, “We will lean on each other to get through this difficult time.”
Connie Rodriguez, Natalie’s sister, told the TV station: “We just want justice to happen, and whoever is bullying, I hope that they stop. ... We don’t want any other family to go through this. This is something no-one should go through.”
Sheriff Erasmo Alarcon told mySA.com that criminal charges will be determined if and when responsible parties are identified.
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