Fighting for Mary Thorson's legacy

Myra Richardson comments on a hidden tragedy in our public schools.

YOU'VE PROBABLY not received a letter of this kind, but please, please help if you can. I'm sadly disappointed that the issue of teacher bullying at the hands of some administrators/educators has not been broached anywhere. This matter is detrimental and one which must be addressed with urgency.

On Thanksgiving Day 2011, a young Illinois teacher by the name of Mary Eve Thorson sacrificed her life by standing in front of a moving semi-truck. She left behind a detailed six-page suicide letter which spoke to the bullying of the teachers within her school, the students whom were adversely affected as a consequence, and the poor condition of the institution.

An article was written about Mary's death and appeared in the Chicago Tribune on January 1, 2012.

The outcry in response to the piece was massive, as bullied teachers from across the state of Illinois and throughout the country spoke out--in particular to Mary's parents, John and Shari Thorson. I was one of those teachers.

I was honored to have my film, Dying to Teach: The Killing of Mary Eve Thorson, "Educators Who Bully", based upon Mary's story, premiered at the Save Our Schools convention in Washington, D.C., this past August 3.

Teachers are in pain. Teachers are in hiding. Teachers are killing themselves. This matter is no less serious than children who began taking their lives due to bullying; and, this happened because the issue wasn't taken as seriously as it should have been.

I have started an organization for bullied teachers called Teachers for Mary. I'm also petitioning Illinois Rep. Daniel Lipinski to sponsor the "Mary Eve Thorson Anti-Bullying Bill," granting teachers the same legislative protection that is provided exclusively for bullied children.

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TEACHER BULLYING is so unique because it not only affects the teacher, but the students in the crossfire as the abuse is taking place. People seem to be afraid of addressing this because it involves powerful individuals here in Illinois.

Mary's parents haven't been afforded any comfort during such a painful time in their lives. In the suicide letter, Mary stated that she wanted to be the first to sign the petition and didn't want her death to be in vain. She was only 32 years old.

The institution where Mary taught is located in District 169, Ford Heights, Ill.--an extremely impoverished area of the city. The students are African American and the teachers are predominately African American.

It's disconcerting that no prominent Black leader within this state has spoken out against the blatant abuse of this teacher and others.

I want Mary Thorson's selfless act to count for something. I want to see people rally for teachers and their right to be humanely treated. There are teachers committing suicide because they feel helpless. Mary wanted the world to pay attention and gave her life in an attempt to make this happen.

There was a time when the teaching profession was revered. Now, there are parents I've spoken with whom would never support their child in a decision to become an educator. How sad this is.

I can't do this by myself; and yet, I refuse to stand by and allow more teachers to die. I made a promise to Mary's family and to Mary's memory, that I would fight to defend bullied teachers against abuse within the workplace. The issue is dire because it affects not only our teachers, but our children.

Please help me bring attention to this circumstance if at all possible. The superintendent of the district is still allegedly terrorizing the female teachers, with impunity no less. (It's been statistically proven that women in the field of education are those most prone to being bullied.) During the making of the documentary, I was told that grief counselors were not allowed to comfort the students or teachers after Mary's death. In fact, people were forbidden to speak about the death of Mary Thorson.

This is a travesty. I want to do something that will force people to listen. Facebook and petitions at Change.org, albeit useful media tools, are only as good as the press that's placed upon the issue. I want to march in protest against what's happening to our teachers.

On December 17, 2012, in commemoration of Mary's sacrifice for bullied teachers, "Marchers for Mary" will conduct a peaceful protest against the bullying of teachers by administrators/educators. We will congregate in front of the Chicago Board of Education located at 125 South Clark St., and things will culminate in front of City Hall. This abuse has to stop.

If there are any persons willing to march with us, then please contact me via teachersformary@hotmail.com. We need teachers. We can't allow them to be persecuted to the point of killing themselves.

Walk with us, please!