Grief Counselors At A Broward High School After Soccer Star Commits Suicide
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PARKLAND (CBS4) – Grief counselors were called into a Broward High School on Wednesday after a 17-year star soccer player with a bright future took her own life.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said they were called to the home of Bailey Mae Leal at 7:10 on Tuesday morning where she had committed suicide.
“It hurts that people are that bad and that they feel that way and that she did what she did,” said Kaitlin Budowski, a junior at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
“It’s sad and it hurts everyone here,” she told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “Words can not describe how we feel. She impacted a lot of peoples’ lives and we are all are affected by it.”
Danielle Destifanes, who is also a junior at the high school, said, “I didn’t know her personally but she had a lot going for her. No one can describe why she was feeling the way she did.”
“It’s just sad,” said sophomore Isabel Gottlieb.
While grief counselors consoled students, some were seen leaving the school early with their parents, because they were too upset to stay in school.
Leal was featured in the “Miami Herald” after being named an all-county soccer player in Broward County in 2011, 2012 and 2013. She played on the Varsity Soccer team at her high school.
She had posted a video on her Twitter page demonstrating how to handle a soccer ball.
Some of her friends told D’Oench that they had no idea why she took her life. She recently sent out a tweet, “I see why everyone hates me. I hate myself, too.”
Several students said they had heard that Leal had been criticized and even accused of cheating by some students after getting very high scores on her college entrance exams. They said Leal was upset about that.
“What I heard was that she got really high ACT scores and some people think she cheated,” said Budowski.
“I heard she got a 34 out of a possible 36 on her ACTs and that is really high,” said Destifanes. “She needed high scores because she hoped to get a college scholarship.”
“I don’t know if she was bullied but people questioned how she nearly got a perfect score,” said Destifanes.
Some of Leal’s close friends and a spokeswoman for the Broward School Board said there was no evidence that Leal had been bullied at the school.
They made those comments after one person sent out a tweet saying that Leal had been “bullied for so long.”
Nadine Drew, a spokeswoman for the Broward School Board, said a Counseling Center had been established at the school and said the school was asking for privacy.
Drew also said the Principal was declining our request for an on camera interview.
Since 2008, the Broward School Board has had a policy that prohibits bullying of or by any student or employee.
The School Board defines bullying as, “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more studentsor employes.”
According to the School Board, “teachers and staff are required to use a variety of prevention and intervention activities and tools and resources that create environments of safety and respect and expectations of appropriate behavior.”
Budowski cautions people from being too critical of others.
“Everything you say can affect someone,” she said.
One of Leal’s relatives told D’Oench that her family was too upset to say anything right now.
One classmate said on Twitter, “Enjoy your first full day in heaven.”
A pastor for the family sent CBS4 an obituary notice that will run in the “Sun Sentinel.”
It said she was the “beloved daughter of Pamela and Cesar Leal and loving sister of Marisa and Paige, both 20 and Madison, 12. She is survived by her grandmother and two aunts as well as an uncle and aunt and extended family in Venezuela.
The obituary notice also says, “Bailey was a bright light in all of our lives—a superb athlete who loved soccer. She was talented and kind, a teenager who adored animals and designed her own clothing.”
The notice, “We remember her strong spirit and quick sense of humor and her eagerness to help others. This promising young athlete will be greatly missed by her family and friends.”
A service to “celebrate Bailey’s life” will be held Friday, May 24th at 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 8650 West Sample Road in Coral Springs.