Parents focused on bullying after 12-year-old's death - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Parents focused on bullying after 12-year-old's death

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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

It's a problem some adults say is just a part of growing up, but some don't get the chance to do that.

Robert Smalls Middle School is mourning the loss of Celeste Wills, a 12-year-old found dead at her home Wednesday. Friends and family said she was a victim of bullying.

Investigators are working to determine whether Celeste took her own life.

Her father said Celeste was a sensitive, gifted child who didn't hide her feelings. He knew something was wrong when she came home, day after day, quiet. But he didn't know how bad things were until Celeste was gone. That's when he started getting Facebook messaged from her friends and friends' parents.

Celeste's death has forced her friends to grapple with something no child should face.

"My mom came to wake me up," friend and fellow sixth-grader Emalee Payne said at a vigil held in the school's gym Thursday night. "She said Celeste Wills had passed, and I asked how and she said ‘suicide,' and I just broke down in tears."

Wills' classmates made a banner on Thursday with notes of love, kind messages the girl won't see.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 11 percent of youth who frequently are bullied have attempted suicide. The CDC says suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between 10-24.

Sixteen percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide, while thirteen percent have created a plan, and eight percent have tried to take their own life.

Wills' parents and friends said they hope her death is a wakeup call. They said bullying is a widespread problem in Beaufort County schools, and they hope the schools will do more to prevent bullying and help students who report it.

So far, arrangements for Wills' funeral haven't been set.          

Her autopsy is pending. Investigators still are working to determine the official cause of her death.

A "gofundme" account has been set up for the family of Celeste Wills. Click here to donate.

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