A student-organized memorial was held March 28 to honor the life of Sammamish High School student Amaya Storseth.
Storseth was a senior varsity basketball player and a member of the school’s Black Student Union. She died by suicide on March 13. It is believed she took her life due to being bullied by other students.
Former teachers and friends spoke of their memories of her. Rachel Pinter, Storseth’s former English teacher, said Storseth taught her a lot about weathering life’s storms.
“She taught me a lot about teaching…She was generous, considerate, loyal and someone who enacted change,” Pinter said. “This loss is our bond. It’s the storm that tethers us. Please don’t let this go unacknowledged, and let it affect you in an authentic way.”
Two of Storseth’s friends, Niya Norris, a junior, and Isabella Flores, a senior, dedicated the song “Act Up” by City Girls.
“This song was so Amaya,” Norris said.
Stef Storseth, Amaya’s mother, said she is dedicating the rest of her life to changing the laws around bullying. She said the Bellevue School District can improve its efforts to address bullying and serve students, and she said existing laws do not do enough to protect students who are being bullied.
As a response, Stef Storseth has organized a GoFundMe campaign, Amaya’s Fund, to raise money to create enforceable laws that hold accountable bullies and their enablers. To do this, some of Amaya’s Fund will be distributed to an organization that specializes in getting actionable anti-bullying legislation passed, she said. The rest of Amaya’s Fund will be distributed to a worthy nonprofit that provides anti-bullying education for both parents and teens, she said.
“I’m dedicated to contribute to making this change,” Stef Storseth said. “Parents need to be involved and need to make sure their kids are kind…words are what hurt the worst.”
Stef Storseth said her daughter was not the first case, nor will she be the last. She encourages parents and community members to work to change the laws around bullying.
“This is my mission. Please reach out to me. We all need to come together to make a change,” she said. “There needs to be more awareness, and as a community, we can make our voices loud and be heard…we can’t have this happen again.”
The Bellevue School District (BSD) has a policy currently in place on the prohibition of harassment, intimidation and bullying. The policy includes annual training and education for students and staff on recognizing harassment, intimidation and bullying as well as how to report such behaviors and prevention strategies.
Students and staff can report harassment, intimidation and bullying in three ways: anonymous, confidential and non-confidential. At all BSD schools, there are “safety boxes” where anyone can submit an anonymous written notice of harassment, intimidation or bullying. An online version is also available.
Any and all reports are collected by the school and an investigation is launched immediately, the district reports. Dr. Patty Siegwarth, BSD’s executive director of schools, said the average investigation is completed in five days. Based on the context of the report, different actions are taken to protect the alleged victim and discipline the alleged aggressor. The full Prohibition of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy can be found on BSD’s website.
In terms of prevention, BSD schools have trained counselors and make support resources available to all students. BSD is a partner of Youth Eastside Services (YES), among other local agencies. Through those services, students can receive mental health support.
“We’re an organization working to provide the best service for our students,” Siegwarth said. “We’re constantly looking at what steps to take to serve the whole child.”
BSD is currently reviewing its suicide prevention policy.
“Losing a student is devastating,” BSD’s social emotional curriculum developer Wendy Powell said. “There’s always more to do. Our new vision statement shows that we’re looking at the whole child — we want them to thrive, not just survive.”
To learn about common risk factors of teen suicide, go online to americanspcc.org.