Police and the family of a fifth grade boy from South Buffalo Charter School are speaking out about his death, saying the 10-year-old did not commit suicide.
Zion Halsey's mother spoke to the media Wednesday morning after news broke about her son's death on Monday and there was widespread speculation on social media that Zion took his own life.
She said, "His death was not a suicide. His death had nothing to do with bullying. My son's death was an accident. I was there with my son. I tried to help him as much as I could by giving him CPR and things like that. So it has nothing to do with bullying. It has nothing to do with the things that have been going around on Facebook. None of that is true. It was an accident."
Lackawanna Police confirmed that account, saying the autopsy determined Zion's death was accidental hanging as the boy was "fooling around" with belts. Police say the little boy was not suicidal and had just had a great weekend of fishing, was helping his grandparents set up their pool, was "good-hearted" and having fun.
Captain Joseph Leo says he truly believes this was not a suicide and that Zion was surrounded by good people. He said because of all of the attention and speculation surrounding the little boy's death, he wanted it to be made clear that what happened was an accident.
After news broke about Zion's death, several parents reached out to 7 Eyewitness News to say they feel there is a culture of bullying at South Buffalo Charter School that is going unaddressed. Christy Bauer, one parent we spoke with, said her 12-year-old daughter complained of being bullied at school and went to school officials, but Bauer says the school didn't do anything about it.
"I understand that anti-bullying message... but I just want to make it clear... that my son's death was an accident. He did not bring any harm to himself on purpose. He was happy. He has a birthday coming up in July. I want to set the record clear - my son died from an accident," Zion's mother said.
Superintendent Brian Wiesinger said, "Our school does take reported instances of bullying and other negative behaviors seriously and all allegations are investigated with appropriate disciplinary measures imposed when a situation warrants. In addition, students, parents, and staff can report bullying directly to school personnel or anonymously through our school website or "character" comment boxes throughout the building. We also promote an ongoing anti-bullying environment through our daily educational program which is supplemented with speakers from outside agencies, assemblies, and activities."