United States: School Safety & Prevention Act
"This job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation."Sign PetitionSign Petition
-Barack Obama, December 12, 2012
In the summer of 1999 (July), my family relocated from upstate New York (Adirondacks) to Portland, Oregon. In September of 1999, I celebrated my sixteenth birthday. My father enrolled me in high school. I was optimistic about starting school. I was adjusting to the new environment fairly well. I had made new friends. I had even managed to obtain my very first boyfriend. I was happy.
In October 1999, problems began to arise. One evening, during after school hours, I was contacted by my boyfriend on the phone. He informed me, of a confrontation he had experienced, with a female classmate of mine. I didn't know who she was. I had never met her. I was a new student. I didn't know a lot of people. In the days that followed, I learned that my female classmate, had a serious obsession with my boyfriend. I trusted my boyfriend. I didn't feel threatened. I didn't care about it. But, my classmate felt differently, and things began to escalate. She began to pace back and forth outside my classroom, while I was in class. This became a daily occurrence. I became alarmed. I was being stalked by my female classmate.
In November 1999, problems continued to escalate further. I was confronted after getting off my school bus, by my classmate, at the main entrance doors, outside of the high school. My classmate, wanted a friendship. I declined her offer. I told her that I didn't want anything to do with her. I told her to stay away from me and my boyfriend. A friend of mine at school, began hearing rumors, that this girl was spreading about me. My friend immediately alerted a school mediation counselor. My friend was very alarmed. I had no knowledge of what was going on. I didn't care about the classmate that was stalking me. I was choosing to ignore her. I was approached by a mediation counselor to sit down in a meeting to mediate the situation with classmate who was stalking me. I was annoyed that I was being drawn into a situation that I didn't want anything to do with. But, I agreed to sit down in a meeting with this mediation counselor. My friend who reported it, sat down with us also. However, the classmate that was stalking me, of course, never showed up to the meeting. After that meeting, I became more alarmed, and felt as though, I was losing control over a situation, that I was trying to ignore.
It was about a week or two, prior to Thanksgiving (November 1999), a threat was written on a stall, inside the girls restroom, at my high school. The threat was made by the classmate who was stalking me. My classmate stated that she was going to reenact another "Columbine". She listed my name and four other students in her threat.
A letter, was sent home to my father, notifying him of the threat, by school officials. My father, immediately pulled me out of school. I was forced to stay home from school, on the date, the threat was stated, to be initiated.
I returned to school the next day. I had to report to the main office. When I arrived, I was informed, the classmate who was stalking me, was reported as a "run away". Police were searching for her. They couldn't locate her and had no idea where she was. It wasn't safe for me to be at school. My friend was with me, and both of us, were panicking. I was informed that my classmate officially kicked out of school.
I immediately left school and went home. I waited for my father to get home. When my father arrived home, I informed him about the situation. He pulled me out of school again. Indefinitely.
In December 1999, the problems that I had experienced at school, now escalated to my home. The classmate, who was stalking me, who was a "run away", was not located. She had family in California. It was believed that she took off to California. But, it became apparent, she coerced other high school students, she was affiliated with, to continue to carry out the threat of harm to me. It was a group of men from my high school. I didn't know who they were. My boyfriend and our friends, didn't know who they men were either.
I was no longer safe in my own home, at my home. My father, was continuously in contact, with my high school principal. My high school principal, was continuously in contact with the district superintendent. My high school principal, was being pressured, to pressure my father, into having me return to school. In the state of Oregon, I was a minor, under the legal age limit, to quit school. It was state law, that I had to be in attendance, at school. My father, was adamant.
My life was spiraling out of control. Problems just kept escalating. My health was deteriorating. I wasn't eating. I wasn't sleeping. I was in fear of my life 24/7. The group of men, would be seen outside my home, parked in various cars. They would watch the windows day and night. The locks had to be changed at our home. It got really bad. I could no longer have my boyfriend and/or my friends over. Police were dispatched to our home almost daily. It was excessively. Often, a police officer would sit in his patrol car, outside our home, while on duty.
I could no longer be left alone. I was forced to be under my father's supervision and care 24/7. He had to inform his boss (at work) of the situation. I was forced to go to work with my father. Five days a week for eight hours a day. Not to work. But, because my life was in danger. I wasn't employed. I wasn't working. I wasn't getting paid. It was to keep me safe. When he was working, I sat in his office, under the supervision of his boss. I was forced to sit there all day, until my father was off work for the day.
Things were coming to a head. The communication between my father and my high school principal came to a head, one week day afternoon. The superintendent, was on my principal about me not being in school. My high school principal was under pressure from the superintendent. I remember the conversation vividly. My father, gave my high principal an ultimatum. On the phone, my father said, "If you can tell me my daughter will be safe, I will send her back to school. But, if anything happens to my daughter, I am going to sue you". It was in that moment, my high school principal told my father, it wasn't safe.
My high school principal, SAVED MY LIFE. He told my father, to keep me home for the remainder of the school year. My principal promised my father that he would get the school "cleaned up" of any and all possible threat(s). I would return the following school year, in the fall.
After that phone call, days later, I had an emotional break down at my fathers work. I sat in his office chair. I broke down in tears because I didn't want to die. I had spent days and nights around the clock on my knees, pleading with God, to please save me. I wanted to live. I didn't want my deepest and darkest fear to come true. I didn't want my father to be the father of a murdered child. I feared he would commit suicide, if anything happened to me. I had always felt that my purpose on this planet was to keep my father alive.
My father was a single parent of two children. Myself and my older brother (we're a year apart). He sacrificed his life to raise us on his own with very little help. He was devoted to being a parent to his children. No child support payments from his wife (my mother). After all he went through as a single parent. I told God, that it wouldn't be right or fair to have it end in tragedy.
That day in my father's office, I told my father, "Their going to kill me". I was in tears. I completely broke down. I told my father, "I couldn't fight anymore". I was tired. I had no strength left. I had accepted what was happening. I accepted whatever was going to happen. Even if that meant, being abducted and murdered.
I had surrendered to fate. I had surrendered to God. My life was in Gods hands. I remember telling God, to at least let the police find my body. At least let my father have that peace of mind. God at least owed us both that. That was my thought.
Desperate times call for drastic measures.
My father made some phone calls. He remained in close contact with my high school principal.
My father came to me with a possible solution. We decided to abandon our home and flee. My father had help from a realtor. Together, they came up with a plan of action. They worked quickly. Together, they found a new home for me. Everything was secure and completely private. Nobody would be able to track where I was.
On December 31st, 1999 - New Years Eve - My father and I, had everything packed in our home. We were prepared and ready to flee our home.
On January 1st, 2000 - New Years Day - My father and I, loaded our belongings into a moving truck. It was very early in the morning. It was dark out. We had to move very quickly. Nobody saw us. We abandoned our home and immediately went to a new home in an undisclosed location.
After arriving at my new home, my father unlocked the door. The sun was home. I can still remember vividly, walking into the dining room. The sun was shining through the window. I had collapsed onto the floor in relief. I knew in that moment that my life was saved. I was safe. I was so thankful and grateful to God. I was so thankful and grateful to those key people who did everything they could to protect me and save me. My high school principal, my father, the realtor, the police.
I am ALIVE. I am a SURVIVOR. I am able to STAND IN MY TRUTH, because of those people, and most importantly, because of GOD.
I wanted to LIVE.
I was SAVED.
Unfortunately, so many countless other victims, have not.
Now, I am making it my mission, by standing in my own truth, to use my experience to amend legislation and to put together new, to save lives.
I know what it's like to FAILED by the SYSTEM.
I wasn't protected. It almost cost me my life, at the age of sixteen, in 1999.
IT'S TIME TO FIX AND REPAIR A BROKEN SYSTEM. A SYSTEM THAT IS CORRUPT. A SYSTEM THAT IS TAKING AWAY LIVES.
My name is Emily Caterham. I am founder of a bill, that I am requesting Congress, to PASS INTO LAW.
"United States-School Safety & Prevention Act".