Glenn Beck said he "about lost [his] mind" last week over the threatening text messages a special needs student in Plano, Texas was receiving. He even wanted to hold an assembly at the school to teach the kids a "history lesson" in where that behavior leads but, having been rebuffed by the school, he invited the student and her mother on his television program Thursday instead.
The story of Shea Shahan, 18, hits particularly close to home, Beck said, because Shea shares so much in common with his daughter.
"My daughter has cerebral palsy and she suffered brain injuries at birth, and so did Shea," Beck said. "My daughter was just in the hospital because she has seizures; Shea has seizures. My daughter just graduated from college and is just starting a new job - Shea has the [mental] capacity of an 8-year-old."
After introducing Shea and her mother, Keri Riddell, Beck asked the two to explain what has been happening.
"This whole thing started when I found out about the text messages," Keri began. "[It was] not through the school. One of my friends was picking up their daughter ... and she said, 'I saw Shea in the office crying.'"
Keri thought her daughter might have had a seizure and immediately left work and went to the school. She was horrified by the messages she saw instead.
"She is so annoying but cute," one of the messages reads. "I want to do more than just kiss her. I want to rape and then kill her. That will finally make sure she goes away for good."
On a Facebook page Keri created called "Imwithshea," she posted some of the other messages:
"When I read those text messages I kind of just put my phone down and froze, and I just basically cried. I cried in my mom's arms," Shea told Beck slowly. "And I didn't know what to think about it. It just kind of hit me hard, like why would some person want to send another person these types of texts? And then I realized that maybe they are trying to get the reaction from me, and trying to make themselves feel better for them, because maybe they did not have that type of warmth from their parents, where they may need that. Or, I don't know."
Both Beck and Keri had been suppressing tears throughout the interview, but after Shea's unbelievably kind reaction, both were visibly crying.
When asked what she would say to those writing her the messages, Shea said: "You may not like me, that's okay. But I like myself. And for me liking myself, and being a kind and sweet, loving girl, it doesn't matter if you don't like me. I'm going to like you anyways, because that's what I do."
Still crying, Beck looked at Keri and remarked: "I was going to say we have heartbreak in common, but we have joy in common. Because we have extraordinary beings in our families, each of us."
He then asked what it is like to go through such an ordeal as a mother.
"Exhausting," Keri responded. "This has actually been going on for some time. It happened at her school last year...Different school. Same town. Plano."
When Beck remarked that Plano is known as a "good" place, Keri agreed and said that's why she moved there. Many smaller schools don't have as well-rounded programs for special education students, and she said she didn't care if she had to work two jobs if that would give her daughter "the best chance" later in life.
The two proceeded to discuss the school's reaction to the bullying, with Beck reading the official statement from the school saying it provides counselors and "all appropriate actions." Keri seemed less than wholly impressed.
When she first found out about the abusive messages through her friend - after Shea took the messages to the principal's office in tears - she asked the school if they were planning on filling her in at some point.
The answer they gave her, "probably," was the wrong answer, Keri said. Though the message said something along the lines of "go kill yourself," they apparently said they didn't think it was "illegal."
Keri said she has since made it clear that if her daughter comes to the office for so much as a Kleenex, they are to let her know. She has also begun eating lunch with her daughter every day at school, to make sure she is as safe and happy as possible.
Keri added that the school has also failed to respond calls from a motivational speaker, Mike Smith, who offered to speak to the student body. Many of the students, however, have expressed their support for the bullied teen by wearing "I'm With Shea" t-shirts, and students at nearby McKinney High School have begun wearing the shirts as well.
Beck concluded by saying he would still like to organize a seminar for the students, though it may have to be at a location other than the school.
"If I can just leave you with this," he told Shea, "my daughter sent this email to you."
"Dear Shea," it reads. "Please know that you're not alone. Please know that I understand all the feelings of being upset and tired of it all. I have seizures, too. I also know, though, that there are those surrounding you who are trying all they can to help you. My mom used to say think of this as running a course. You're running and you keep going. There's going to be lots of hills to run up, but at the end of the day it's all going to be worth it. God himself gave gave this to you because you are strong enough to handle it, and you'll overcome this, too."
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