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Vigil held for Connecticut student as bullying probe continues

  • paloszvigil.jpg

    Mourners attend a prayer vigil late Tuesday for Bart Palosz, 15, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Byram, Conn., on Aug. 27 after the sophomore’s first day of classes at Greenwich High School. (Courtesy: Monika Satur)

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    Bart Palosz, a 15-year-old former Boy Scout, enjoyed video games and volunteered at a local library, but relatives and friends said he was tormented for his large stature and Polish accent since moving to Connecticut from his homeland while in elementary school. (Courtesy: Monika Satur)

Hundreds of people gathered at a prayer vigil Tuesday night at the Connecticut high school of a teenager who committed suicide after the first day of school last month, with many at the ceremony urging the school to stamp out the bullying they believe prompted Bart Palosz to take his own life.

The 15-year-old sophomore died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Byram on Aug. 27 after the first day of classes at Greenwich High School. The former Boy Scout enjoyed video games and volunteered at a local library, but relatives and friends said he was tormented for his large, 6-foot-3-inch stature and Polish accent since moving to Connecticut from his homeland while in elementary school. Late Tuesday, nearly 300 people, many Polish-American, joined Palosz’s father and other mourners outside the school, where Bart spent his last day alive, Greenwich Time reports.

"This is a comprehensive and complex investigation that spans an extended period of time."

- Greenwich Public Schools

“We feel we want to do this because this is very sad and he was a Polish boy from a Polish family,” Izabela Pardo-Malecka, a principal of a nearby school who organized the event, told the Greenwich Post. “We want to support the family and we want to stand up against bullying. We want to pray because we are Polish and we believe in God and we want to ask God for help to stop the bullying.”

Palosz’s father, Franciszek, did not speak at the vigil and recently returned from Poland, where his son was buried. The boy’s mother, Anna, remains in Poland, the newspaper reports.

Meanwhile, a probe into Palosz’s experiences at Greenwich Public Schools is ongoing, according to a statement obtained by FoxNews.com.

“This is a comprehensive and complex investigation that spans an extended period of time,” the statement read. “The District is committed to a thoughtful and thorough investigation. The Greenwich Police Department has been conducting investigation into any possible criminal activity, with which we have been fully cooperating.”

A separate investigation initially launched by the school district will now be conducted by the town’s legal department, schools spokeswoman Kim Eves told FoxNews.com.

“The Legal Department will conduct an investigation that has strong objectivity and provides an appropriate level of dedicated professional time,” according to a statement released Friday. “The Town's legal department has experience in conducting similar investigations for other departments in an objective and ethical fashion.”

John Fox, the town’s attorney, did not immediately return a message seeking comment early Wednesday. A number of people will be interviewed as part of the probe, although a list has not yet been finalized, he told Greenwich Time. A timeframe has also not been determined.

In a letter to parents following Palosz’s death, Superintendent of Schools William McKersie — who attended Tuesday's vigil — outlined several actions to be taken by school officials, including a review of all policies relating to bullying and an examination as to how the district can access and better monitor social media accounts.

“Equally important, we are examining how to make sure that we uphold these procedures and policies so that any reported incident is investigated and the appropriate consequences occur for all involved,” McKersie wrote.

A coordinated set of student groups to advocate for the respectful treatment of all children will also be established, following the lead of one such group at Greenwich High School.

“We will explore the merits of establishing similar groups at each of the middle schools,” McKersie’s letter continued. “Lastly, we will work with First Selectman Peter Tesei to establish the ‘First Selectman's Youth Council,’ which would draw students from public, independent and Catholic schools in Greenwich to promote healthy life choices, including respectful treatment of peers.”

Lisa Johnson, whose 13-year-old son, Izzy, was a close friend of Palosz, said the “awkward” teen had been bullied for years before killing himself with a shotgun that was stored in a gun locker inside the family's home, according to police.

"He always was kind of awkward in his body and kind of clumsy and how he carried himself," Johnson told the Connecticut Post last month. "He didn't exude confidence, but he was a total sweetheart of a guy. But kids never appreciated that."

Palosz, an active social media user, posted violent, sometime suicidal thoughts on his accounts in the days preceding his death.

"Hey if I were to stab my eye out due to school caused insanity, who would miss me?" Palosz reportedly wrote on Google+ on July 3 alongside a photo of himself holding the tip of a knife to his pupil.

Four days later, Palosz posted a goodbye note on the social network.

"I have chosen to go with 3 peoples advice and kill myself," he wrote July 7 after telling his friends on the network that he had swallowed pills. "I just wish it was faster."

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