Tracy Sanford wondered where her daughter’s school bus was on Dec. 7, 2015. Bus 125, carrying the teenager, was late and the family was having a first birthday party for her older daughter’s baby.
Some child had jumped off the school bus, and that’s why it was late, someone told her. A little later, officials told her it was her daughter who had jumped.
My’Kayla Hurst-Thomas, of Galveston, died two days later on Dec. 9, 2015. She was 13. The Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a suicide.
Sanford doesn’t agree it was suicide, but she believes her daughter was bullied until the day she died, she said. An older girl on the bus had constantly intimidated and berated My’Kayla, she said. Bullies had pushed her to the brink before. My’Kayla got in trouble, while her bullies did not, Sanford said.
On that December day, My’Kayla and another student had argued on the bus, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said. The driver had stopped the bus and separated the students. He put My’Kayla in the rear of the bus and resumed driving, Trochesset said. On video recorded by a camera in the bus, it appears My’Kayla intentionally opened the door, Trochesset said.
“Kids bullied her,” Sanford said. “They talked about how bad she smelled. They talked about spots on her face. She would come home crying, because they were talking about her.”
The main girl bullying My’Kayla on the bus the day she died was a couple of years older, Sanford said.
My’Kayla was on the A and B honor rolls, and was an eighth-grade student in Galveston ISD schools, Sanford said.
She liked Tyler Perry movies and watching “Sanford and Son.” She loved to dance, sing and go to church.
My’Kayla liked to write poetry and read different kinds of books. She liked to play computer games. One of My’Kayla’s essays, “My Dog Buster,” is framed, and Sanford keeps it near the container with her daughter’s ashes.
Sanford had other samples of her daughter’s writing. One was a letter addressed, “Dear Mommy.” On the front was a Bible verse. On the back, My’Kayla wrote about a nice boy she wanted her mom to meet.
My’Kayla had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was bipolar, Sanford said.
“We went to appointments, and I took her to the doctors,” Sanford said. “If you’re a real mom and you love your kid, you got to go through it.”
As a baby, My’Kayla was the happiest child in the world, always laughing, Sanford said. But her whole attitude changed the last year of her life, Sanford said. Something was different, noticeably different about how My’Kayla began to withdraw.
“Other kids every day were picking on her,” Sanford said.
It happened a lot, she said. One day, a boy hit My’Kayla in the face, Sanford said. The next day, My’Kayla took a knife to school.
My’Kayla got suspended for doing that and had to attend classes at the Galveston County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program, 6101 Attwater Ave. She was being driven back to the island from that campus when she died.
“I still see Bus 125 driving sometimes,” Sanford said.