A special needs high school student from Texas has been subjected to vicious bullying, receiving a barrage of offensive text messages from strangers poking fun at her condition and threatening to rape and kill her.
Shea Shawhan, of Plano, is 18 years old but has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old as a result of a severe brain injury she had suffered at birth.
Shea is a junior at Plano West Senior High School, where she plays softball and is a member of the cheer squad.
Tormented: Shea Shawhan (far left), a special needs junior at Plano West Senior High School, has been receiving menacing and profane text messages over the past eight months
Home team: Shea's mother, Keri Riddell (third left) has been coming to her daughter's school at lunch to keep her company
Messages of hate: Shea has received a barrage of vicious texts from strangers telling her to go and kill herself and calling her ugly and pathetic
Eight months ago, the 18-year-old girl began receiving hateful text messages on her iPhone mocking her disability and her appearance.
One of the texts read: ‘Why are u still here. Clearly no one wants you. U only have special needs friends. And ur ugly and have a horrible fashion sense. Honestly ur clothes suck.’
Some of the missives addressed to the student were even more explicit and menacing, including one that stated: ‘Shea is so annoying but cute I want to do more than just kiss her I want to rape her then kill her. That will finally make sure she goes away for good.’
Shea’s mother, Kerri Riddell, believes that a group of kids from her daughter's school are responsible for the harassing text messages.
Tragic complication: Shea's disability stems from a brief loss of blood to the brain during her delivery, which left her suffering from life-threatening seizures
Temporary measure: Kerri Riddell (far right) has changed her daughter's phone number, but the messages continue to come in
‘She's so sweet and I'm so frustrated I can't find out who it is. I just want to find that parent and say, ‘What did you do? Do you know your child is doing this?"’ Miss Riddell told the station
The texts have been sent from bogus phone numbers generated by web applications, making it difficult to identify the senders.
A message sent in late September even boasted that Shea and her mother would never be able to figure out who has been tormenting her.
'I am many because we are a group and a union of people who dislike u,’ the missive stated.
In a bid to stop the bullying, Keri Riddell has changed Shea's phone number and blocked many of the fake numbers, but messages are still trickling in at a steady pace.
In good company: Shea (second left) was invited to a Dallas Mavericks game, where she posed with the team's cheerleaders
Viral sensation: Shea, pictured left with Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, has touched the hearts of many online users, who have been spreading her story on social media sites
‘Shea should just have one of her f***ing seizures and die because people at west don't want her,’ a message read. ‘That's the reason she has seizures, because that's karma for giving birth to a freaky slut.’
Other texts sent to Shea’s number urged the girl to kill herself and ridiculed her for not having a date to the homecoming dance because she is an ‘ugly freak.’
‘I'm pretty sure ur going to hell. God doesn't like sluts,’ a missive read.’ U need to be cleaned.’
Concerned for her daughter’s safety, Keri Riddell has been forced to come to Shea’s school and stay with her for lunch to keep her company.
In the face of such cruelty, a defiant Shea sent a message to her mother saying that she will not let anyone bully her.
Overwhelming support: Shea has been getting presents and hugs from her classmates at Plano West since a local news station aired a story about her ordeal
‘I'm not popular and don't need to be,’ the teen wrote. ‘I only have 5 friends and that is plenty for me.
Keri Riddell explained online that her daughter’s disability stems from a brief loss of blood to the brain during her delivery.
As a result of the injury to the frontal lobe of her brain, Shea has been suffering from life-threatening seizures.
‘This is not her fault, and should not be made fun of,’ Miss Riddle wrote. ‘It is embarrassing enough to have seizures in front of your peers...this has to stop!’
Miss Riddell had set up a Facebook account called Imwithshea to spread the word about her daughter’s predicament and raise awareness of bullying. So far, the page has drawn more than 19,000 followers.
Fighting back: Keri Riddell has made T-shirts supporting her daughter as part of her campaign raising awareness about bullying
Shea’s story has touched a nerve with Internet users nationwide, sparking a firestorm on Twitter and even earning the teen an invitation to a Dallas Mavericks game, where she got a chance to meet with owner Mark Cuban and pose for pictures with the team’s cheerleaders.
According to Riddell, she and her daughter have been overwhelmed by an outpouring of support from students at Plano West and members of the community.
Riddell said that the Plano Police Department has assigned a detective to investigate the alleged bullying, and the school also has been making strides to identify the senders of the menacing texts.