Today I read an article about a boy in Ohio who was beaten by bullies to the point of having a broken arm - because he is a cheerleader. Tyler Wilson is eleven years old, and wanted to join the cheerleading squad with hopes of someday being a male cheerleader at the collegiate level. He has been bullied, teased, taunted, and now beaten up, simply for being a cheerleader. But bravo to Tyler for not giving in to the uneducated and neandrathal mentality of those boys, because he says he isn't going to quit the squad. The saddest part? Somewhere along the way, the bullies had to have been taught that this kind of behavior is acceptable, and that picking on those who are different is perfectly alright. Hopefully Tyler can hold each and every one of them - and their families - personally accountable for their actions, and hopefully there will be consequences for them. One can hope.
Shortly after reading that story, I then read another news story that didn't end quite as well as it did for Tyler. Last week in Cypress, a suburb of Houston, a 13-year old boy named Asher Brown killed himself because of incessant bullying by kids at his school. He put a GUN TO HIS HEAD - because kids in his school tormented him because he was smaller than them, because of his religion, and because they said he was gay. And no one wants to take responsibility - not teachers, administrators, counselors. School officials say that they never had any reports of bullying, while Asher's parents said they repeatedly made phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. How in the hell can people get phone calls, people who are in positions of authority and trust over our children, and NOT follow up on them??? Apparently the morning that he killed himself, Asher told his step-father that he was gay; and fortunately, he was not met with condemnation or judgment at all. But unfortunately, these ignorant children who Asher went to school with had not been taught of tolerance and acceptance for everyone. This family will now have to bury their child and say goodbye to him forever because of the cruelty of other people's children. How is that ever okay? How many kids have to endure being bullied because of ridiculous things like their size/stature, their sexuality (regardless of what it is), their religion??? Kids don't just grow up to be bullies - they can't possibly. There has to be some kind of influence that says to them that using violence and cruelty will somehow move them ahead in life.
I have been on the lookout for bullies for a long time. My oldest son went to school, when he was young, with several boys who were bigger than he, more athletic than he, and more popular than he was. He was bullied physically in the second grade, and his dad & I told him to defend himself before walking away and telling a teacher if something should happen. Sure enough it did, and he almost got suspended for defending himself, because of the "zero tolerance" rules within our school district. If he HAD gotten suspended, I would have been okay with it as long as the boy who instigated it was punished as well. But that was a long time ago. Things have changed dramatically. The bullying has gotten tremendously worse. The consequences for those who bully seems to be slight, if not non-existent. The effects on those who are bullied seems to be deeper and more damaging than ever before, and the result trend seems to be getting more and more catastrophic. My youngest son has been bullied because he wears glasses, and because he has a pretty large overbite. He finally told me about a particular boy who makes fun of him for those things, as well as making fun of his friends. He told me that this kid makes fun and taunts everyone, and it makes him very stressed - did I mention that my son is in the 5th grade??? Ten years old, and having to deal with stress caused from another ten year old kid. I was furious. I told him that bullying is not acceptable by any means, and if this kid utters another word to him that is over the line, we will be visiting the principal (I will forego the teacher and the counselor and go straight to the top). But this is how I HAVE to be! Why can I not just "wait and see" and hope that it all works out? Because kids are dropping like flies, and they're getting younger and younger. During the last school year, at a school about 2 miles from here, a nine year old boy named Montana Lance killed himself by hanging in the nurse's office. Yes, NINE years old. Some reports were that he was bullied; others say it is unknown why he did it. Curiously enough, the school district to this day has no comment to make about the events of what happened that day.
But this is just a few of the bullying incidents that ended up in the news. Once I started looking for these stories, I started finding others. And then another, and another, and still more. Look at some of the stories that I found, and the ages of these kids:
- Oct. 2003: Ryan Halligan (age 13), Vermont - hung himself in his bathroom. He had been bullied by classmates at school, as well as cyberbullied online, with taunts of being gay.
- Oct. 2004: Corrine Wilson (age 13), Texas - single gunshot to the head. She had been called fat, frizzy haired, ugly; the bullies told her they wished she was dead and that she should just go home and kill herself.
- Dec. 2005: Kristina Calco (age 15), Michigan - hung herself. She was teased and bullied from 7th grade on, but never told on her bullies.
- April 2009: Miranda Larnerd (age 14), New York - hung herself from a ladder. Said in her suicide note that "for every good person in my life, there were 10 more to bring me down every day."
- April 2009: Carl Walker-Hoover (age 11), Massachusetts - hung himself. He was apparently taunted daily by schoolmates about being gay, despite the fact that he did not identify himself as such.
- April 2009: Jaheem Herrera (age 11), Georgia - hung himself by belt in his closet. He complained about being called gay, ugly and "the virgin" because he was from the Virgin Islands.
- May 2009: Daniel Mendez (age 16), California - self-inflicted gunshot wound. His parents have filed a $3 million lawsuit against his Orange County school district, because they say that administrators failed for years to step in after their son complained for non-stop bullying.
- June 2009: Iain Steele (age 15), Illinois - hung himself in his basement. He was shoved into lockers, made fun of on Facebook for liking heavy metal music, and told by one bully that they wished he would just kill himself.
- Sept. 2009: Hunter Layland (age 15), Texas - shot himself. He had been in a car accident as a toddler, leaving him with a hearing problem and scarring on part of his face. His bullies made fun of the way he looked and even told him once, "If I had a face like yours I'd shoot myself."
- Oct. 2009: Tyler Long (age 17), Georgia - hung himself with belt in his closet. He had a form of autism called Asberger's, and was humiliated by classmates for years. Some of his torment included being spit on and chased, pushed down stairs and beaten up, being called gay, and told "I can't wait until you are six feet under."
- late 2009: Hope Whitsell (age 13), Florida - hung herself in her bedroom. She made the mistake of sending topless photos of herself to a boy's cell phone; they were then circulated and she was harassed as a result.
- Jan. 2010: Phoebe Prince (age 15), Massachusetts - hung herself in stairwell. She was constantly bullied and taunted; nine teenagers were indicted for various criminal charges related to Phoebe's death.
- March 2010: Kimberly Linczeski (age 12), Michigan - died by self-asphyxiation. She had been teased, taunted, bullied, and even hit by a classmate and never fought back. The one day she hit back, she was sent to the principal's office and her father had to come get her from school - she killed herself later that day.
- March 2010: Alexis Pilkington (age 17), New York - cause of death not found. She was a soccer star who was cyberbullied on Facebook and Formspring, even after her death.
- March 2010: Jon Carmichael (age 13), Texas - hung himself in a barn near his home. He was small for his age, and was bullied constantly for being short.
- May 2010: Christian Taylor (age 16), Virginia - hung himself in his closet. He was bullied at school for months, and even told by one of the bullies that he should just go ahead and commit suicide.
- July 2010: Justin Aaberg (age 15), Minnesota - hung himself. He had come out as gay at 13 years old, but still endured anti-gay bullying. His school district, in order to "respect all of their families," has asked the teachers to be neutral in response to anti-gay bullying, rather than address it.
- Sept. 2010: Billy Lucas (age 15), Indiana - hung himself in his family's barn. He had been suspended from school the day of his death for fighting back against his bullies, who called him gay and told him to go hang himself.
I know this is long, but like I said, when I went looking into one, I would find another, and another. And while this blog is long and infuriating when looking at all of the young lives that were lost, there are so many more that we never hear about and are never reported on the news. Why??? Why are school districts turning their heads? Is investigating reports of bullying just too daunting? Why are school districts trying to take a neutral approach?? Because they are afraid of offending someone? Really??? Who gives a shit if someone gets offended!? The schools that we send our kids to every day are supposed to be a safe environment for them, not a place for endless torment, ridicule, and cruelty that are permitted by teachers, counselors, and administrators.
Remember that whole "It Takes a Village" thing that Hilary talked about years ago? Well, like it or not, like HER or not, she had it right. It's our job to not only look out for our own children, but for all of the other children that are out there. They all deserve a fighting chance to get through school with hope for a future. All of these children had their future snuffed out by their own hand because they had lost that hope. MY child will not be a contributor in taking away any other child's hope. Will yours?
* just after I finished this blog and published it, I logged on to discover that another has been added to the unfortunate list.
- Sept. 28, 2010: Seth Walsh (age 13), California - hung himself by a tree branch; lived on life support for 10 days before dying. He was openly gay and teased/bullied relentlessly, ultimately having to leave public school for independent study. Police say that they cannot prosecute the students involved because bullying is not a criminal act.
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