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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Nigel Hardy, 13, Bully-related Suicide

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Even though you haven’t been reading about them here over the past month, the teen suicides – LGBT and straight, alike – have been steadily mounting.  And, even now, with the news of the Boston Marathon bombing dominating the news (and, rightfully so), the teen suicides continue.  What really gets under my skin is how little attention these tragic events get even as the death toll continues to climb. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again and again:  it’s as if these young people’s lives are expendable.  They.  Are.  Not.nigel hardyYesterday, April 15th, 13-year-old Nigel Hardy was reported missing after being suspended from school for defending himself in school against bullies.  Seeing that news circulate on facebook made me nervous, at best.  Fear of the worst set in quickly.  Word spread very quickly in Palmdale, where he lived and went to school.  His father found a suicide note in his bedroom Monday morning and then noticed his handgun was missing.  The school Nigel attended, Hillview Middle School, was placed on “heightened awareness”, basically lockdown.  Monday night, Nigel was found.  Shortly after, he was pronounced dead at an Antelope Valley hospital.

Nigel, who turned 13 only last Thursday, April 11th, was a cheerleader at his middle school.  Apparently, that led to his being bullied. Various news reports say that he had gotten in a fight with his bully, or bullies, and that led to him being suspended.  He became despondent over that.  Now, he’s gone.Nigel Hardy2Where does this end?  When do we seriously and honestly reach the point where we’ve seen enough carnage and devastation that comes with these teen suicides and their aftermath?  When do we stop making excuses for the ones responsible for pushing these young people to the edge and start holding them accountable?  When is enough truly enough?  I don’t think anyone can answer that, and that’s what has become overwhelmingly frustrating for me.  No one has any answers!!  No one has any solutions!!  And, to add insult to injury, our government officials are paying attention to any- and everything but the fact that bullying and the related teen suicides have reached epidemic proportions.  Instead, we’re continuously dished the same, tired rhetorical responses.  We’re still getting the “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids” spiel that we’ve been hearing for far too long, now.  Nigel’s suicide is not the first one where the person(s) involved in the bullying are known.  What is being done about the fact that their actions cost another teenager his life!!??

Here in Maryland last year, there was a horrific traffic accident involving four young people who were best of friends.  They’d been partying, and the driver certainly should not have been driving.  Three of them died in the accident.  The driver survived.  He’s now serving a lengthy prison sentence for his actions.  Why?  Because his actions led to the deaths of his three friends. He was held accountable.  These young people who terrorize their schoolmates, or sometimes even strangers online!, to the point where the victim ends their lives get nothing!  There is zero accountability!!  And, that, as much as anything, is a major part of the problem.  As long as they know they can continue to do this without any risk of repercussion, they will continue.  Not only that, but their actions will continue to escalate.  It’s really just that simple.

Sure, there are those who believe that the best way to deal with this is to also “treat” the bully(s).  As one person on the facebook blog page commented last week:

Bullies have a Reason for the way the act so I felt sorry for them

We agreed, ahem, to disagree.  I do understand that these menaces have issues going on in their own lives that causes them to do the things they do.  In many, if not most!, cases, it’s a very bad living condition at home.  That’s a whole different issue for another time.  And, I’m all for getting them the help they need to become better, more productive, and less menacing people.  That is, when there isn’t a death attached to their name and their actions.  Understand this:  it is 2013.  The “Information Age” is maturing.  There is 100% absolutely NO WAY that Nigel Hardy’s bullies didn’t know that there are teens committing suicide NEARLY EVERYDAY!!, and bullying is often the root of it!!  NO.  WAY.  They KNOW this is happening!  It’s impossible for them to NOT know.  Period.  Accept that.  It’s impossible for these kids to NOT know that their actions could very well lead to yet another suicide.  We’ve MUST understand and accept this reality!  And, the reason why it’s so vital that we, as adults, come to this understanding of what really going on is because, once we accept the reality that they KNOW what they’re doing could very well lead to yet another suicide, we can accept the reality that they absolutely must be held accountable for their actions.  Anything less than that, and we’re only fooling ourselves.  These young people are telling us, as loudly as they can, that they don’t care if their victim kills themselves!!  In some cases, they even TELL the victim to “go kill yourself”, “nobody would care if you died”, and worse.  How can we NOT hold them accountable for their actions!  How can we even dream of coddling the perpetrators when there is a devastated, grieving family who will never, ever have their young, loved one to coddle anymore?  How is that even justifiable?  It’s not.

This has gone much, much too far.  The time has long since passed for us to take some serious action that will prevent this from continuing to happen.  As loudly as people are shouting for marriage equality, so, too, should the voices be raised for our school officials, our law enforcement agencies, and our lawmakers to get off their collective asses and start making some real changes in policies that will prevent these teen suicides to continue to mount.  Anything less, and we’re only spinning our wheels as yet another family mourns.Nigel collageWe’ll never know how brightly Nigel’s star would’ve shone.  Rest in peace, young man.

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Tyler Nichols, 13, Suicide at Southgate Middle School

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This is horrific news out of Detroit today:  13-year-old Tyler Nichols brought a gun to school this morning and shot himself in a school bathroom.  He died later in the day at a nearby hospital.Tyler NicholsObviously, it’s still much too early to know any of the details, or the “whys”, of why he ended his young life.  At this moment, bullying does not appear to be the factor.  What is known at this time is that Tyler secured a legally registered gun from an unidentified relative and brought it into the school today.  Somewhere around 8:00 this morning, he reportedly went to a bathroom on another floor and shot himself.  One of his schoolmates found him lying on the floor and notified school officials.  Soon after, the school was placed on lockdown as police investigated.Davidson-Middle-School-scene-aerials1-jpgAt the hospital, a suicide note was reportedly found somewhere on Tyler’s person.  Few details have been given, at this point, as to the contents of the note.  However, one thing that is being reported is that he did say that he was “…sick of all the drama…” in his life.  Again, only those closest to him will understand what that means, and we won’t speculate.  What’s important is that, for whatever reason, a 13-year-old felt so overwhelmed with whatever “drama” he had going on his life that he saw no way out but to simply end his life.  The enormity of this tragedy hasn’t even set in, yet.  As he was reportedly a very popular and intelligent students, his classmates…and teachers will be forever affected by what happened Thursday morning at Davidson Middle School.  But, it’s his family who will live the rest of their lives with the relentless grief of knowing that Tyler is gone for good.  It’s a pain no parent should ever, ever!, have to go through.

As the gun control debate continues to gather momentum across the country, one question that I’m sure will be raised is why was it so easy for him to get ahold of a loaded gun?  That’s not to point fingers at the relative who owns the gun.  I’m sure they’re beside themselves with grief right now.  Rather, it’s to ask the question:  “when do we start paying attention to gun safety and gun control in this country?”  Just how many lives must be lost to gun violence before we, as a people, finally say “Enough!!!  Something must be done!!!”?Southgate-vigil-1-jpgRallying swiftly to pay their respects to Tyler, the community gathered Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in his memory.  Hundreds attended.  Undoubtedly, many of them are still trying to come to terms with what happened in their school, in their community, and in their lives today.  It will be a long time before they’re able to sort it all out.  However, unfortunately, right now, as I type this, the speculation machine is already in full-gear on one social media site with the standard cries about bullying.  Bullying is a horrible epidemic that we face today, but not every teen suicide is a result of bullying.  And, from the looks of things, at least here in the early stages, bullying was not a factor in Tyler Nichol’s suicide.

What we cannot lose track of is that Tyler left behind a family that, at this very moment, is stunned by today’s actions, absolutely overwhelmed by indescribable grief and sorrow.  Our focus needs to be on them, as we offer them all of the support, and condolences, we can possibly muster.  They’re going to need it.

What is also very apparent is that we, as a society, need to do a much, much better job at reaching out to these young people.  We’re failing miserably.  Every time I see another name attached to the word “suicide”, I’m reminded that we’re not doing enough to reach them.  We’re failing at making them understand that whatever pain they’re experiencing right now is temporary!  We’re failing at making them realize that their lives are worth living, that things will (honestly!) get better!  We’re failing at keeping them alive long enough to understand that they’re strong enough to make it through whatever it is they’re facing.  And, sadly, as we continue to fail, the number of teen suicides continues to rise.  Enough!

To the family of Tyler Nichols, I send my deepest sympathy.  I can’t even fathom what you’re going through right now.  Rest in peace, Tyler.

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Hannah Gabriel Myer, 17: Her “Bully” was Depression

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With “bully”, “bullying”, and “bullycide” now a part of our everyday vernacular, it’s easy to lose track of the real fact that bullying isn’t the only driving force behind teen suicide.  Depression, as well as other mental illnesses, also play a large roll in it.  Depression, perhaps, just as much as bullying.  In fact, some say that depression is the leading cause of suicides.

Hannah MyerI received word late last week that 17-year-old Hannah Gabriel Myer ended her life on Wednesday, March 13th after a long battle with depression.  The person with whom I spoke will remain anonymous, but she was a longtime friend of Hannah’s.  The picture she painted of the struggles her friend endured was heartbreaking:

We lived in Colorado Springs Colorado.  She loved to ski and was 6 in our league.  She was a beautiful girl who didn’t like herself.  Her family was very rich, and none of her parents ever paid attention to her.  Her nanny always took care of her. She also had bulimia, but I was the only one who knew.  She used to cut.  She loved her dog so much, and she told me Spencer, the dog, would be the only reason she stayed.  I have Spencer now.

Her parents weren’t around much before she died, so they have asked me a lot. Like, what would she want at her funeral. If she wanted a funeral.  Her favorite song, etc.  She had a 4.0 and was in 3 APs.  She was basically the perfect child but was cracking under pressure and couldn’t tell anyone.  I was the only one who knew, and I’ve told counselors etc.  But, no one did anything.  And, now she’s gone.  She was just so beautiful and should never have died.

This beautiful girl had parents who didn’t know who their daughter was.  I’m sure that, now that she’s gone, they regret having missed out on sharing in on more of her life.  That they can no longer make amends and get to know their lovely daughter is equally as tragic as the suicide, itself.  This beautiful girl had a friend, who was her de facto family, in the true sense of the word, who tried to save her friend but knew in the end that “…whatever I do was never going to be enough.” Hannah Myer2I don’t know which is more frustrating:  the fact that, at least in Hannah’s mind, her parents were too busy with their own lives, or the fact that her friend tried getting her counseling but no one did anything.  Either of the two is bad enough.  Either of the two could be enough, on their own, to lead an already-fragile person over the edge.  Together, they form a lethal combination that proved too much for Hannah Myers to overcome.  Now she’s gone.  Now, her parents are struggling to learn who their daughter was through her friend while coping with the devastation of  losing a child.  This is never easy for anyone.

For as beautiful as Hannah was, I find it haunting to see the level of obvious pain in her eyes.  I wondered if that was just my imagination working after the fact.  I was assured by her friend, however, that the pain I thought I saw was, in fact, very real and very visible to anyone who took the time to notice.  Her response to my question of whether it was my imagination, or was I able to see the pain in her eyes was:  “You can. I saw, but no one else did”.

It’s never easy to write about these teen suicides.  In fact, it gets harder every time.  Like most teen suicides, if not all, this could’ve so easily been avoided.  Hannah Myer didn’t have to die!  Once again, we see an instance where sheer negligence led to the untimely death of a young person. The attempt was made to get her some much-needed therapy and counseling by a trained professional.  Nothing was done.  Again.  And, once again, we’re left wondering what is it going to take to get people – adults!! - to realize that we’ve got a major epidemic on our hands!?  Why are so many young people dying by their own hands with nothing being done about it!?  That is what’s most infuriating!!  It’s almost as if the message that is being sent is that these young lives are expendable.  That’s a tough pill to swallow; however, the redundancy of the situations surrounding far-too-many of these teen suicides makes it easy for one to walk away with that impression.  Certainly, more can be done to prevent them from happening.  Obviously, more needs to be done to prevent them from happening.  As one parent of a recent suicide victim put it:  “…Look at the kids. They’re reaching out to us, and we owe them more than what we’re giving them.”  That, from a parent who lost a teenager to suicide.  We can do more.  We must do much more.

Through this blog, you, Hannah, will never be forgotten.  Though most of the people who will read this never knew you, they will never forget you.  Or, your smile.  Or, the pain in your eyes.  I hope you are now at peace.

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Aaron Dugmore, 9!!!: Bullied to Death Because of RACE!!

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Where do I start?  This has me numb.  A nine-year-old boy has ended his life because of bullying.  You wouldn’t know it by reading this, but just typing that caused me to walk away from the keyboard for a bit in order to re-collect my thought.  It’s truly that mind-numbing. Aaron Dugmore2Focus.

As hard as it is to wrap ones brain around, 9-year-old Aaron Dugmore, ended his life after being relentlessly bullied at school for being…white!!! According to news sources, the school that Aaron was attending was 75% “different ethnic background”.

Aaron was threatened with a plastic knife by one Asian pupil, who warned him: ‘Next time it will be a real one.’

He was also allegedly told by another pupil that ‘all the white people should be dead’ and he was forced to hide from the bullies in the playground at lunchtime.  (source:  u.k.dailymail)

This is too much.  My mind doesn’t want to go here.  Focus.  Aaron Dugmore committed suicide at age 9 because of what amounts to racist bullying.  Racist bullying that, once again!, nothing was done to prevent.  It’s not just in this country:  it’s a worldwide lack of caring!!  That lack of caring breeds inaction.  The inaction allows the bullying to continue to fester and the suicides to continue to mount.  Aaron Dugmore was 9!!  Where does this end?  Where is the line drawn!?

“I went to see [the school principal] a few times, but he only said, ‘You didn’t have to come to this school, you chose to come here’.”

You tell a parent who is coming to you out of concern that her nine-year-old son is being constantly bullied, and instead of acting upon her complaint and concern, “you didn’t have to come to this school, you chose to come here.  You blame her for her choice in schools.  Then, the nine-year-old son ends up dead because he felt, at nine-years-old!!!helpless and hopeless.  No matter how you attempt to spin it, the death of this 9-year-old boy is on your hands for life.  aaron dugmoreThat, unfortunately, won’t bring Aaron back to his family, will it?  Holding this callous “school administrator” responsible (which I sincerely hope is done!) won’t put that smile back on his face and back into the hearts of his parents.  Finding these young racists who bullied Aaron to the point of no return and expelling them from school as well as holding them legally accountable for his death won’t bring him back, either.  All of the above would be a great place to start; however, all of the options are reactive as opposed to being proactive.  And, as long as we continue to be reactive in our response to these tragedies, this epidemic will continue to escalate.

If I had the one, definitive answer that would end this once and for all, it would’ve ended years ago.  Rather, I do have some ideas that I think would make an enormous difference in the culture we’re seeing today.  There are certainly things that could, and should, be done that will make a difference:

  • An absolute must has to be accountability.  The current culture of “there are no reported incidents…” has to come to an abrupt end.  In the majority of these cases, the bullying has been reported to “school officials”.  In a recent case, it was even well-documented!  In the case of Aaron Dugmore, however, his mother was told that she “chose to send him” to that school, which is to absolve themselves of any responsibility and place the blame on the mother!  Teachers, and school administrators, are responsible for the safety and well-being of the students in their care.  Period.  If they are unable to provide them a safe environment, they need to find another profession.  Too many lives are being affected by their negligence.  And, needless to say, far too many lives are being lost.
  • There needs to be accountability for the parents of the bullies, as well.  That bullying is leading some to a lifetime of emotional problems is very well-documented.  Even in the cases where the bullying doesn’t lead to teen suicide, the emotional scars run very deep.  And, then there are the instances where the bullying does lead to suicide!  The bullies need to be identified, and their parents need to be held just as accountable as the child who committed the act of bullying.  Some will say that’s easier said than done.  I say not.  It all starts in the home.  One of two things are occurring:  either the home environment is one that fosters and promotes bullying, of the lack of parental control is such that these young people are free to do as they please, with no worry of consequences.  In either case, the results are far-reaching and devastating.
  • Most importantly, the young person(s) involved in acts of bullying absolutely must be held accountable.  In Maryland, just yesterday, a 15-year-old boy was sentenced to 35 years for shooting one of his schoolmates on the first day of school.  No one died, and the shooting victim is back in school.  Aaron Dugmore can’t go back to school.  Neither can the many, many other victims of suicide because of bullying.  His actions didn’t kill anyone, yet the 15-year-old teenager here in Maryland will be in prison until his 40s at the earliest.  The actions of some of these bullies are leading directly to the death of their victims, yet they are not being held accountable!!!  How are we, as a society, continuing to allow that to happen?  Am I saying that all bullies need to be locked up for decades?  Of course not.  What I am saying, though, is that as long as they know (and, understand that they are well aware!) that there will be no consequences for their actions of intolerance and, in some cases, hatred, they have no reason to even reconsider their actions.

It’s time to get very serious about the bullying and related youth suicide issue that we’re seeing.  Bemoaning another loss and mourning their death is a perfectly natural response; however, it’s time to demand action that will prevent this from continuing to happen.  Right now, with the climate currently in place, we’re seeing a lot for posturing.  Smoke and mirrors.  Ineffective “zero tolerance” anti-bullying policies, policies that look great on paper and sound really good to tell parents and the media, but do absolutely nothing to address this continuing problem.  And, sadly, the only way this is going to end is for you, the concerned parents and citizens, to stand up, make sure your voices are heard as you tell them that you’ve had enough of reading about yet another young person ending his/her life because of bullying.  Tell them how empty your home, and your heart, is without your young son or daughter who was bullied to the point where they saw no other way out but to end their life.  There really is power in numbers.

Aaron Dugmore was 9-years-old.  Unfathomable.  Rest in peace, Aaron.

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Miguel Rodriguez, 12: Documented Bullying Leads to Suicide

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You’ve read it here many times before.  The school “officials” and administrators absolutely must  be held accountable in cases of bullying especially when it results in the suicide death of the one being bullied.  Of course, their “out” is always, always, always, “there are no documented incidents of bullying…”.  Well, now there are.miguel-rodriguezMiguel Rodriquez was just 12-years-old when he ended his life.  He had suffered brutal bullying from schoolmates that his mother acted upon and documented.

“My son Miguel Rodriguez is a victim of constant bullying. Since he started school at West Hernando he has been shoved from behind while on his knees, kicked in his privates, kicked in his head, name calling, constantly being hit and thrown with a full water bottle to his face. All these incidents have been reported, documented and in some cases handled.”  (Hernando Today)

“Kicked in his privates”.  “Kicked in his head”.  “Boys will be boys”.

In a complaint filed by Miguel on Nov. 10, 2011, he writes how someone dropped a pencil, and when he went to pick it up, was kicked in the genitals by another student. He was sent to a clinic where it was determined he did not have blood in his urine, refused ice treatment, and if still in pain could have his mother pick him up.

School officials dismissed this as “horseplay”.

In another complaint filed by Miguel on Dec. 8, 2011, he writes how a rubber band was flicked at him, and when he went to pick up the rubber band, was kicked in the head by another student. Miguel was again sent to the clinic where ice was applied to his head, his mother notified, and a “head injury” form provided.

With this being a separate incident, it was shrugged off, again, as horseplay “…by two different boys”.

Another Dec. 13, 2012 statement by a guidance counselor at the school describes a verbal argument that took place between Miguel and peers, noting that Miguel’s mother would be notified should the dispute continue.

Miguel said the dispute did continue, [his mother] said, although she was never notified.

If you think this is an exception, think again.  This is the rule!!  This is how this instances of bullying are being handled all around the country and probably around the developed world.  What makes this stand out is that Miguel’s mother has documented proof against the school officials claims of “…no incidents [of reported bullying] documented”. Miguel-Rodriguez-25Miguel did what he’s been told to do when there’s bullying involved:  he reported it to an adult.  Miguel’s mother did everything she was supposed to do as a parent:  she became rigorously involved, and she very wisely documented everything that was going on.  Yet, it didn’t stop the bullying from happening.  And, because it didn’t stop the bullying, it didn’t stop Miguel from ending his life.

What this finally gives us a very clear illustration of is something I, for one, have been saying for quite a while now:  “they” simply don’t care about bullying!!  To many, including many school officials, law enforcement officials, even parents, the “boys will be boys”, “kids will be kids” is very prevalent.  With that attitude firmly entrenched in our society, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a redundancy not just in the instances of bullying but, just as importantly, the response from people who should be making a difference.

Says one member of the facebook blog page:

The way I see it, some people think that fighting it is stupid, and some say they hate bullying, but they really don’t care.   We need to get more people to REALLY care.

It’s really as simple as that.  Regardless of your own personal beliefs, if a child is coming to you and complaining that (s)he is being bullied, for whatever reason, that complaint needs to be taken seriously!!  It needs to be taken as seriously as them telling you that one of their classmates brought a gun to school and threatened him or her.  It’s that serious!  Why?  Because in some cases, as it was with Miguel Rodriquez, it may have well been a gun brought to school!!  The results are the same.  His life is still over.

Make no mistake:  this type of inaction has been going on for as long as I can remember!!  It’s always been much easier for these teachers, principles, law enforcement agencies to shrug it off, to look the other way, to write it off to “boys being boys”, “kids being kids”, or “horseplaying”.  But, when the kid who complained ends up dead, please figure out a way to explain…not to me but to the families of these young people you failed to take seriously and protect…how that was “boys being boys”, “kids being kids”, or “horseplaying”.  Said another facebook blog page member:

…sounds like one of the administrators at the high school I went to when I was attacked. She SOOO didn’t believe I was attacked when you could see the bruises already and my hair was messed up and clothes were dirty. And to top it off, they hid the truth. They covered up what happened.

There absolutely must be accountability, especially in the event of a suicide.  There has to be some ramifications for parents having to live the rest of their lives with the pain of not having their son or daughter in their lives anymore because a.) their schoolmate thought it was fun or cool to verbally, emotionally, or sometimes physically abuse them to the point where they couldn’t take it anymore; and, b.) no one in a position of authority did anything to remedy the situation.  There.  Must.  Be.  Accountability.

Miguel’s mother has the documentation that proves that she did everything she was supposed to do to protect her son, and the school simply dropped the ball.  My hope is that this is the starting point for the necessary change.  It is also my hope that someone is held accountable for this tragedy.

Rest in peace, Miguel.

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Joshua James Maddox, 15: Bullying Leads to Suicide in the U.K.

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Bullying, and bully-related suicide, isn’t restricted to the U.S. borders.  It’s happening worldwide.  The stories and the circumstances really don’t vary that much:  one or more misguided kid dealing with his or her own self-esteem issues, or just trying to fit in, verbally, emotionally, or sometimes physically abuses one of their peers to the point where that peer can’t take anymore and ends his/her life.  Add to that, the “official” response to it is also quite universal…to the point of frustration.joshua maddox2Joshua James Maddox was a month away from celebrating his 16th birthday.  He apparently dealt with Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder for which he “suffered months of cruel taunts from classmates“.  He also had a girlfriend who was two years younger than himself, for which he was labeled and “paedo” and, again, taunted brutally.

The list continues to grow.

We’re no closer to a solution today than we were last year at this time.

I woke up earlier this week to a voicemail from a distraught, tearful mother who had just lost her young son to yet another bully-related suicide.  It was heartbreaking to hear the depth of her pain.  Through my own tears, I was reminded how real this is and how devastated families are following these tragedies.  I was reminded that we need to be doing much, much more to prevent this from continuing to happen.joshua maddox3

Here’s the deal:  this is not going to get any better until we truly reach the point where we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! and truly mean it.  It’s that simple.  Parents of the bullies must be held accountable for their kids actions, especially when their child’s actions lead to the death of another child.  The bullies, themselves, must be held accountable, especially when their actions lead to the death of another person.  The school “officials” absolutely must be held accountable when they fail to take action to prevent bullying to continue to fester in their classrooms and schools.  The only way out of this is total accountability!  As long as no one has to answer for these life-changing tragedies, they are going to continue to happen.

I want young people to see what effect bullying can have and educate them better about how to deal with children who have mental health issues.

I think bullies need a stronger punishment, I feel deep down that nothing will be done about this and I worry it could happen to another family.

Those are the words of Joshua’s heartbroken mother, but they could be the words of many, many other mothers, and fathers, of past suicide victims whose child had endured insufferable bullying.  They are also the words that are now being echoed around this country and around the world.  There HAS to be accountability!!!

It’s becoming increasingly hard for me to believe anything other than the fact that these bullies simply do not care about human life.  They have no regards for the lives of others.  Bullying and bully-related suicides are in the news with such regularity, the only way to not know what’s going on is to live with your head tucked safely in a place where the sun doesn’t typically reach. joshua maddox

There are still those who say that these young bullies should face no punishment, that they should not be held accountable when their actions lead directly to one of their schoolmates ends his/her life.  There are still those who say that we need to coddle the bullies because they are dealing with issues, themselves.  To those people, I will simply say tell that to some of these parents who are now left with unfathomable grief, with a gaping hole right in the middle of their hearts and lives, for the rest of their lives!!   Explain to the grieving mother who just told me, through tears, that she just wants to hear her son sing again that his bullies shouldn’t be held accountable.  Tell Joshua’s parents that the bullies who tormented her son because he had ADHD and a girlfriend 2 years younger than himself that no one should be held accountable for her having to live the rest of her life without her talented son.  You can’t.  And, you know why you can’t?  Easy answer.  You can’t because you’re speaking theoretically.  You would have a much different point of view if this were your own child or someone close to your life.  Then, you, too, would want to see heads roll.  There has to be accountability.  Anything less than that, and we’re sending the message that these young lives are expendable.  They’re certainly not.

The “Sweet 16th” birthday is a milestone that Joshua Maddox won’t get to experience.  How much longer are we going to allow this to continue before we finally mean it when we say enough is enough!!!???

Rest in peace, Joshua.

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George “Buddy” Peterson, 13: Bullying Leads to Suicide

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On Sunday, January 13th, George “Buddy” Peterson surrendered to the nonstop bullying he’d been subjected to.  At age 13, he ended his life.Buddy PetersonOn the facebook blog page, one of Buddy’s relatives described him:

Buddy was an amazing kid..almost to a fault….He was such a cute, witty, funny, talented true friend

The accolades don’t end there.   The online obituary for Buddy had this to say:

Buddy had such a thirst for knowledge and discovery, he was always ready to invent “the next greatest thing”. He loved to draw and had an amazing talent for art, and had great computer ability.Buddy Peterson2

Buddy was a bright, shining star in the lives of his family and friends.  He had a life full of enormous potential and possibilities ahead of him.  But, like many of those who went before him, he couldn’t get past the bullied he endured.

If ever there was a case of bullying and bullycide that screamed for investigation and accountability, this is the one.  There are a few very disturbing facts involved that require full attention:

  1. It is known by the school, who was responsible for the relentless bullying that Buddy endured.  
  2. His parents did everything the right way and was at the school regularly.  They were told that the boys responsible for the bullying would be removed from the school.  That never happened.
  3. Because of technicalities in the Utah school districting laws, Buddy was not permitted to change school districts until the end of the school year.  Instead, he was forced to stay there and continue to endure the abuse he was receiving.

It goes even deeper than that, actually.  In what is becoming a disturbing trend, it appears that Buddy’s mother took all the right steps, reported everything that needed to be reported, was persistent in trying to protect her son, but the school system failed her.  And, ultimately, Buddy.Buddy blackbelt

Earlier, there was a bit of a debate about bullying on the facebook blog page.  A couple of people were voicing the opinion that those who are being bullied should “get a backbone” and “stand up to their bully”, that would make the bullying magically disappear.  That’s a great, macho response.  And, perhaps, it’s worked for some.  But, rest assured that that is not the way we’re going to overcome this menace that’s claiming so many lives.  Buddy Peterson is a prime example of why that mentality, that “solution”, is grossly ineffective.  Buddy Peterson was a second-degree Black Belt in the Martial Art of Tae Kwon Do.  A second degree Black Belt.  Being able to defend himself was certainly not an issue.  Yet, the bullying he endured was too much for him to handle.  Why?  Simple answer:  the bullying Buddy Peterson endured had nothing to do with physical bullying.  He wasn’t being physically attacked or pushed around.  Rather, his torture was of the psychological and emotional brand.

“All he wanted to do was go to school and fit in”, said his mother, Karen.

It’s time to have a very open and honest discussion about bullying.  I don’t mean engaging your CAP LOCK and typing “BULLYING SUCKS” or “STOP BULLYING”.  We’ve seen how effective that is.  It’s time to really have a much deeper, broader conversation about:

  • What bullying truly is;
  • What are the long-term effects of bullying;
  • How do we prevent it?

It’s obvious that the bullying prevention programs that are currently in place in schools today are largely ineffective.  Zero tolerance has proven to have no meaning.  It’s still going on on a regular basis, little-to-nothing is being done about it, and these young people are still ending their lives because of it.  I’m not okay with that.  No one should be!

One thing that’s become obvious is that bullying has many different faces.  It’s not just the name calling, it’s the physical abuse.  It’s not only emotional warfare, it’s exclusionary actions.  Talk to 10 different people, you’ll get 8 different answers.  That’s the U.S. trying to tackle Al Qaeda.  We know it’s there, we see the devastating harm it does, there’s no specific place to go to fight and eradicate it.  In the homes?  In schools, with better bully prevention measures in place?  In schools, with more, and more stringent!, accountability for the school staff?  With the students?

As I see it, the starting point is no mystery, actually.  THIS HAS TO START WITH THE ADULTS!!  What we’re seeing in the schools with the young people is simply a manifestation of what they are learning, either directly or indirectly, from the adult influences in their lives.  It’s.  That.  Simple.  What’s not as simply, however, is expecting all adults to simultaneously and instantaneously change their behaviors so that they’re being better, more positive role models for the young.  Negative, spiteful people will always be around.  So, to combat this at its core, it has to be done in the homes.  That is where the ball is being dropped.  Period.  And, that dropped ball is costing lives.

There’s still more that needs to be done.  Starting in the homes only attacks the head of the beast.  Meanwhile, in every single school across this country, and around the world, there’s bullying going on right now, as I type this.  And, at least one of those cases of bullying will lead to another teen suicide!   Will…not “might”.  This war on bullying will be won in the homes, with the parents.  However, this war’s “battlefield” is the classroom, the school bus, the school yard, the cell phone, the Internet.  That’s where it needs to be “contained”.  And, the only way that’s ever going to happen is we must get serious about ending this path of destruction we’re on.

  • School officials must be held accountable for what’s happening inside of the schools and classrooms;
  • The bullies, especially when the bully or bullies are readily identifiable, must be held accountable.  That’s an absolute;
  • More, and better, resources must be readily available for those who are being bullied;
  • And, if my child were being cyberbullied, that’s an easy one:  their computer usage if restricted to “in common area only” and is heavily monitored.  Period.  Their cell phones would no longer have texting capability.

It’s a matter of life and death.  To look at it any differently is to invite this to continue to escalate.  I, for one, don’t want to see that happen.  This is war.  The battlefield is the classrooms, the hallways, the school yard, the school bus, the Internet, the cell phones.  The troops on the front line are your kids!!!

The U.S. is winning the war against Al Qaeda.  We’re going to win the war against bullying.  It’s time to stop shaking our collective heads and saying “this has to stop” and get busy with the business of making it stop.

Rest in peace, Buddy.  The world lost a bright, shining star.

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