They Wore Blue: Grace McComas, 15-years-old, Death by Suicide
Last week, while we here in Maryland, and around the world, were mourning the suicide of Kenny Wolf, there was yet another event here. Fifteen-year-old Grace McComas, of Glenelg High School, ended her young life because of cyberbullying two days following Kenny. Both were laid to rest within moments of each other Saturday, April 14th.
Specific details of the cyberbullying were not reported by The Baltimore Sun because of an ongoing police investigation.
What is apparent was that blue was Grace’s favorite color. Her friends started a cyber campaign, #blue4grace, which quickly went viral and attracted the attention of such notables as Lauren Alaina, the 2011 “American Idol” runner-up and Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice. Mourners were asked to wear blue for the visitation, but it didn’t stop there. People as far away as Ireland and the Czech Republican were participating in the event. The message is getting out: this has to end. And, to be sure, there ARE many people doing a lot of great things in an effort to end the bullying that’s claiming far too many teens’ lives. One teen suicide because of bullying is one too many. I’ve had 2 here in my own backyard within the past 10 days. Enough.
Footballer Ray Rice has become proactive in the campaign against bullying. He’s hosting an anti-bullying event in Howard County, where Grace was from. I’m in the process of getting more information about that right now. I’ve messaged Ray via his personally-run facebook page. And, as the information becomes available to me, it will be passed along via the blog and on the facebook blog page.
It’s been said in conversations I’ve had with some people that today’s young people should have thicker skin and just understand that bullying is a part of growing up. When I hear that, I seeth as I listen to their opinion. But, listen, I do. See, on the one hand, I do understand where they think they’re coming from with this logic. Bullying has been around for as long as I can remember and, I’m sure, well before that. My own dealings with the bullying and violence is well-documented here. And, speaking from a personal standpoint, suicide wasn’t even a word in my vocabulary when I was a teen. I coped. I moved on. But, as I’ve been figuring out over the past 10 years or so, I didn’t really “cope”. The subconscious scars were very slow to heal. And, that’s because I didn’t even realize they were there until, well, 10 years ago or so. So, that said, it isn’t just a matter of today’s young people “getting over it”. It just needs to end. Period. Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer who advises Facebook and MTV on online safety, had this to say about it:
“I don’t want the kids to be more resilient”. “I want the kids who are doing it to stop. I want friends of the kids being bullied to stand up and say, ‘I am with you.’ The popular kids, the smart kids, the big kids need to stand up and say, ‘Stop.'”
That’s the correct answer. Damned needing tougher skin!! They shouldn’t have to be dealing with it at all.
And, of course, there have been naysayers who believe this is all much ado about nothing. To them, I say “think again”. This is a real-life, real-time problem, and it’s costing lives.
In the most recent report, released March 31, the Maryland State Department of Education cited nearly 4,700 incidents of bullying, harassment and intimidation in the 2010-2011 school year, up from about 3,800 in 2009-2010 and 2,100 in 2008-2009.(The Baltimore Sun)
What that statistic clearly shows that bullying has increased in each of the past three school years in Maryland, alone! Understanding that that’s only from the cases that are reported really puts it all in perspective. We’re in the midst of a crisis that’s causing teens to end their own lives. And, even in the cases where they aren’t committing suicide, sometimes the psychological scars they’re left with can last a lifetime.
A lot is being done, now, and by many people, to address the issue. However, a lot more needs to be done, and by many more people. And, we start by a.) re-educating the adults; and, b.) making sure our lawmakers and school officials understand that this issue needs to be taken with the same gravity of, say, an outbreak of a deadly viral infection that’s hitting teens around the country and around the world. How quickly would “they” find a cure if that were the issue instead of bullying? That same intensity needs to be focused on the issue with bullying.
To the family and friends of Grace McComas, I’m so sorry that you’re having to go through this. My heart and condolences go out to you. And, to you, Grace, the world will now never know what gifts you had to offer. Rest in peace.
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