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Archive for November 2012

Lara Burns, 12: Cyberbullying Claims Another Victim

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I need to put this in perspective…for myself:  I host a weekly Open Mic locally.  On a couple of occasions, the 12-year-old daughter of my band’s bassist has come and performed there.  Very talented.  To look at her, my first thought was “my goodness!  Twelve years old is so young!”  And, that, it is.  That’s what makes this so heartbreaking.story images_Lara_Burns_684400751Over the weekend, 12-year-old Lara Burns-Gibbs, from Kilcock in Co. Kildare, in Ireland, ended her life.  It is believed that she had endured cyberbullying.

I’m just going to say right here that if I had a young teenager, male or female, in today’s world, they would have one of two options:

  1. Only use the Internet on a computer that is in an open, common room where anyone, at any given time, could be able to monitor what’s going on.  And, the computer itself would have every parental control available to me in use;  or,
  2. They simply wouldn’t be allowed to use the Internet for anything other than school work.  Cell phones?  No texting capabilities.

Too much is at stake in today’s world for me to handle it any other way.  I just heard from a mother, just today, of a beautiful young girl who committed suicide earlier this year after enduring cyberbullying, and she told of how tough of a time she was having right now.  It’s her first holiday season without her beautiful young daughter since she arrived in this world 14 years ago.  My heart broke when I read that, but I can certainly understand.  No parent should be going through what she, and (unfortunately) many other parents of teen suicide victims are going through.  Yet, here I am once again, writing about yet another young person who ended their life after being bullied.  Where does it end?  Where do we begin?

At Lara’s funeral, Father David Halpin had this to say:

suicide is not the answer to pain and only causes greater suffering.  Those feelings do pass. We are here today because a very young girl did not know that.  She was too young to know that the pain does not last, too young to know that whatever was troubling her was not permanent.  She was too young to know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

He added: “Perhaps by planning to die by suicide she was bringing an end to pain.  But it has had the opposite effect — it has multiplied pain, hurt and suffering and brought devastation to her family.  Suicide should never be seen as an answer because it’s not an answer.  Please, please do not ever think suicide is the answer. Seeking help is the only answer.  She was too young to understand that suicide cannot be reverse.

That sobering statement holds validity.  On the other side of the coin, even as we make every effort imaginable to protect these young people from being bullied, both online and in their daily lives, at some point we have to stop coddling the perpetrators, as well as the enablers, and start holding people accountable.  Period.  In the cases of bullying where it leads to a suicide, well, that’s no difference than getting into a physical altercation with someone, having that someone fall and violently bang their head on the concrete, and subsequently dying from that injury.  Your actions lead to that person’s death and, as such, you’re held accountable.  This is no different.  If the actions of the bully, or cyberbully, ends with the bullying victim committing suicide, that person (or, persons) is just as culpable as the person is who threw the punch that caused that person to fall, bang his/her head on the concrete, and subsequently die from the injury.  It’s really just that simple.  Someone needs to be held accountable!!!  The perpetrator(s) needs to be held accountable; the enabler(s) need to be held accountable.

Let’s get real:  there is absolutely no way that anyone with even a single working brain cell doesn’t know by now that bullying is causing enormous harm and, in many cases, death; therefore, for these people to continue with their bullying actions is for them to say that they flat-out don’t give a damn if the person they are antagonizing kills themselves.  It’s really as simple as that.  And, that is absolutely not okay.

Lara’s grieving mother delivered this message, through the parish priest, Father Liam Rigney:

 Never be ashamed to go for help.  We just do not know why, and we will never know why, Lara took her own life. We will never know what was in her poor head. What we do know is her decision has devastated so many people, especially her family. So many lives have been torn apart and devastated.

This is real.  Parents are grief-stricken.  Families are often torn apart.  Friends are shattered.  And, what’s really troubling me, personally, is that it’s showing no signs of getting any better any time soon.  We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re to reverse this trend:

  1. It’s essential that we devise a way to protect these young people from being constantly bullied and/or cyber-bullied.  If that means severely restricting their telecommunications access, so be it.  Having them alive and pouting trumps what we’re seeing as an alternative; and,
  2. It’s time to start holding some feet to the fire.  There has to, has to, has to!!!! be some accountability.  It’s really that simple.

My heart goes out to Lara’s grief-stricken family and friends.  And, to you, Lara, may you rest in peace.

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For World AIDS Day, A Troubling Report

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I heard this report yesterday on the all-news radio station in my area, and it caught my attention.  With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st, some sobering statistics were announced that I think we need to take heed to.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was this:

“More than half of young people infected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. DON’T know they’re infected.”

Young people, between 13-24, account for more than 1/4 of all new infections.  If there are 50,000 new infections per year, which is what they’re reporting, that means that roughly 12,500 of those new cases are young males between the ages of 13-24.  That’s not a good statistic.  That means that we’re failing in educating young people on HIV/AIDS prevention.  How can that even be possible with a disease that has been around since the early 1980s?

According to Julie Steenhuysen, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, that figure of 1/4 being young males stems from high infection rates amongst LGBT young people, African-American, and, Latino males.  What makes this problematic is that a lot of these young people report that they “Haven’t really learned much about how to protect [themselves] against infection.”  And, again, the question, “how is this even possible?”, comes into play.

And, of course, there are some who report being subjected to a lot of shame because of their sexuality and the stigma attached to being LGBT.  Now, the picture becomes a bit clearer.  Shame and stigma.  That goes back to a huge cultural problem we’re facing in today’s society as it pertains to the LGBT community.  This is the year 2012.  There is no way we should still be dealing with prejudices and bigotry when it comes to something as intrinsic to our being as our sexuality.  Worse, here’s more evidence of the life-threatening harm that it’s causing.

When asked what she thought needed to be done to reverse this trend, Julie Steenhuysen added this:

Communicating to the community how important it is to support young people, no matter where they are [with their sexuality] so that they can at least stay safe. That could mean…to train leaders who are not LGBT, perhaps in the faith community and entertainers to be more sensitive to stigma, and help establish a healthy environment for these young men in which to grow and to learn about their own sexuality.

I was a young, gay man when the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded on the scene back in the early 1980s.  Worse, I lived in San Francisco during that time.  “Worse” because a.) I literally watched a least one friend die from this epidemic on a daily basis; and, b.) it was easily the most frightening time of my life.  Being a young, virile gay man, myself, at the time, of course I was sexually active as I searched for my Mr. Right.  And, at one point, I even resigned myself to the “reality” of “well, if all of my friends are infected, I must obviously be infected as well.”  By the grace of God, that was not the case.  And, once I got myself tested and learned that I’d been spared of this devastating disease, I changed everything about how I lived my life.  I educated myself.  Educating oneself was very easy then, pre-Internet days; it’s much easier today because of the Internet.  And, education is 100% effective.

Gone are the days when we can feel invincible and just do everything, sexually, we want to do.  That half of these young people didn’t even know they were infected is all the proof you need.  The only foolproof way of avoiding infection is protection.  Yes, I know that there will be fundamentalists who will argue that abstinence is the only true foolproof way of avoiding infection.  But, perhaps, being more in tune with the reality that these young people are going to have sex, protection is key.  Education has to be a key component in protecting oneself from contracting HIV/AIDS.  It’s that simple.  It’s 2012.  There’s no way there should be anyone, anyone!, who doesn’t have access to all of the education necessary to prevent numbers like this report reveals from happening.

December 1st, as we remember those who have already died from this epidemic, we must also re-energize our efforts to prevent it from continuing to spread.  That’s going to take acceptance.  That’s going to take communication.  That’s going to take education.

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The Mallory Owens Story: Surprising Developments

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One of the major stories around the social media globe over the past 24 hours has been the savage beating of Mallory Owens on Thanksgiving Day at the hands of her girlfriend’s 18-year-old brother, Travis Hawkins, Jr.  As the world called for his head on a silver platter, subplots began to emerge:Mallory is now out of the hospital and recuperating, as seen here, with her girlfriend and other members of her family, sans Travis, of course.  There’s more to it than just that, though.  Naturally.  Mallory, herself, has stated publicly that she doesn’t believe that Travis’ actions on Thanksgiving, the assault that left her hospitalized and bleeding from the brain, was a hate crime.  That, despite an earlier comment that Travis never liked either Mallory or, his own sister, Ally.

As more light is shed on this unfortunate situation, one thing that is emerging is that Travis Hawkins, Jr. is a very troubled young man.  His troubled didn’t just start on Thanksgiving Day.  A read through the comment thread of the above picture of Mallory’s return from the hospital will reveal an angry public grilling Travis Hawkins, Sr., the father of the attacker, with questions about the incident and why more wasn’t done to prevent it.  In truth, the senior Travis Hawkins did an admirable job of fielding the questions presented to him.  In fact, some would say that he went “above and beyond” in his effort to dispel some of the rumors and/or misinformation that has been circulating surrounding the attack.  Indeed, his response shines a whole different light on the situation.

In an amazing show of concern and compassion, it appears that donors from around the globe rose to the occasion and sent in excess of $100,000 to Mallory for what amounts to a “hate crime” defense fund.  With the hate crime element seemingly moot, according to Mallory, herself, that will possibly raise another question:  “what to do with the monies that were sent specifically to defend a “hate crime”.  However, that’s for Mallory and the donors to figure out and shouldn’t be open to discussion or speculation here.

What is crystal clear is that Travis Jr. is a very troubled young man.  On his now deleted facebook page, he showed off a tattoo on his arm that simply said “Condemned Man”.  The comment thread, now deleted, revealed a mother’s desperate attempt to convince her troubled son that he was not a “condemned man”.  That was before Thanksgiving Day’s attack on Mallory Owens.  Now, he will be, indeed, a condemned man.  Even with a second-degree assault charge, for which he is currently out on bail, he’s looking at substantial incarceration time.  Travis will certainly be punished for his actions, but is that where it ends?  This is obviously a young man, still a teenager, who is clearly in need of help.  Sadly, without intense psychological help while incarcerated, an already angry young man will someday be released, after years of being incarcerated, even more angry and, possibly, volatile.  A ticking time bomb.  Is that what we want?  Is that in anyone’s best interest?  What he did Thanksgiving Day was horrendous, no doubt about it.  And, there has to be payment for his actions, of course.  However, he’s only 18.  He will be released at some point in his life.  And, without help while he’s away, the man who returns to society could very well return as more of a danger than he is right now.  That will serve no one.

As for Mallory, the road to recovery has begun.  In the above photo, she appears to be happy and in good spirits.  However, it is said that she will require plastic surgery in the aftermath of the beating she absorbed at the hands of Travis Hawkins, Jr.  It goes without saying that there is still much to be revealed about this unfortunate event.  In the coming days, weeks, and months, I’m sure we’ll learn more about why Travis viciously attacked Mallory.  In the meantime, let’s just be happy with the fact that the recovery process has begun.  If Travis Sr. hadn’t intervened when he did, one shudders to think of what the outcome would’ve been.

 

Mallory Owens: a Hate Crime in Alabama

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Any man who beats up on a woman has a special place in Hell awaiting him.  Any man who brutally beats a woman nearly to death because of her sexuality not only holds a reservation in Hell but also a warm spot at a penitentiary.  Hopefully, for a long time.

On Thanksgiving, Mallory Owens went to celebrate the holiday with dinner with her girlfriend, Ally Hawkins, at her girlfriend’s family’s home.  Travis Hawkins Jr., Ally’s brother, viciously attacked Mallory, reportedly as the family looked on.  Travis Hawkins, Jr. is just 18-years-old!A man who does this to a woman is no man whatsoever.  According to Mallory’s sister, this isn’t even the first time this woman-beater attacked Mallory, stating that “…he never liked Mallory and Ally to begin with.”  I don’t necessarily like my sister, either, but I’d never raise a hand to hurt her and wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it, either.

There are a few issues involved in this troubling case that makes it even more disturbing.  First of all, how is it that the family “stood around and watched” as this attack took place?  Why aren’t there charges being filed against every one of them who “stood around and watched” as this young woman was being pulverized by a deranged teenager?  If no one intervened during the obvious commission of a crime but remains a witness to it, shouldn’t that make them guilty of “accessory to…” the crime being committed?

Secondly, this attack occurred on Thanksgiving day.  That was Thursday.  Four days ago!  No local Mobile, Alabama picked up the story until this very day, November 26th, four days after the horrendous attack.  In fact, the only reason they were “pushed” into “breaking” the story is because it had begun to circulate and go viral on the social media giant, facebook. Several prominent pages, including Wipe Out Homophobia, STOP Teenage Suicide, and Enough is Enough: the blog page, began to publish the story late morning.  By mid-afternoon, it had gone viral.  It was then that the local stations saw an urgency to push the story.  How can that be?  Why wasn’t this first-page news immediately after it happened.  A 23-year-old lesbian was beaten within inches of her life, and that’s not newsworthy?  Or, was that another “boys will be boys” incident that didn’t require any media attention.  The editors of all of the local Mobile, Alabama media outlets should be ashamed of themselves for failing to bring this story to light.  It shouldn’t have taken a facebook effort to shine light on this travesty.

Thirdly, and most egregious, is what young Travis Hawkins, Jr. is charged with.  For the crime of beating a 23-year-old woman nearly to death, Travis is charged with second degree assault.  Second degree assault!  I know that in the state where I live, second degree assault carries very little time.  The crime Travis Hawkins, Jr. committed on Thanksgiving Day, against Mallory Owens, is attempted murder.  Period.  Further, he should be charged with a hate crime.  Alas, his charge is a simple second degree assault charge for beating a woman so badly, she now has metal plates under each eye socket.  She now has bleeding on the brain.  Her life will never be the same.  Second degree assault.  At the very least, he should’ve been charged with first degree assault.  

In addition to the facebook pages that are responsible for bringing this story the national attention it deserves, there is now a  facebook page dedicated to getting justice for Mallory:  Justice Today – For Mallory.  There is also a petition, that needs signatures!, that is designed to compel the Alabama judicial branch to charge Travis Hawkins, Jr. with what he should’ve been charged with from the beginning:  attempted murder and a hate crime. (at LEAST a first degree assault charge)  Please sign the petition, then pass it on so that others can sign it, as well.

Shame on Travis for beating on a woman; shame on the Mobile, Alabama media for not picking up this story before today; and, shame on the Alabama State’s Attorney’s Office for charging this young thug with a mere second degree assault in the brutal attack.  We demand justice for Mallory, and we won’t rest until we see it.

SIGN THIS PETITION TO BRING TRAVIS HAWKINS, JR. TO JUSTICE:

http://www.change.org/petitions/mobile-county-alabama-prosecutor-bring-travis-hawkins-jr-to-justice

 

More of Jordan Halmich: A Word from a Parent

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We all know by now that bullying has played a role, big and small, in many teen suicides.  You’ve read about some of them here.  If you’ve been a regular follower of this blog, or if you’re a member of the facebook blog page, you’ve also read many times where I’ve said that “…not all teens who commit suicide are LGBT teens, and not all teen suicides are in response to being bullied”.  Over the past year, I’ve watched, both on some of my own blog posts and on other articles, as well, as people would a.) read about another teen suicide and instantly respond “Bullying has to end!!” and/or b.) make a statement that goes like this:  “it’s a shame that these teens are killing themselves for being bullied just because they’re gay.”

NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE IS LGBT; NOT EVERY TEEN WHO COMMITS SUICIDE WAS BULLIED; EVERY SINGLE TEEN SUICIDE IS TRAGIC!  

The mother of Jordan Halmich, one of the three teens who committed suicide in a seven-week period, left a comment on the blog that prompted me to respond to her via email as opposed to simply replying to the comment:

I am the mother of Jordan Halmich, and just to make this all clear, Jordan was not bullied  He didn’t take his own life because of being bullied.  He had been depressed.  He came to me. and I took him the assistant principal and called in the alt ED counselor and had them evaluate him.  At that point, he was given a therapist, which he was seeing as well as had the assistant principal and alt ED teacher whom he trusted.  He talked with Jordan, and I talked as well.  His problem was not being ignored.  I was so upset to see all this published and people just jumping on the bandwagon of what people were saying, that the three suicides were caused from bullying.  Well, I am here to tell you get off that bandwagon and get the story straight:  Jordan Halmich, 16, of St. Clair, took his own life on Sept. 28 due to severe depression that his family and many others were trying to help him with and that we don’t know and never will know the true state of where his mind was that dreadful day that he saw no other way to end his depression that day than to take his own life.   As a parent, to face life everyday without him here, and for his father, his brothers, his other family, and many friends, is the most empty, hurtful feeling to go through in life, so seeing all this online reporting of non-truth about Jordan is hurtful and all the pictures, comments that they dug up and found just goes to show that social media is out of control.  Nothing is private anymore, and that is where the problem truly lies this day and age.

I don’t agree with bullying, and I am not saying it isn’t a problem and that, if it is happening, that it doesn’t need to be addressed or dealt with.  It does.  I always taught my kids that “no one is better than you”, not to ever let anyone make you feel that way and, by all means, you stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone treat you as if you don’t matter.  My kids didn’t let that happen and still don’t.  Jordan was only 5ft 3in and would stand up to someone 6ft tall without fear.  So, believe me, he was not bullied.  I, as a parent, would not let someone bully my children for more than 1 day without me taking care of it, anyway I could, to make it stop.  If we don’t fight for our children, then who will?  It’s our job to love and protect our children, and I take that very seriously.In the blog post, itself, I specified that “It is alleged that he’d been bullied.”  Now, we know for sure that he wasn’t

Last year’s suicide death of Jamie Hubley was similar in that people were, and still are, beating the “bully drum” when, in fact, it wasn’t bullying at all.  The role that bullying played in Jamie’s suicide was miniscule in comparison to the level of depression he was locked in to.  Had he been bullied?  There were a couple of instances.  But, it wasn’t why he ended his life.  Same is true with Jordan Halmich.  Was he bullied?  His mother says a definitive and emphatic “no”.  Jordan suffered from a deep depression that, much like Jamie, no one could save him from despite the efforts of his loved ones.

Following Jamie Hubley’s suicide, I had the honor of meeting several of members of his family.  As was the case with Jordan’s family, they were keenly aware that Jamie wasn’t dealing with severe depression, and they were doing everything humanly possible to help him see his way through it.  What Jordan’s mother said to me was almost identical, nearly verbatim!, to what one of Jamie’s family members told me about his suicide last year:

I just want people to know he was not bullied and I did not turn a blind eye to him or his depression. I was on top of it and got him help from staff, therapists, doctors, his family and friends.  He was not alone.  We were all here and trying to help.  He was an energetic, fun, had a huge heart and was loved by many.  His smile and outgoing attitude made him several friends, and that is way I want him remembered. I don’t want anyone thinking I am, or anyone else is, trying to point fingers and place blame for what he did, and I definitely don’t want it being believed that he was bullied when he wasn’t.

That’s a simple and reasonable request.  Teen suicide is tragic, regardless of the reasoning behind it.  Sure, the pain and even anger are both magnified when bullying is involved; however, the fact of the matter is not every teen suicide is the result of bullying.  In our hard-fought efforts to get both the bullying epidemic and explosion of teen suicides under control, it’s important to the families of those lost to suicide to understand that simple fact.

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Courtney Walker, 14, Bullying-related Suicide

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It won’t be a Happy Thanksgiving in the Walker home this year and, quite possibly, for years to come.  Instead, the Thanksgiving holidays will always be attached to memories of 14-year-old Courtney Walker ending her life on Tuesday, November 13th, reportedly because of being bullied.Courtney’s mother says that she “…saw the warning signs, but she didn’t think they would result in suicide.”  Apparently, Courtney had spoken with her mother “…about a couple of “run-ins” she’d had with a couple of girls at school, but she didn’t say that she was being bullied.”  Describing her daughter as “funny and smart”, Shawn Walker added:

“I talked to her about it and she just laughed like it was a joke,” Walker said. “So we thought she was doing it for attention.”

And, of course, the local law enforcement agency says their investigation, so far, has not found any evidence of bullying.

No evidence of bullying.  That’s beginning to sound like a sick punchline to a morbid, grotesque joke.  The problem, of course, is this is no laughing matter.  A 14-year-old girl is dead.  Her mother says it was brought on from being bullied!  What more evidence do you need?  Once again, the question is what exactly constitutes “evidence of bullying”?  What are they looking for, exactly?  From talking to several family members of young people who have committed suicide already due to being bullied, I can tell you that question is worn thin.  The fact that no one in “official” positions seem capable, or even willing, to do something meaningful that would start making a difference has also played out.  It’s time for answers and results.  Nothing short of that will do.

What, exactly, IS bullying?  How do we define it in terms that would disallow these school and police officials to hide behind the wall of “…no evidence of bullying was found”?  Perhaps being able to answer those two questions would pave the way to stemming this tide of bullying and teen suicides.  Does there need to be physical evidence of bullying?  Would that make their jobs easier?  Does teasing, name-calling, harassing, excluding, or taunting not count as bullying?  Of course it does.  How do you find evidence of that?  And, since it is nearly impossible to find evidence of that, why isn’t the word-of-mouth of people who are or were close to the situation sufficient enough “evidence” for these “officials” to act?  There are just far too many families left with these, and more!, unanswered questions.  Another name is added to the ever-growing list every single day.

My own question to these “officials” would be “do you have children?  And, if yes, how would you expect your child’s situation to be handled if (s)he were being bullied?”  I’ll tell you what you would expect.  You would expect swift and decisive action.  You’d want to make sure that the person(s) doing the bullying was held accountable for their actions.  You’d demand that the school administrators did every single thing in their power to assure your child’s safety and well-being while they were at school.  Most of all, you’d want to make sure that your child was no longer at risk of ending his/her life because of unanswered cries for help from being bullied.  That’s what you’d want.  Why you can’t grasp that that’s what every parent wants is beyond me.  You “officials” aren’t reacting the way you’d expect your own child’s situation to be reacted to.  And, because of that, the cycle continues.  It’s preventable.  One-hundred percent preventable.  What’s needed in order to prevent this from continuing to happen is to become much more proactive rather than reactive.  We can stop this heartbreaking trend.  We can…and, we must.Courtney Walker was a beautiful, “funny and smart” 14-year-old girl.  She should be gearing up for the holiday season with her family right now.  How we, as a society, are continuing to let this happen is mind-boggling to me.

Rest in peace, Courtney.

******************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES******************************

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

THE TREVOR PROJECT

BEFRIENDERS

TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION IN THE U.K.

TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION IN AUSTRALIA

TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION IN CANADA

Kyle Wells, 16, Bullied for Being Gay

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The bad news just keeps getting worse.  I was alerted to this tragedy on the facebook blog page just moments after publishing the blog post about the three teens from St. Clair, MO. Kyle Wells, 16, from Cody, Wyoming ended his life October 30th.  According to his grandmother, she left home to buy some Halloween candy.  When she returned, Cody was already dead.  His grandmother and his best friend, Stephen, both agree that Kyle was bullied.  He was bullied because of his small size.  He was bullied for being gay.

His grandmother says that the bullying, because of his size, started as early as kindergarten.

It started when he was in kindergarten. He was about the size of a two-year old. And the kids would carry him around and call him their baby…He hated that. He wanted to feel as big and important as they were

His angry best friend, Stephen, added that Kyle would not have committed suicide if not for the bullying:

No he would not. He would have not. That’s what caused most of his problems, was the bullying. He’s been bullied for being gay, for being short, pretty much everything he’s done in his life

And, of course, the school officials gave their standard, scripted response:

School officials say they had no reports of bullying before Kyle died

Kyle had a failed suicide attempt two years before, an attempt that led to him being hospitalized in a behavioral and treatment center in Salt Lake City.  Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, his grandmother believes that that affected the way he dealt with bullying.

I’m going to play this song again because not enough people are listening to it.  They’re hearing it, but they’re not paying attention to the message of the lyric.  The time for you, the school officials left in charge of protecting each and every student in your care for every single day of the school year, to stop running from the issue of bullying is long, long past due.  You’re seeing the bullying for yourselves, but you’re looking the other way.  You’re hearing student after bullied student tell you, plead to you!, that they need your help to keep them from the bullying they are enduring, but you’re not listening to them.  Meanwhile, young people are dying needlessly because of it!  Sweeping this issue under the carpet isn’t making it go away.  It won’t go away without your intervention.  So what if you have “…no documentation” of bullying!  You’re SEEING it with your own eyes.  I know you are.  You know you are.  So, why are you continuing to allow these children to die!?  The same can be said about the police officials who rapidly release “official reports” that their “…investigation hasn’t found bullying to be the cause…”.  You KNOW it’s happening.  You know it!!!!  So, why are you rushing to dismiss it?  It’s a huge black eye on the otherwise great work you do.  “Zero tolerance” for bullying is 100% meaningless as long as you, the school officials, and you, the law enforcement communities, are doing nothing to enforce it.  And, the death toll rises.

Kyle Wells’ grandmother says she went to the school a couple of times every year to confer with the administrators about the bullying he was enduring.

“All through school I had to go to the schools once or twice a year, discussing the bullying problems and what was being said to him, and what affects it was having on him and things, and nothing ever changed,” she says.

How many more times do we need to hear that before we understand that there’s a real and serious problem?  How many more lives need to be senselessly lost because of the inaction of the very people who are supposed to be caring for the welfare of each and every student?  These suicides are 100% preventable.  One hundred percent!  To get to that point, however, bully prevention and suicide prevention both need to be taken 100% more seriously.

That Kyle was dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome was trying enough for him.  I know this because I’ve seen it up close and personal.  That Kyle also had to deal with a lifetime of bullying because he was apparently undersized for his age and, then, because of his sexuality proved to be too much for him to handle.  Alone.  He shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.

Rest in peace, Kyle.  You shouldn’t have had to endure what you did.  You definitely shouldn’t have had to deal with it alone.