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

High School Horror: THREE Students Commit Suicide in Seven Weeks

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We’ve got a problem.  And, it’s a huge problem.  It’s common knowledge to anyone with a pulse, by now, that there’s a problem with teen suicide and bullying.  So, I’m not breaking any news there.  The problem we’re facing runs deeper, if that’s possible, than the issues of bullying and teen suicide.  We’re suffering from a paralysis on how to effectively deal with both issues.  And, that’s allowing the issue to continue to spiral out-of-control.

I received notification this morning of three suicides at one school within a seven-week period, ages 14, 16, and 16:  a freshman; a sophomore; and, a junior.  And, where did I get the information from?  A United Kingdom publication!  See, in our country, those who should be sounding the alarm, standing on the tallest buildings and highest mountains screaming through the most powerful sound systems at the top of their lungs that we’ve got ourselves a major problem in this country with bullying and teen suicides are doing their best to sidestep the whole situation.  They sweep it under the proverbial carpet in hopes that it will magically disappear.  They deny the reality that this is happening in our school, in our country, with and to our younger generation.  The problem is that the problem isn’t magically going away.  It’s continuing to worsen.Jordan Halmich ended his life September 28th, one month shy of his 17th birthday.  It is alleged that he’d been bullied. Donna Cooley was found by her father on November 2nd after scrawling words on a mirror indicating that she’d been bullied.Destiny Pearson ended her life just this past Monday, November 12th.  She was a former cheerleader.  Destiny was a very well-rounded 16 year old, enjoying riding horses, karate, sewing, reading and writing.  Her friends deny any allegations that she had been bullied, citing that she was always the one who would stick up for those being bullied.

These three teens were all students at St. Clair High School in St. Clair, Missouri.  As is the norm in cases of teen suicide, the chief of police in St. Clair issued a statement that, of course, “there was no evidence of bullying.”  And, again, I’m at a loss as to where to even start trying to figure this out.  The first question that comes to mind is “what, exactly, is it that they’re looking for as “evidence” of bullying?  Are these bullied teens supposed to be documenting every instance of bullying?  Should they get the documents notarized?  Should they get videos of each instance of bullying?  Or, should they wait until the bullying becomes physical attack, then take pictures of their bruised bodies?  Preposterous questions, all.  Or…are they? Apparently, word-of-mouth accounts from the people who spent time with them day-in and day-out accounts for nil.  Zip.  Nada.  Imagine that!  You go to school with these people everyday.  You are often their close friends.  And, in some cases, you actually witness the bullying with your own eyes.  Other times, they confide in you what’s going on.  YET, when you report that they were being bullied, it falls on deaf ears.  Sound familiar?  That’s never going to solve anything.  Rather, the continuing tendency to sweep this under the carpet is a leading reason why we’re not seeing any progress being made in these instances of bullying and bully-related suicides.

Rather than acknowledge that there is a problem with bullying, this police chief instead attempted to push the focus elsewhere.

Obviously there are a lot of emotional problems with these individuals,’ St Clair police chief Bill Hammack told MailOnline. ‘But each case has specific identifiers.

‘They are dealing with a lot of emotional and mental issues and there’s not one reason connecting three different suicides of three different teenagers across three different jurisdictions.

And, he added:

One common thread that I would see that is occurring is that there is social media involved.

Of course, it’s highly possible that all of the above played a role in the suicides.  In fact, in at least one of the cases, it is documented that there were problems at home as well as at school leading up to the suicide.  And, yes indeed, there is a major issue with teens and social media today.  That goes without saying.  In fact, it is this author’s opinion that today’s young people have entirely too much free reign on the Internet and that, in itself, is only exacerbating an already troubling situation.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  That said, the issue here is neither of those things.

The issue here is bullying amongst teens, and preteens, in the schools.  The issue is bullying and the reluctance to do anything to intervene and/or prevent it.  Oh, of course, many school districts now have anti-bullying policies in place.  Some have very strict “zero tolerance” policies on record.  And, they are very effective.  On paper.  In the real world, in the schools, in the classrooms, they are grossly ineffective.  In the real world, in the schools and classrooms, they may as well be nonexistent.  That’s a problem.

Young people are told to report all bullying incidents “to a trusted adult…teacher…counselor…other school administrator.”  And, they do.  To no avail.  On the facebook blog page, I very often get reports of people who say they reported their bullying only to be blamed for bringing it on themselves!  In other cases, the reports of bullying fall on deaf ears.  Eventually, the victim(s) reach their limit and take matters into their own hand.  The result is rarely ever good.  From being suspended, or expelled!!themselves for being a bully, to going to school armed and prepared to do serious harm to the perpetrator(s), to taking their own life, the result is very rarely good.  The tragedy in that, of course, is that it never has to get to that point.  If these officials would stop sweeping this issue under the carpet and start dealing with it for what it is, an epidemic that costing lives needlessly, we wouldn’t see these things continue to occur.

And, finally, there’s nothing shameful about suicide.  The veil of secrecy must be removed.  Continuing to keep these tragic events secret does much more harm than good.  The belief that making them more public is nonsensical, at best.  The belief that it would cause more, “copycat”, suicides is equally foolish.  In my opinion.  They’re kept under wraps now and, for the most part, they’ve been kept hush-hush for as long as I can remember.  Guess what?  With the cloak of secrecy, suicide has surged to become the #1 cause of injury death, surpassing homicide and car accidents.  As long as there’s this avoidance, this reluctance to put this problem in the spotlight where it belongs, we’re going to continue to see the numbers rise.  A problem can’t be addressed and properly solved if we don’t know what the problem is.  Keeping suicides secret is allowing them to continue to climb in numbers.  That’s not acceptable.

The community of St. Clair, Missouri has a long road of healing ahead of them.  The families and friends of the three suicide victim, a lifetime of grieving.  And, unanswered questions.  My heart goes out to all of them.  In memory of the Jordan Halmich, Destiny Pearson, and Donna Cooley, and all the teen suicide victims before them, and all of the ones who continue to endure bullying, both in school and online, may we never, ever lose the fire that burns within each of us to bring this devastating epidemic to an end.

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14 Responses

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  1. My son was bullied at his school, I witnessed the little scum bags bully him on face book. Fortunately for me my son does stand up for himself but never the less I marched up to the school with my evidence and meet with the principal and yr coordinator. The two bullies in question were punished and the bullying has stopped. My heart goes out to these three young teens who thought they had no option than to take their life. We all need to take a stand for all the bullying going on.

    Michelle

    November 18, 2012 at 10:11 pm

  2. Well and passionately said Ron. It is an epidemic….
    At Grace’s school, the principal has still not spoken her name…she was left out of the yearbook and I recently heard that he wouldn’t put the info about the ‘More Love, Less Bullying’ t-shirt sale in the newsletter so as not to ‘glorify suicide’….
    So first there is system-wide failure to help her, then, she is stigmatized. When does the pain lessen?
    Disgusting and sad.
    Stay Tuned… new legislation being floated…. but until those in charge understand the problem better, we are still in trouble…

    mccomastruth

    November 19, 2012 at 1:38 am

  3. Blowing up suicides on the media isn’t going to solve the problem either. It’s a disrespect to those that lost a what could have been a shameful battle or a motivation to those teetering on the edge to do it with the promise of media attention after death.

    bookworm12k

    November 19, 2012 at 2:07 am

    • I understand what you’re saying. That’s the conventional argument: “it will inspire others to follow suit”. My point is that they’re “following suit”, anyway. It’s not as if keeping them hush-hush is lowering the suicide rate. I’m not necessarily saying that each individual name, and each individual story, needs to be publicized. However, the overall situation, and the severity of it, really needs to be brought to light rather than continuing to tip-toe around it. I’m no professional, but it just seems to me that that would certainly help more than the status quo.

      Ron Kemp

      November 19, 2012 at 2:11 am

  4. I lived in St.Clair for 32 years. What’s sad is there is little to nothing positive going on in that town for teens or pre-teens to do. They are middle to lower income families with few resources for quality family entertainment. When you live in a place that refuses to grow into a town that could support young folks then they are left to their own devices. Adolescence is a difficult and confusing time when kids need people to spend quality time with them doing positive things to better their lives and community. In St.Clair they never run out of two things, drugs and drama. Not a town I wanted my children growing up in, we moved to Springfield. St.Clair would be wise to look at other places that focus on the family and not on store after store of old used junk. It’s become a sad sad place since I was a kid….

    Inzzbruk

    November 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm

  5. […] the issues of bullying and teen suicide.  We’re suffering from a paralysis on how to effectively deal with both issues.  And, that’s allowing the issue to continue to spiral […]

  6. One question: How did you get word of United States teen suicides in a United Kingdom newspaper? That’s odd, even if the situation is tragic. How come this wasn’t featured in a newspaper in Missouri?

    yawriterinthemaking

    November 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm

  7. Quote: ” The death of one man is a tragedy,the death of millions ,a statistic.” —Joseph Stalin
    Media or not, stories like these appear on page 18 in any newspaper. No one does anything about it because it does not involve their own. Trying to stop teen suicides because of bullying is impossible because most of the time it goes unreported. Sadly it will continue unless we all climb up on the ” save our children” bandwagon and affect the sad outcome of doing nothing.

    Rick Fernandez sr.

    November 20, 2012 at 4:05 am

  8. […] High School Horror: THREE Students Commit Suicide in Seven Weeks (ronskemp.wordpress.com) […]

  9. St. Clair school’s principals just sweep all the bullying under the rug. And teachers fear speaking up because they are afraid of losing their job. Us St. Clair residents/students, are marking the one year anniversary of these tragic losses. The school should have closed for a few days to give kids time to cope! Come on some students, my child, lost three friends in seven weeks and was expected to come to school and perform as usual. The children at that age have a hard time dealing with emotions, much less the mourning of three classmates! I have another child in the school district, doing what I can to get them out, and the bullying my child is facing is ruthless! I was up at the school every day last year and nothing was accomplished. My child got threatened instead of the bullies. This year the bullying has started again! They do not care!! You are right they are sweeping it under the rug. There was more than the suicides listed here at St. Clair school’s last year! A 8th grade girl that was here for less than a month was bullied to the point of suicide as well. She also had a sister in 7th grade and the kids here are, “SO MEAN”, they started taunting her! They would go to the surviving sister and say, “where is ….”, then say, ” Oh yeah that’s right she HUNG herself!” and laugh!! And NONE of those students got in trouble…. NONE There was another successful suicide as well! So, that is “5”, and there were countless attempts, thank god they weren’t successful, these schools need an intervention! The staff needs to be replaced with people who have enough morals to do the right thing instead of keeping secrets!

    Concerned Parent

    October 24, 2013 at 6:37 am

    • This is truly, truly frightening. Thank you for the added information.

      Ron Kemp

      October 24, 2013 at 8:03 am

    • Posted: Saturday, March 16, 2013 12:48 pm | Updated: 7:43 pm, Sat Jun 22, 2013.

      By Keith E. Domke St. Clair Missourian Editor

      The St. Clair R-XIII School District is dealing with its fourth student suicide of the academic year after a 13-year-old junior high school student was found dead in her Crawford County home on Tuesday evening.

      Concerned Parent

      October 25, 2013 at 7:13 am


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