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Archive for December 2012

Jessica Laney, 16: Ask.fm Named in Yet Another Teen Suicide

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Sunday night, December 9th, 16-year-old Jessica Laney ended her young life.  Friends say cyberbullying endured on the infamous website Ask.fm was at the root of the suicide.  That’s strike three!Jessica LaneyI don’t know which is more maddening:  the fact that now three teenagers that we know about have ended their lives after enduring relentless cyberbullying on the same website, or that the officials in this case are reciting the same road-weary lines that we hear time after time.

“Our thoughts and prayers go to the Jessica Marie Laney’s family as they deal with their loss.  (Pasco County Sheriff’s Office) is not aware of any formal complaint to the Pasco School District or PSO about her being bullied,” said Doug Tobin, Public Information Officer for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

Ask.fm is under fire, and rightfully so.  In just the past three months, three teenaged girls have ended their lives because of reportedly being severely cyberbullied on the website…a website where one can post and comment anonymously, leaving them free to menace, harass, and abuse without fear of retribution.  Obviously, there’s a problem afoot that needs to be addressed.  The question is, however, “how do we go about addressing it in a way that will be effective?  Do we call for the website to simply be shut down?  There’s a petition circulating right now that calls for exactly that.  If you believe that’s the answer, here’s the link for you to go and sign the petition.  Will shutting down the beleaguered website solve the problem?  Or, will the guilty parties simply find other websites to go to with their menacing activities?  In all likelihood, the latter would come into play.  And, that presents a bigger, even more realistic problem that we’re seemingly overlooking:  these young people who are continuing to do this have absolutely no regard for human life and need to be held accountable.  But, then, there’s the issue of the parents of those who do the bullying.

Listen, here’s breaking news for all who don’t already know it:  there is a two-headed epidemic in our society today that’s decimating today’s young generation:  bullying and bully-related suicides.  Apparently, that news has yet to reach a portion of our population because, with as much as bullying and bully-related teen suicide is in the news, these occurrences are not only continuing to happen, they are increasing in both numbers and intensity.  For these kids to be posting comments like “why don’t you go kill yourself?” or “nobody even likes you, anyway” or “everybody would be better off if you were dead” even though bullying, cyberbullying, and bully-related teen suicide are all in the news regularly, one can only draw one conclusion:  they don’t give a damn about human life.  And, that level of indifference can only point back to the homes.

Will holding these troubled young people legally responsible for cases of bullying and bully-related suicide make a difference?  We can look at New Jersey for answers.  With one of the nation’s toughest anti-bullying laws on the books, the teens responsible in the Lennon Baldwin bully-related suicide were charged and jailed for the bullying that led up to the suicide.  In fact, an attack on Lennon by one of the three young men was caught on video.  The two juveniles involved were sentenced to two years probation, which sounds like a wrist slap, to be sure, but it keeps them on a short leash for the next two years.  The third person, an adult at the time of the assault and consequent bullying that pushed Lennon over the edge, is still awaiting his fate.  Is this what is needed to, once-and-for-all, bring this chapter to an end?  Or, is this just putting a bandage on a gaping wound?

Then, there’s the parents.  The reality is that when the shit hits the fan and someone is actually forced to answer for their actions, there’s always a parent, or parents, who quickly utters the “my-child-would-never-do-anything-to-harm-anyone” clause.  Human nature, perhaps, yet reckless and irresponsible in these cases.

What’s needed are wholesale changes in how we are going about this.  We can continue to talk about it until we’re blue in the face.  It’s not changing anything!  We can continue to shake our heads and say all of the appropriate catch-phrases that comes along with these tragedies.  Pick one.  It’s not changing anything!!  First and foremost, in every school and in every home across the country (and, around the world!), we have to have sit-down, face-to-face, honest dialogue about what’s going on and what definitive steps we can take, starting today!, to prevent it from continuing.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!  Secondly, as it continues to happen from this day forward, there needs to be real accountability and real consequences.  Period.  I mean, come on, is it really acceptable, at this stage of the game, to hear a young person utter the meaningless words “I (we) were just playing around.  I (we) didn’t mean for him/her to do this.”? Emphatically, the answer is no!  It is not acceptable, if only for the simple reason that we’ve seen this in the news and on social media sites long enough now to have a full understanding that this is a serious problem…an epidemic.  And, real lives are being lost.  And, finally, it’s time to hold these law enforcement agencies and school officials’ feet to the fire.  They’re getting off completely scot-free!  “Our records indicates no reports of bullying”.  Not acceptable.  Dig deeper.  Work harder.  Erase that culture you’ve helped create that allows these youngsters to feel comfortable in continuing to bully and cyberbully even as it continues to lead to teenagers ending their lives.  As long as they understand that there will be no real consequences, they have no compelling reason to change their behaviors.Jessica_Laney3_517219795For the sake of Jessica Laney, and the far-too-many who have gone before her, it’s time to quit talking about how sad, how outrageous this is and start doing some things that will bring this scourge to a screeching halt.

Rest in peace, Jessica.

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Joshua David Pacheco, 17: Bullied Because of Being Gay

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Tuesday, November 27th, I received this from the creator of Wipe Out Homophobia.  It was sent to him from one of his members:

Today my friend’s good friend, a seventeen year old boy by the name of Josh, killed himself after being continuously bullied for being gay. Josh had his whole life ahead of him, but the ignorant and hateful words of others caused that to be taken away from him. How many people need to die before this world realizes that something is wrong with the way we are treating people?! The constitution states that every human being has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Josh was as human as any of the rest of us, yet he was stripped of all of those rights. This needs to change. No matter gay, straight, or anything else, we all are human, and therefore must all stand up for equal human rights. Please, think before you speak, and make an effort to stand up for those around you. Together we can put a stop to this. Rest in peace, Josh. ♥♥josh pachecoJosh was a junior at Linden High School.  His mother describes him as:

“…very sensitive, to others’ needs and feelings but also to his own,” He gave his whole self fully to any person he could.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough as boys from his school constantly and severely bullied Josh until he couldn’t take it anymore.  In talking to the person who originally alerted me about this tragedy, Rachelle, I was able to learn from one of his close friends, through Rachelle, some of the horrors he had to endure.

All I know is that he was bullied in our theatre class by three boys. He felt very uncomfortable. One even went as far as to tell him he spent a lot of time on his knees. He wouldn’t tell everyone who all of them were.josh pacheco2

“That, in and of itself, does constitute bullying although it doesn’t really seem as though it would be enough to push Josh, or anyone over the edge”, is what some would probably say to those charges.  And, on one level, I guess it would make sense.  However, when you add that to other direct information, coming from one of Josh’s friends, it’s a lot easier to understand why he felt he had no other choice:

[members of] the Linden football team pushed him around, [urinated] on him and taped him to his locker.

That action is reprehensible and repulsive.  More to the point, there are obviously people – or, at least one person! – who knows about this.  It is incumbent upon that person, or those people, to come forward with any and all information they have pertaining to this.  Those boys who did this need to be held accountable.  Their actions caused another human being to end his life.  It’s not enough to say that their karma will take care of it.  They need to be dealt with in the here and now.  Anything less is unacceptable.

“Josh would never give us names. He was so intimidated by these kids who picked on him,” Josh’s father, said. “If he would have given me or the school details, we would have handled it. Don’t be afraid to speak out. You need to tell people what’s going on.”

This has gone on far too long!  We’re all aware of the devastating effects bullying can have on people, especially teens!  The “STOP BULLYING!” conversation has been going on long enough, and in enough different forums, that I’m fully, 100% convinced that a.) it’s impossible for any human being with a shred of intelligence to not know what’s going on and what it’s causing; and, b.) those who continue to engage in these actions are simply, and clearly, saying that they just don’t give a rat’s ass about the potential outcome.  And, with that being the case, and seeing the death toll continue to mount, explain to me, slowly so that I can understand it, why these people are not being held accountable?

“He told me he felt like he wasn’t good enough. He said if he lost weight he would be happy,” Joshua’s mother said. “But he wasn’t. Then, he said if he came out [as a homosexual], he would be happy. Then, it was if the kids at school stopped teasing him. He came to me and said he still didn’t feel happy. I realized then it wasn’t something, being a mom, that I could fix.”

These “kids” are being allowed to engage in actions that are completely devastating lives.  Not only are their actions leading to suicides, there are countless families and friends whose lives are being decimated.  How is it fair that they are continuously given a free pass?  In this case, where there is at least one person who knows for certain who was doing this to Joshua Pacheco, it is imperative to bring that information to the light.  Knowing that someone taped another human to their locker and urinated on them is simply not something to be kept secret, especially now that we know what those actions have led to.

What we’re seeing today is a generation of young people who simply don’t care about people around them or, in some cases, human life in general.  Certainly not the entire generation, but enough to have an impact.  And, we’re seeing the drastic consequences on a near-daily basis.  One of my treasured associates had this to say, just moments ago as a comment on yet another post about yet another teen who had been bullied to the point of ending his life:

The several known kids who bullied Jamey Rodemeyer, who died 9/18/2011, were subjects of a criminal investigation. The result: five-day suspensions from school. They had hard evidence of online posts telling him to kill himself, AND, the kids were still bullying him after his death. His sister went to a school dance not too long after Jamey’s death, and when Jamey’s favorite song came on, the bullies began chanting “You’re better off dead! We’re glad you’re dead!” This whole situation has long since reached the point of being unbelievably horrible. Yet this country is like the proverbial frog in a pot of heating water–we’ve gradually gotten so used to the deadly situation that we don’t even notice death.

You know we’ve become a desensitized society when the youth of our society have no problem committing acts that they know can lead to another person’s death yet continue doing it.  Often times even after their victim has ended their life.  How is it that we’re okay with this being who we’ve become as a people?

So sorry this had to happen to you, Josh.  Rest in peace.joshua pacheco

David Q. Phan, 14, Death by Suicide

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Thursday, November 29th, 14-year-old David Phan had a meeting, along with his mother, with the school principal.  They left school together around 1:30 p.m.  Around 3:00, David returned to a skybridge near Bennion Junior High School, where he was a 9th grader, and committed suicide in front of schoolmates and a few parents.david phanAs police and school officials are, once again, downplaying to allegations that David had been bullied, students who went to school with him and knew him offer a completely different story:

“He was nice to everyone, even if sometimes people weren’t nice to him,” says a fellow ninth-grader.

“I just don’t understand why people can bully him and be OK with it,” said another student. “He was a really sweet kid and didn’t hurt anybody. He didn’t do anything wrong”

“They were just mean to him for no reason,” said yet another.

So, it’s apparent that those around him on a daily basis understood that David was, indeed, being bullied.  For what reason remains a mystery at the point.  What’s also apparent is that, once again, the police and school officials are, at least at this early stage, letting another teen suicide with bullying implications slip through the cracks.

“He was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever known,” said yet another fellow ninth-grader.

He remembered when the teen had bought him a drink and never expected to be paid back for it.  But other students picked on him, this student went on to say. His classmates and friends said he was bullied and called names at school.phan2These are real-life people, schoolmates and parents, sharing real-life unimaginable grief because some people still find it okay to be abusive, be insulting, be exclusionary, to…bully.  They have no regard for the pain and destruction that they know they’re causing.  They don’t give a good damn that some of these young people are ending their own lives behind the senselessness of bullying.  They flat-out do.  not.  care.  One reason for the nonchalance is they aren’t seeing any sort of consequences for this behavior anywhere!!!phanAnd, because there are no consequences anywhere, ever, for these cases of bullying that lead to suicide, scenes like this are being played out every single day somewhere around the world.

“Our investigation hasn’t found any indication of bullying….”  Sound familiar?

Because no one is ever held accountable, not ever, in these cases, the young people who do the bullying have become emboldened in their actions.  Emboldened, their troubling behavior continues even as it continues to contribute to the growing number of teen suicides.  You don’t think the number is growing (over last year)?  So far this school year, I’ve personally reported on now-40 teen suicides.  That’s just since the end of August.  But, wait.  That number doesn’t account for the additional 5-6 that I know occurred but was never able to gather any information.  That includes two right here in my own backyard.  Worst still, that 40 only represents the ones that I’ve reported on.  Make no mistake:  there have been at least that many more that we haven’t heard about.  And still, with all of the statistical data right there for us all to review, with the hundreds, perhaps thousands!, of family members and friends who are left to grieve and struggle and wonder every single day for the rest of their own lives because our society still condones the actions that lead these teens to commit suicide.  Condones?  Yes, condones.  By remaining silent, or sweeping it under the proverbial rug, or simply turning a blind eye, you are condoning the behavior.  

Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.  His mother and he met with the principal, in a closed-door meeting, the day of his suicide.  Upon leaving the meeting to go home with his mother, David was checked for weapons.  Something, obviously, was going terribly wrong with David Phan.

Of course, the police and school administrators report “no sign of bullying”.

Are you getting angry, yet?  You should be.

So, once again I say, to you David Phan, I’m sorry that we, as a society, let you down.  You should be enjoying those friends who loved you so much and getting ready for Christmas.  Rest in peace.

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