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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

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.

*************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES (USE THEM!!!)*************************





ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

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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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page


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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ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

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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Hailey Petee, 11: Bullying leads to suicide

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It’s really not getting any better.  This one is as painful as they come.  Hailey Petee was 11-years-old.  Eleven years old!  The preteen girl from London, Ohio ended her life over the weekend.  Her lifeless body was found by her mother very early Sunday morning.haley peteeI don’t even know where to start.

It is reported that the London, Ohio school district is very proactive when it comes to bullying.  In fact, officials as well as Hailey’s mother have said that the bullying she endured didn’t occur in school or on the school grounds.  Rather, she was apparently severely bullied by middle-schoolers while riding her school bus.  Her mother explains that Hailey was tormented by these middle-schoolers on the school bus as well as around town.  It became so bad, they had to change Hailey’s bus route to avoid them.  Further, she was also restricted on where she could go around town, and with whom.  “She couldn’t even go to the park anymore”, says her grieving mother.  Apparently, even that wasn’t enough.

One of the bullies was an adult, a “neighborhood woman who had a daughter Hailey’s age”:

A neighborhood woman who has a daughter Hailey’s age was charged in October with disorderly conduct and telephone harassment. According to the police report, she had been yelling and cursing at Hailey when she saw the girl outside, and she had been taunting the family on Facebook. (The Columbus Dispatch)Hailey_Petee_CLH

Hailey Petee reportedly hated to wear the thick-framed glasses she was forced to wear in order to see.  They were a source of her harassment.  She was a very pretty young lady, glasses or no.

So, now what?  Here’s a case where the parents were proactive and did what any good parent would do to protect the welfare of their child.  It wasn’t enough.  The school system at least appears to be one of the few proactive systems that actually takes bullying very seriously and takes action when they hear of incidences of bullying.  It wasn’t enough!

Increasingly, people seem to be coming to the realization that one step that has to be implemented is there absolutely has to be some sort accountability placed on these people who are determined to wreak havoc on other people’s lives.  hailey's motherThey know what they’re doing is wrong!  They know what they’re doing is malicious!  They know that bullying is leading some to suicide!  Yet, the continue to do it anyway!  Why?  Well, there’s no one right answer; however, there are a few that comes immediately to mind:

  • they know that there will be no consequences;
  • they just don’t care;
  • no one is taking the time to teach them any better;
  • their older role models (parents, older siblings, older friends) are showing them, by example, that it’s okay to be a bullying.  It doesn’t matter what you do or say to another human being, even if it mean they end up committing suicide.

Dispute any one of those, and I’ll tell you you’re not paying attention to what’s going on.  It’s really that simple.  We are a society in great turmoil.  It’s hard to convince young people that bullying is wrong when they continuously see adults in their lives do it.  Role models.  Parents.  Teachers, in some cases.  Politicians.  Religious leaders.  Look around you!!  There are great examples of “it’s okay to bully others” in our faces every single day…by adults!  I’ll continue to say this until I’m blue in the face that in order to address this epidemic, what must start with the adults.  Period.  There is just no other way out of this.

Even on the facebook blog page, a page that is dedicated to a.) this blog; and, b.) raising anti-bullying awareness, it’s split 60/40, with the 40% being of the “suck-it-up-and-grow-a-backbone” mentality.  That gives you a snapshot of how deep-rooted this problem is.  How can we begin to work on teaching these young people that bullying is just plain wrong, how can we think about saving these young people from ending their lives, if we can’t come together, ourselvesas adults, on finding a solution?  Meanwhile, the young people are watching…and, listening.  And, we’re continuing to see the sad results of our indecisiveness.  WE need to figure this out!

I often get the argument “I was bullied when I was in school, but I didn’t kill myself!  There’s always been bullying.  These kids today are just soft.”  Someone posted a similar comment last night.  My response is worth repeating here:

Yes, make no mistake: bullying has ALWAYS been around…in one form or another. Here’s the difference with today’s kids, and bullying. You and I couldn’t send texts; you and I couldn’t tweet; you and I didn’t have facebook; there was no WE DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET! The Internet has changed EVERYTHING!!! For starters, yes, today’s youth’s coping skills aren’t what ours were back then. You know why? Because they don’t get enough opportunity to interact, read: cope, in REAL LIFE!!!! Everything is OMG!!!, LOL!!!!, etc. These kids live their lives in the cyber-world. So, naturally, their coping skills are lagging from when you and I were in school. (thank GOD there was no Internet back then!!!!) Secondly, and this is important to understand, bullying in our day had a whole different face than bullying does today. I dealt with the schoolyard bullies, push you around, call you names, take your lunch money…the typical stuff back then. Big deal. Once the last bell rang for the day, WE WERE FREE!!!! We went home, we did our homework (maybe), then we were outside playing with our friends. That was then. Once again, today’s youth are cyber-kids. Therefore, bullying has the potential of being a 24/7 ordeal. Texts don’t end at the last bell of the day; tweets don’t stop just because they’re no longer in school; facebook status updates and comments proliferate after school for these kids. The bullying has the potential of NEVER ending!! We absolutely must stop comparing their world to ours if we’re ever going to figure this out. Two completely different worlds! These kids are in serious trouble unless, and until, we adults figure something out.Story haley

We, the adults, are failing these young people miserably.  They looking to us to lead them out of this disaster, and we’re dropping the ball.  Again, and again, and again.  In young Hailey’s case, it seems that everyone actually did do everything they could to prevent it from coming to this.  It just didn’t work out that way.  Now, they must go that next step and identify these youngsters who mercilessly bullied Hailey and make certain that they are held accountable for their actions.  There’s no other way.  As long as they realize that nothing is going to happen to them, they will continue doing what they’re doing.  And, we’ll continue losing one young life after another.  We can do better.  We owe it to this generation to do better.

Rest in peace, Hailey

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

A Guide for Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Enough is Enough: the blog page

Jadin Bell, 15: Bullied for Sexuality Leads to Suicide

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By now, Jadin Bell’s name isn’t news to anyone.  The story began to circulate even before he had taken his last breath.  Days before that, one of his relatives who is also a member of the facebook blog page had told about this tragic turn of events.  We knew this day was coming.jadin-bell-21680Jadin Bell was just 15.  He was vibrant.  He was a cheerleader.  He was bullied, “viciously”, both at school and online, because of his sexuality.  Jadin’s suicide is particularly troubling for me on a few levels:

  • It has a “hit’s home” feel because his relative had been talking to me about even before the Internet media machine picked up on the story.  His relative has been a part of the facebook blog page for quite some time.  Family;
  • It shows that for all of the historic and marvelous gains the LGBT community has made just over the past year, we still have so very far to go.
  • It, at once, saddens and angers me that, in 2013, we’re still dealing with bullying and intolerance to a point where young people feel no other way out but to end their lives.

The question is asked regularly:  “When will this end?”  It’s often accompanied by “What can I do to help make this stop?”  They are two very powerful questions, questions that must be answered before we can expect to see any real changes in this landscape of bullying, intolerance, sexual identification discrimination, and teen suicides.  Of course, there are more factors that must be dealt with, as well.  The point is clear:  more must be done!

“When will this end?”  “This” will end when more people become fed up with seeing these young people feel that the only option they have to end the pain and struggle they’re dealing with is to end their lives.  “This” will end when we, as a society, stop tip-toeing around the scoundrel named bullying and tackle it head-on.  “This” will end when can finally come together on what is the best way to address the issue of bullying and bully-related teen suicides.  We’re still miles apart on that part of the equation!

There is something inherently wrong with the way we’re teaching our young when middle-schoolers believe that bullies are the cool kids!!!  Yet, an article I read just today reports a study that says exactly that!  Surely, tackling the bullying issue in middle school will continue to be difficult, at best, as long as the students there believe that the bullies are the cool ones.

“What can I do to help…”  Get involved!!  Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  There is a Jacob Rogers right there under your nose who just needs someone to let him know that he really does matter, that he’s not invisible, that there really is someone who will stand beside him as he tries to get his footing in life.  There is a Jadin Bell right there in your backyard that needs someone to let him know that he’s perfect just as he is, that he has a lot to offer the world, that the bullying he’s enduring right now will end.  

See, this isn’t rocket science!  What’s needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!  Is your son or daughter a bully?  How do you know?  “Because they said they’re not!”  Really?  How do you know?  You need to know in order to prevent it.  Is your child being cyberbullied?  Then, why on Earth is (s)he still online!?  Simple things.  What is needed is for more people to become more deeply and directly involved in the business of saving these young people’s lives.  Period!jadin cheerleading
Jadin was a cheerleader.  He was loved by his friends and, obviously, family.  One friend said of Jadin:

Jadin is one of the best people I have ever met. He makes everyone around him feel good all the time.

A friend of the family had this to say about him:

He was different, and they tend to pick on the different ones. If someone was down and out he would walk into a room and say a couple quick words and everybody would just forget about their problems and smile. He just had a gift.

“He just had a gift”, a gift that the world has been robbed of.  Enough really is enough.  This really does have to end.  The time really has come for us, as a society, to dig in, roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and bring this torturous chapter to a screeching halt.

So sorry you felt no other way out, Jadin.  Rest in peace.

******************SUICIDE IS NOT AN OPTION!!  TALK TO SOMEONE…PLEASE!!!!******************




ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

Duncan Ballard, 14: Family Says Suicide Was Due to Bullying

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On New Year’s Day, 14-year-old Duncan Ballard ended his life.  The family of the eighth-grader says that his suicide was the result of bullying.

Duncan Alexander BallardIt’s hard to imagine that, in the year 2013, with all of the glory of the Internet and the “Information Age”, non-stop 24/7 news outlets, and social networks that, at times, supersedes the news outlets, that we are still trying to figure out how to put an end to the bullying that is causing teens to end their lives.  It been said here to the point of repetitiveness that anyone, anyone!!, who doesn’t know by now that bullying is at the root of far-too-many teen suicides either has their head buried (fill in your own expression completion), or they just flat-out don’t care.  Either case is problematic.

Stories continue to pour in, on a daily basis, to the facebook blog page telling about being bullied, sometimes severely so.  And, almost always, the stories are pretty much the same:  They’re getting bullied at school; the teachers/school administrators pretty much turn a blind eye and do nothing; depression is followed by self-harm (in one way or another).  And, sadly, sometimes it comes to this.  Yet, even when it does come to this, STILL nothing is done.  It’s as if today’s youth are expendable.  They’re not.  Not by a long shot.

Duncan’s family described him as different, loving, smart.  Creative.  He was a songwriter and liked to write and sing his songs.  He was also, they say, being “picked on” both at school and at home by his peers.  New Year’s Day, he reached his breaking point.  He went to the upstairs of his family’s house and ended his life.

As for the responses from both the school administration and the Marion police department, you can recite their answers from memory.  It doesn’t change much.

So, then, what IS the answer?  How do we even begin to get across to these young schoolyard bullies that their behavior is a.) unacceptable; and, b.) causing severe harm and even death?  How do we get them to care!!??  How do we get the officials to change their mindset and approach when it comes to bullying?  How do we get them to care!?  And, how do we get the bullying victims, themselves, to understand that they’re stronger than they realize, that this incredibly cruel and sometimes even criminal behavior they’re enduring now will definitely pass?  It’s unfortunate that in 2013 there are still so many unanswered questions.  It’s even more unfortunate that there are still young people who are ending their lives because of the actions of a few, actions that there are no repercussions for!!!!  

Duncan Ballard should still be here, writing and singing his songs.  Putting smiles on people’s faces, and in their hearts.  Instead, some mean-spirited, perhaps even hateful kids chose him to pick on, to exercise their own low self-esteem on.  They pushed him to the end of his young rope.  Worse, there will be no consequences for their actions.  Count on it.  And, before you naysayers chime in with the “nobody-made-him-end-his-life; he-chose-to-do-that” rhetoric, save it for some of the parents of some of these young suicide victims where bullying was involved.  I’m certain they’d have a thing or two to say to you about it.

Rest in peace, Duncan.  I sure wish I could’ve heard some of your music.

********************SUICIDE IS NEVER THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!********************




ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page


Dillion Burns, 18, Death by Suicide

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The New Year holiday wasn’t happy for everyone.  On New Year’s Eve, 18 year old Dillion Burns ended his life after, allegedly, being bullied because of his sexuality. dillion burns2At this point, Pennsylvania appears to be running away with the dubious distinction of being the teen suicide capital of the 2012-2013 school year.  It’s a distinction no one should be comfortable with having.

Apparently, one of the contributing factors in Dillion’s suicide was a facebook page designated to bullying people in the Erie area of Pennsylvania:  “Erie on Blast”.  From the information I was able to gather, there was at least one other teen suicide attributed to the activities on that page with at least one other attempted suicide.  The page has since been removed.

Of course, as has become the norm, the local law enforcement are stating that there’s “no evidence” of “criminal activity”, meaning there was no bullying involved.  And, granted, it would be highly unlikely that whatever occurred on “Erie on Blast” was the sole reason for Dillion’s fateful decision.  That said, this event once again reveals a total failure in our society to deal with the bullying, cyberbullying, and related teen suicides.

As adults, we’re failing miserably to get a handle on what’s going on, both in this country and around the world, insofar as these incidences are concerned.  It’s almost as if it’s not being taken seriously at all.  Or, at the very least, it isn’t being given the gravity it so obviously needs.  If that were not the case, if bullying, cyberbullying, and teen suicides were being treated as the epidemic they represent, we’d be seeing dramatic declines in all three activities.  That’s not the case.

Young people are failing to get the message that their actions are costing lives.  Or, they just don’t care.  Maybe it’s a combination of the two.  In either case, this fails back on the adults.  Teen suicide has been a fairly prominent topic for the past few years.  Bullying and cyberbullying have both become a national dinner table topics.  There is zero probability that these young people don’t know that their words and actions are causing their peers to end their lives.  Therefore, the only plausible answer has to be that they flat-out just don’t care.  And, that’s a problem of catastrophic proportions.

One necessary solution to this problem is to rid ourselves, as a society, of the cloak of secrecy that surrounds these events.  Keeping these teen suicides and bully-related teen suicides secret is not helping anything.  Granted, it’s the families right to privacy, and grieving the sudden and incredibly traumatic loss of a young loved one to suicide can be devastating.  I get it.  At the same time, the more these events are kept in the shadows, the more pervasive the problem becomes.  As long as no one knows the true impact this is having, the perception will remain that “it’s really not as bad as some people are making it sound”.  In fact, it’s that bad, and even worse.  I’ve stopped counting for this school year, but I know that I have written about more than 40 teen suicides since the beginning of the school year.  FORTY!!!!  And, rest assured, there has been many more than the 40 or so that I know about.  Therein lies the problem…or, at least part of the problem.  Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.dillion burnsAccording to unidentified sources, Dillion had been bullied because of his bisexuality.  Here’s a cold, hard fact:  It’s pure folly for us to even begin to entertain the possibility of young people being more tolerant and accepting of ALL people, regardless of their race or sexual orientation as long as they continue to see adults in their lives be intolerant and bigoted.  Simple fact.  And, the reality is that they need look no further than their televisions, their computers, or (in some cases) their own dinner table.  The negative role models are everywhere.  They young people are being taught that their actions are normal, acceptable, and, in some cases, even expected.

Dillion Thomas Burns didn’t even get a chance to ring in the new year.  To think that he ended his life at least in part because of someone else’s callousness, coldness, and general disrespect for human life is, to me, beyond reprehension.  This isn’t going to end on its own, and talking about “it must end” is proving to be futile.  Like the young man who created the facebook page, Get Rid of Erie on Blast, in response to Dillion’s tragic suicide, we need more and more people to step up and get involved.  It’s the only way we’re going to make a difference.

Rest in peace, Dillion.

********************SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!!!!********************




ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: the blog page

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

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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