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

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 Ask.fm. 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

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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!!!!******************

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Jerad Meriweather, 13: Parents Blame Bullying for Suicide

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” Vibrant”, “prolific writer”, “brilliant mind”.  These are just some of the accolades bestowed upon 13-year-old Jerad Meriweather, who committed suicide Friday, January 18th.jerad meriweatherThe dual dilemma of bullying and bully-related suicides amongst teens is not going away.  Far from it.  We’re actually seeing an acceleration of incidences where bullying has been named as the root cause, or at the very least a contributor, to another teen ending his or her young life.  It’s a runaway train of a broken record.  Worse, the “officials” responses and handling of these cases are both irresponsible and mind-numbingly repetitive.

“There is no record of ______ ever being bullied”.

“Our records show that bullying was not involved in this case.”

Clearly, I could go on and on with the typical responses we hear time and time again.  Meanwhile, we’re seeing case after case of another teen’s life cut short, by their own hand, in which families and friends name bullying as the culprit.  What concerns me is that we are continuing to allow them to get away with being irresponsible in the handling of these cases.jerad meriweather2

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

Here’s what we know about bullying cases:  there’s rarely a “record on file” of it because these young people are afraid and/or reluctant to come forward with it.  They’re told over and over to “talk to someone”, to “tell a trusted adult”, “talk to your counselor”, all good things, to be sure.  However, what experience teaches them is that even if they do report it, typically one of these three things will happen:

  1. Reporting it will only lead to more bullying, of at a heightened level of intensity;
  2. THEY get labeled the problem, the troublemaker, as if it’s their fault that someone else  lacks so badly in self-control and self-esteem that they have to find others to pick on…typically someone they perceive to be weaker than themselves;
  3. Nothing.  Nothing at all.  I hear over and over and over ad nauseam about cases where the bullied reported it to “the responsible adult” only to have nothing done about it at all.  I guess the solace we could find here is that at least in the event the worst were to happen, there actually would be something “on record”.  

vigil for jeradFar too often, families and friends are having to say goodbye to their young loved one because…well…we, as a society, have yet to figure out how to get a firm grip on the bullying and bully-related suicides.  We’re failing miserably at coming up with a solid plan-of-action that will reduce the roar of bullying and bully-related suicides to a dull murmur.  The cost of that failure is a seemingly endless stream of teen suicides.  Teens, like Jerad Meriweather, who, by all accounts, was a shining star in the making.  At the same time, we must also work harder to understand another common component in teen, or any, suicide:  depression.  Did Jerad deal with depression and bullying.  Well, that question will remain unanswered for a lifetime.  However, according to Gerald, Jerad’s father, his son…

…devoured books and wrote essays that were better than work by adult authors. One essay about depression won Jerad an award at school in October.

 Of course, writing an awarding winning essay about it doesn’t mean that he was dealing with it, himself.  He could’ve very well been looking at it through the eyes of one of his close friends:

Jerad had a circle of close friends whom he cared about deeply and was known to take on their pain and troubles as if they were his own.

“Passionate” is how Gerald Meriweather described his son.  From everything I’ve read about him, “incredible” would have to be added to the many accolades.  It’s maddening that we, as adults, cannot figure a way to prevent this from continuing to happen.  It’s shattering, to me, to continue to see these young faces appear with the word “suicide” attached.  But, it’s heart-wrenching to see that we, as a society and as adults!, we’re still failing so miserably at preventing this to happen.  They deserve so much more.  They deserve a lifetime.

Rest in peace, Jerad.

Brenden Robert Lumley, 16: Depression, “…the worst bully…” Claims his Life

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Every time I learn about another teen suicide, it wrenches my heart.  Sometimes, I even get overwhelmed writing about them.  And, sometimes, I just cry.  That was the case as I read about Brenden Lumley’s suicide, which occurred on December 9th, read over some of the information, and looked at some of the pictures that his loyal and devoted friends and family are posting on the facebook memorial page that has been set up, by them, in his honor.  Nothing, though, moved me more than a letter Brenden’s mother, Sherry, wrote to the assembled group of friends and family.  She spoke openly and honestly about the wonderful 16 years she was able to spend with her son and how incredible of a young person he was; she spoke of the “bully” that claimed his life; and, she passionately reached out to other young people who may be dealing with depression, as well.  And, she made me cry. Brendan

Thank you everyone for joining this group, in support of the most amazing person that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing….my son….my life….Brenden (Boo) Lumley.  What strikes everyone the most when they think about Brenden is his amazing smile, his laugh and what a great loyal, honest and trustworthy friend he was.  I know he will be missed by so many, and I really feel that he would want me to share a few things with all of you…his family…his friends…and anyone who has been affected by this tragedy.  Most important, Brenden never meant to hurt anyone; he just could not deal with the pain and the rage that tormented him inside.  He did have so many loyal friends, and he had his big brother who always tried to protect him and guide him.  And, of course he always knew that he had me, his mommy, and he knew that I loved him more than life!!  But, where he got stuck was not wanting to bother any of us with his pain, he didn’t want to put that weight on us, even though we tried so many times to encourage him to let us in,  But, he did not want us to hurt the way that he hurt, so he trapped it inside.

Depression robs us all of any peaceful thoughts…it allows u to believe horrible things about yourself and eventually if you allow it to….it will close of any light in your life until we feel so alone that you feel like there is no other choice!!!  That is simply not true at all!!!  It is worse than any other disease because it can only be diagnosed by your heart, and the only cure is for you to be humble enough to accept the help from the ones that love you…which is very hard for some people to do.  Brenden thought it was impossible.  Depression is the worst bully and one that we cannot just lock up in jail and throw away the key!!!

Please know from me personally some of the pain and effects of suicide.  Brenden left behind a brother who feels like he couldn’t protect him, a step brother who feels lost without him.  Two sisters that are scared to walk freely in our home because of the terror that we all still feel from what we witnessed that night!!  A mommy and dad that feels so much guilt, so much loss, broken hearts and the most unimaginable pain every moment of every day!!  We are frozen in time, and our world will NEVER be the same!!  It will take years for us to rebuild this home again and to fill it with peace, happiness and love again!  Please honour Brenden’s name and stand up against depression, please talk to the people who love you…believe me…you are not alone even…but depression will tell you otherwise!  I promise right now that if anyone ever feels alone, I WILL be your friend.  I CAN help you.  I WANT to help you.  I WILL find someone to help you!  Brenden would not want any other family to go through this pain and what we have been through.  Don’t be scared…don’t be too proud…seek out the ones that love you, they want to help you….and if you really don’t think you can find anyone…I AM HERE.  I was here for my Boo, but he could not take my hand.  Please don’t make that same mistake.

Thank you all again for your love and support.

Sherry Ayres….mommy of Brenden (Boo) Lumley and siblings…..suicide survivor…friendBrendan-Lumley-213x300

With bullying and the terrible effects it’s having in school and online today, there’s a tendency to overlook the fact that not all teen suicides are a result of bullying.  Although there are no “official” statistics, due in part to the fact that bully-related suicides are enormously downplayed, depression plays a major role in many, if not the majority, of teen suicides.  It was depression that claimed Jamie Hubley’s life.  It was depression that claimed EricJames Borges’ life.  It was depression that claimed Brenden Lumley’s life.  There are more…many, many more.

Brenden was surrounded by an overwhelming amount of love and support.  The depression lied to him an convinced him otherwise.  That’s a common trait with that disease.  I was told by one of Jamie Hubley’s family members that he, too, was completely surrounded by lots of love and support.  I know that to be true.  Like Brenden, he couldn’t see it.  The depression wouldn’t allow him to.

It’s time that we, as a people, remove the stigmatism of mental illnesses, depression in particular.  As we’re seeing over and over, depression can be deadly.  If we’re truly concerned about changing this climate of young people feeling so alone and hopeless that they fell ending their lives is the only way out, it’s imperative that we begin to put into place mechanisms for them to better deal with their depression.  Whatever it takes.  Whatever will spare another family from having to go through what Brenden’s is going through right now.

Rest in peace, Brenden.  You were loved, and are missed, by many.faces of Brendan

***IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION, TALK TO SOMEONE!!!***

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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!!!********************

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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!!!!********************

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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.

**SUICIDE IS NEVER, EVER THE ANSWER!!!!  TALK TO SOMEONE!  SEEK HELP!  DON’T. GIVE. UP.**

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