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Posts Tagged ‘cyberbullying

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.

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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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Lara Burns, 12: Cyberbullying Claims Another Victim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Erin Gallagher, 13, Cyberbullying Claims Another Life

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On the news today, I heard the latest report about the high-profile case of in the fungal meningitis outbreak that’s gripping our country.  So far, 29 people have died from the outbreak, an outbreak that has affected more that 400.  A true tragedy, and they’re working feverishly and tirelessly to bring an end to the loss of lives.  What I didn’t hear on the news today, haven’t heard on the news at all, was anything – whatsoever! – about the seemingly neverending stream of teen suicides.  The silent epidemic.

Saturday night, October 27th, 13-year-old Erin Gallagher ended her short life after enduring “severe” cyberbullying on the website Ask.fm.  If you’re thinking that that name sounds familiar, it should.  I hasn’t even been a month – 18 days, to be exact – since I wrote about yet another young girl who ended her life because of cyberbullying endured on that same website.  I certainly don’t mean to diminish the impact of the deaths in the fungal meningitis outbreak that’s sweeping this country.  Death, whatever the cause, is final.  Families are left to grieve.  Families are left with unanswered questions.  Families face unfulfilled dreams.  And, from someone’s negligence, so far 29 people are dead.  Twenty-nine sets of families and friends have been forever impacted.  Absolutely, that’s newsworthy.

Here’s my point:  since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year in August, this blog has identified 29 teen suicides!  And, those are only the ones I’ve found out about!  There.  Are.  More.  Yet, there’s no news reports for me to listen to.  There isn’t some type of “task force” in place to try to get to the bottom of the epidemic called teen suicide.  In fact, in most cases, it’s kept very hush-hush.  Twenty-nine teen suicides that I know about since the beginning of the school year.  Families are left to grieve.  Families are left with unanswered questions.  Families face unfulfilled dreams.  And, because they saw no other way, so far 29 people are dead.  Twenty-nine sets of families and friends have been forever impacted.  Absolutely, that’s newsworthy!!!! 

Once teen suicides moves from being the silent epidemic to the headline news it should be, perhaps then we can start moving towards a definitive answer to the problem.  For example, Ask.fm has now been directly linked to two teen suicides in the less than 3 weeks.  Why?  Because there’s apparently no accountability factor on the website at all.  In both cases, it was reported that it was basically a free-for-all with cyberbullying running rampant.  There’s no way to report anything; worse, people can post there anonymously.  If this kind of information was being made public, like the meningitis outbreak, AS IT SHOULD BE!!, then, as with the meningitis outbreak, we could start working towards a solution.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

The theory of reporting it could possibly lead to more, “copycat”, suicides kinda pales when you look at the reality that the suicides are still happening on almost a daily basis!!   Therefore, obviously, keeping them “silent” isn’t the answer.  How many fatalities would there have been had they not hit the “panic button” on the meningitis outbreak?  How many lives would’ve been lost had A.I.D.S. not taken center stage back in the early days of the epidemic.  Right now, your head should be reeling as you think of how high the toll could’ve been in either case.  Rightfully so.  It’s scary to think about.  Now, think for a minute how many fewer teen suicides there would be if the epidemic was properly addressed, put on center stage.  We’d be forced to look at it for what it is:  a devastating epidemic…and epidemic that is highly preventable.  Then, by looking at it realistically, and head-on, we could start working towards a badly needed solution.

Anything short of removing the misplaced veil of secrecy from the epidemic of teen suicide is doing a great disservice to the victims as well as their families and friends left to mourn them.  Keeping it secret is allowing it to continue unchecked.  Keeping it silent is allowing the bullies to get away with playing a role in another human being ending their life with no consequences.  Keeping it silent is allowing school officials and, in some cases, law officials to continue to minimize incidences of bullying and the effect they have on people.  Keeping it silent is, simply put, allowing the death toll to continue to soar.

Ask yourself how many of these young people would still be alive if only half the attention that the meningitis outbreak has received what put on the epidemic of teen suicides.  Then, ask yourself “why isn’t that happening!?”  Break the silence, confront it head-on, and we’ll start seeing the number of teen suicides reduce.

This has spun out-of-control.  Twenty-nine teen suicides, that I know of, just since the start of this school year.  And, I just learned of two more, just tonight.  For those who haven’t figured it out yet, whatever it is we’re doing to prevent this from happening isn’t working.  For the sake of 13-year-old Erin Gallagher, and those who have gone before her, we need to try something different.  And, we need to start right now!

May you rest in peace, young Erin.

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Ciara Pugsley, 15, Succumbs to Cyberbullying

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This is playing out like a bad rerun.  Another teen, everything going for her, well loved by everyone who knew her…with the exception of the person or people who chose, instead, bully her online until she couldn’t handle it anymore.Ciara Pugsley, just 15-years-old, ended her life Wednesday, September 19th.  What’s apparent is that Ciara had experienced “extreme bullying” on the website Ask.fm, which is an anonymous site where people can post whatever they want with no impunity.

Ask.fm did not respond to … requests for statement in the days following the death of 15 year old Ciara Pugsley, who experienced extreme bullying through the anonymous site in the months before her suicide.

Ask.fm’s co-founder, Mark Terebin did, however, offer a statement, which comes off as more of an excuse as to why his site isn’t responsible for what happened:

“Of course there is a problem with cyber-bullying in social media. But, as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all, trust me. There are no complaints regarding cyberbullying from parents, children, or other sources in other countries. It seems like children are crueller (sic) in these countries (Ireland and UK).”

Don’t tell that to the parents of kids in the U.S. or Canada or Australia who have lost their children to suicide largely due to being cyberbullied.  Once again, there is a lack of accountability and responsibility.  No one wants to be held accountable; no one wants to be held responsible when these young people end their own lives.  Yet, as we’re seeing instances of teen suicide due to cyberbullying increase, there absolutely must be accountability.  If you’re going to have a site where everyone posts anonymously, there must be safeguards in place to protect vulnerable and innocent users:  the children who use it.  That’s the responsibility of the site owner.  Conversely, parents must have their own safeguards that they can put in place to ensure their child’s safety online.  See, there’s a breakdown all the way across the board.  Meanwhile, young people are ending their lives daily, and some of it is due to, at least in part, cyberbullying.

And, make no mistake:  cyberbullying today is intense.  We just witnessed how severe it can be with the Amanda Todd story. These young people can be relentless and unremorseful.  In fact, they’re still taunting Amanda, even in death.  What that tells me is that there is a total collapse, at least in this case, of any semblance of parental guidance.  No accountability; no responsibility.

By all accounts, Ciara was a very happy girl who loved life.  She didn’t want to die.  Once again, it was a case where she felt no other way out except for to end her life.  A fellow blogger had this to say:

As a community we have to pull together for the benefit of our next generation. We owe it to the memory of Ciara Pugsley and to our own beloved children. We simply cannot skirt the issues of cyber-bullying and teenage suicide. The stakes are too high.

That’s exactly the point:  The stakes are too high.  Too many lives are being lost needlessly.  Accountability.  Responsibility.  Both are needed before we can even begin to think about making a dent in the bullying/cyberbullying/teen suicide epidemic.  The first step, though, is acknowledging that there’s an epidemic in the first place.  Even that obvious point is being glossed over.

Rest in peace, Ciara.

 

Amanda Todd, 15, Bullied to Death

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This is the one.  If ever there was one event that got a little too deep under my skin, this is it.  If ever there was one teen suicide that illustrated as clearly as the day is long that it is beyond time for us to stop talking about this and start getting our hands dirty trying to fix it, this is it!!!

I had originally saved this article to my computer earlier in the day, just before leaving out for work, but I didn’t read it.  That wasn’t until later in the day, after I was done “working”. (trust me:  playing music isn’t “work”)  Not knowing that they were related, I read another article about a teen suicide from the day before.  I went to read it and was confronted with this video.  After watching the video, my emotions were boiling over.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.  What I’d just watched on youtube had me much too angry to be able to cry.  So, take the time out to watch this video….

Ok, if you didn’t watch it, you really need to in order to fully understand everything that will follow.  This video, and what happened to 15-year-old Amanda Todd, clearly and definitely points out the two top reasons why we’re not making a dent in the incidents of bullying and/or the deadly aftermath it leaves:

  • Far too many parents either have no clue what their school-aged children are doing, or the flat-out don’t care.
  • Young people today, whether we want to accept it or not, have taken bullying to a whole different level.  Worse, they show a callousness and lack of compassion unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Kid yourself, if you’d like, and say that there’s always been bullying and this is nothing new.  My response to you will be a bucket of cold water poured over your head in an effort to wake you up!!  This is a whole new level of bullying!!!  This adolescent terrorist is guilty of real and punishable crimes!  He stalked Amanda Todd until she couldn’t take it anymore.  He stalked her and terrorized her until it was obvious, at least to her already-fragile mind, that her only escape was death.  For him to get to the point where he knew her entire life’s story and history of family and friends clear indicates that his intent was malicious and criminal, and it MUST be handled as such!  This incredibly sad story is wrought with issues that should help clarify why bullying is still escalating, in frequency and intensity, and the teen suicide rate is still so high, despite the efforts of a virtual army to reduce it.

  1. At the top of the list is where is there evidence of ANY adult supervision!?  Why is as 12-year-old girl sending nude pictures over the Internet without any detection or consequences?  How is it that this boy is able to literally stalk Amanda Todd to the point where he has every piece of her vital information without any detection or consequences!?
  2. There is a very obvious lack of guidance on the part of the kid who terrorized Amanda.  Set aside his criminal activity that led to her death for a second.  It’s October 12, 2012.  Besides this blog, and the facebook blog page, there are literally hundreds upon tens of thousands of people and organizations mobilized to bring awareness to the issue of bullying and teen suicide.  Celebrities are speaking out…loudly!  Political and (some) religious leaders of speaking out.  If this kid is computer savvy enough to spy on someone’s entire life as effectively as he did, there is NO WAY he doesn’t know that his activities could lead to this girl’s death!  Yet, he did it anyway.  And, that he did all of this in spite of knowing what the consequences could be clearly indicates an absence of compassion or even a sense of right and wrong.  Those things are, or at least SHOULD be taught at home.
  3. Further, that other kids were posting “I hope she dies” and other such mean-spirited comments online shows the same lack of compassion or sense of right and wrong.
  4. And, worst of all, that young Amanda couldn’t find any relief from the terror she was enduring speaks to the state of our society, worldwide.  Unfortunately, with this being a world of high-speed, immediate connection with the world, cyberbullying can be, and in many cases is a 24-hour menace.

Amanda created that YouTube video in a last-ditch effort to reach out for help.  It’s what these young people are instructed and encouraged to do.  I post it regularly on the facebook blog page.  Yet, no one heard her.  Oh, sure, now that she’s gone, the comments are flooding the youtube comment board, and the video is, right now, going viral.  Unfortunately, Amanda Todd screamed out for help a month ago.  Her screams fell upon deaf ears.

Amanda Todd’s suicide was so incredibly preventable.  Too many things went wrong in this case to even know where to begin.  What is certain, at least in one man’s mind, is that the perpetrator of this heinous cyberbullying must be held accountable.  Forget the cries of “he’s just a kid, himself”!!  He knew, 100%, what he was doing!  He did it meticulously and methodically.  He stalked her.  For years!!!  He terrorized her.  For years!!!  He is no less responsible for her death than he would be had he hunted her down and shot her, himself.

If we’re ever going to bring this madness to an end, it’s time to stop sugar-coating everything.  It’s time to stop sidestepping the real, core issues.  It’s time for us, as adults, to step up our own game and make changes that will prevent things like this from ever happening again.  Whatever it takes!!

To you, Amanda, we say a very painful and tearful goodbye.  You shouldn’t have had to go through this.  Certainly, you shouldn’t have had to go through it alone.  You’re at peace, now.

Paul Hauan, 13, Death by Suicide

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It’s troublesome to me when I can look at a picture and instinctively know that “he’s the one they’re talking about.”  On May 22nd, I was notified about the suicide of a 13-year-old in the Dayton, Ohio area.  Immediately, I started looking for information about the event.  Somewhere along the way, I saw this picture and everything stopped.  My heart sank.  My gut told me, without a doubt, that this was the young man I had heard about.
Thirteen-year-old Paul Hauan ended his young life on May 21st.  Of course, the cry “he’d been bullied” immediately came into play.  However, as the investigation continues, there’s no official words to corroborate those claims.  Then again, recent history tells us what to expect as the “official” word:  “Our investigation shows no evidence of bullying in this case.”  However, Paul’s mother’s account indicates otherwise.  While returning home with his mother, Paul received a text message that left him despondent.  Despondent enough to end his life.  Moments later, he was gone.
According to the mother, there had also been previous incidences of bullying that went unchecked.  Paul complained that some of the kids he went to school with were mean.  In an effort to protect her son, Lisa Noland went to the school to request that he be transferred to another school.  Request denied.
Paul was a straight-A student and a seemingly very happy and caring young man.  He also suffered from a condition, Alopecia areata, that was causing him to lose his hair.  Exactly what was the catalyst for the bullying is yet to be determined.  There’s no indication that he was an LGBT teen.  Whatever the reason, the result is still the same.
What I’m having a problem with is the apparent, obvious?, lack of action that the schools repeatedly and routinely take in these instances of bullying.  To be sure, it’s gone on for as long as I can remember.  “Boys will be boys”.  Regularly, I have people on the facebook blog page tell me of cases of bullying that, when reported to school officials, went unattended to.  We read about it constantly in most of these cases of teen suicides.  The question that begs to be asked is “how are they being allowed to continue to sweep bullying under the carpet?”.  Why aren’t there more, and more!,people voicing their concerns about this and demanding immediate and pertinent policy changes?
The 2011-2012 school year is all but over.  That’s good news insofar as teen suicides are concerned.  Historically, there has been a 3-month summer respite from teen suicides.  That gives us a 3-month window of opportunity to compel the school systems around the country to change their policies in dealing with bullying and bullies.  Zero tolerance means exactly that.  There are schools today with zero tolerance policies in place already, but they are hollow.  That has to change.  We have three months to push for that change.  September will be here before we know it.
You can leave your condolences for the family and friends of Paul Hauan on the facebook memorial page that’s been set up.  Rest in peace, Paul Hauan.