Another Teen Suicide Due To Bullying

Another young life lost to suicide, due in part to the taunts of bullies who allegedly started sending death threats to a gay teen.

“Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated.”

That’s what 14 year-old Kenneth Weishuhn’s mother, Jeannie Chambers, says her son told her about the teasing, bullying, and Facebook anti-gay hate page some kids in his school made after he recently came out publicly as being gay.

According to,

“People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him,” said his sister Kayla Weishuhn.

Teasing started in school, according Kayla, a sophomore.  She says it was the boys in her class, that bullied her brother over his sexuality.

A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything,” she said.

Apparently the boys who were leading the bullying were given a warning, but that didn’t stop the bullying. Jeannie Chambers is torn about what should be done next.

“I really don’t want to ruin somebody else’s life, or take someone else’s son or daughter from them. But, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it to stop,” said Chambers.

And those are the big questions: What do you do when children are ruining other children’s lives? What punishment is appropriate for these teen bullies?

And how do we prevent another senseless, devastating death?

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane,,, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. I disagree with Mike L, and I agree with Archy, HeatherN, and Julie Gillis; bullying, physical and emotional, can leave lasting scars. 

    Why does “bullying” (a general term for many different levels of harm) get labeled en masse as “no big deal”? No offense to Mary above, but if we were discussing rape, would it be okay to say “Some can handle it and some cannot”? We’re discussing bullying, of course, not rape, except that some bullies have raped their targets. It happened to me, it’s happened to others. 

    I was abused as a child sexually, physically, and emotionally at home by both parents, on a daily and weekly basis. My vague hope that school would be a haven, a break, was ruined by bullies who targeted me due to things beyond my control, such as the speech impediment I suffered when my father cut my face and tongue at age four. I was sent to school in clothes that slowly became ragged because my father didn’t see the need to replace them; or I was sent to school in dirty clothes to humiliate and punish me for breaking a rule at home. I was denied food as a punishment and when bullies caught me stealing food or digging in a cafeteria dumpster, they had a heyday ripping into me. I was punched, held down and kicked, called dirty and stupid, on and on. The boys would gang up to ambush and attack me. No teachers did crap to find out why I came to school in rags with bruises and scars, or limping. The school nurse terrified me, because some of my father’s cronies who also abused me were doctors. I was trained at home to quietly take abuse, so I reacted the same at school. I was also trained to never tell what went on at home; my father used to threaten to kill me if anybody even came around to ask about me or my bruises. 

    In junior high I met my first friend and he taught me to fight back against school bullies and fought at my side. In high school, we met the man who is now my boyfriend and he fought the bullies with us. It was the weirdos Vs the Jocks and the feud went on nonstop til we graduated. Often we got in trouble for fighting back, for defending ourselves; and of course, I had no support at home. I once broke two fingers on the quarterback so he would tell the fifteen or so other jocks he’d gathered under the bleachers to beat me up to leave. Who got punished? Me. If I hadn’t hurt him, they could have killed me. Where were my rights? Was all that “just a part of life, so suck it up”? I don’t think so. 

    I have two kids in school now and they love going because they are not being bullied. But I have taught them how to fight and to fight back if attacked. They know they can tell me anything, and I will support them, and make the school deal with it if they are treated like I was. 

    This bullying crap is a huge problem and it’s not okay to ignore it and offer no help to kids being bullied. For me, bullying turned into being raped in gym showers by a jock too; is that also something I should “just get over” because “none of this will be important outside of high school”? 

    Or what about the stories on the news of students on buses ripping clothes off of another kid (boy victims and girl victims) and taking pictures and videos of it to post on YouTube and Facebook? What was the bus driver doing? This goes beyond being “teased” in schools today. These are cases of assault. Frankly, victims of assault don’t need to hear “suck it up” or “it’s just a part of life” or “it won’t matter after high school”. Comments like those can lead kids to consider suicide. Isn’t it better to change the “it’s ok to bully” culture? For those who don’t agree, you’re allowed to disagree. Just as the rest of us are allowed to try to help and effect change to protect children. 

  2. We’re all different. We have different stories and personalities. Some can handle bullying, some cannot. We all react and take things differently. Suicide is the worst option to solve anything, but anyone who commits it obviously was troubled too much to see it that way. WE’RE ALL HUMAN. Consider that before judge someone on something as horrible as this.

  3. Incredibly long prison sentences.

  4. John Schtoll says:

    I have to wonder, is it because perhaps we as a society and as parents are not preparing our kids for the real world. The real world is brutal, there are winners , there are losers. What constitutues winning and losing varies with the area where you work and live. IMHO, kids are taught they are ALL WINNERS, well sorry but they aren’t, some are simply losers. They might lose thru no fault of their own but they still lost. I was bullied as a kid because I was small and came from a relatively poor family and my cloths were usually second hand. Not once did ever think about killing myself, because I was taught to have self worth assigned to me from MY ACTIONS not from the actions of other in comparision. I played sports and we won some games and we lost some games, I was taught that when I lost I should evaluate why we lost and try and get better next time. I wasn’t taught that even though they scored more goals than us WE TOO WERE WINNERS.

    In school, I received a score on a test, either numerical or letter NOT just some platitude about ‘needs improvement”.

    We have to start preparing kids for lifes UPS and DOWNS, not just the UPS

    • Two things-Yes, I think kids should get actual grades, if there are teams that lose… they lose. I think learning to fail gracefully is a good thing to know. Winning gracefully is also a good skill.

      Life can be brutal. So is the choice to start working to make it less brutal where we can (getting teachers and parents on board in terms of teaching highly volatile teens NOT to treat each other like shit) or is the choice to let the Lord of the Flies happen and fuck the losers? Cause I’d personally vote for number 1. I’m not talking “everyone is a winner.” I’m talking school is a place where adults mirror compassionate, empathetic and just behavior. Justice for all etc. Or communities here where people can argue but they can’t attack each other personally. You know? You are free to disagree but if someone attacks you, John, I’d take the post down and tell them not to pull that shit in my house. If I don’t see it, I’d expect someone to call it out to our attention.

      Why make life MORE brutal if we could avoid it?

      John, if you had to do middle and high school all over again or whenever it was that you were bullied, would you wish to repeat the bullying? Or would it have improved your life and school experience if you could just not have that part. Losing games, fine. Earning that D or that A, fine. But being treated badly?

      Cause that’s the thing I’m against.

      • Copyleft says:

        I’m struck by how often the slogan “Life isn’t fair” is used to somehow suggest that it’s not our moral responsibility to MAKE it fair.

        • Right, I mean…we socialize ourselves all the time. Little babies are taught to eat a certain way (at a table) and to use the toilet. Toddlers LOVE to bite when they don’t get what they want. Should we allow that? Cause that would create a very interesting society filled with infected bites! We teach them to use words at an early age to indicate their displeasure and frustration instead of biting and hitting. I’m not sure why middle and high school should be any different.
          So what if the instinct is to bully? That doesn’t make it a fair or just way to behave. Some kids have instincts NOT to bully and in fact we should be recognizing them as the leaders, imho. So when we see things that aren’t fair, why would we say…and too bad kids, suffer. I think the purpose of having adults in their lives is to model ways of getting unfair systems to move towards a more fair system.
          Thus law. Thus rules and social order. I don’t see that bullying serves a need except to point it out as how things go wrong earlier on in childhood perhaps.
          Humans can be very cruel. That doesn’t mean we should commend it.

        • Screw fair, how about livable. When I was a kid and a teenager I’d have taken not-miserable any day of the week…fair was an unimaginable dream.

      • John Schtoll says:

        I wish the bullying didn’t happen and of course I would change it if I could BUT my point was that I was taught how to deal with by the values instilled in me by my parents, that is that what is important is how I view myself and my deeds not how others view them.

        @Copyleft: My point is that nowadays we seem be ONLY (and ignore everything else) seem to be trying to make this fair. Of couse reality tells us that FAIR is a subjective word and it means something different to everyone. This is where Political Correctness comes him, PC tells us what is fair.

        As an example, I recently read a report on the state of health care in Canada and this report was pretty blunt that women have it much worse than men, sure men die 7 years sooner, are stricken with virtually every major disease at higher rates, government spending on mens health care is approx 20 cents on the dollar compared to 80 cents for women, but women have it worse. HOW?

        Someone quite smart came up with a ‘health years life index”. This means that if two people exist, one lives to be 50 and has 5 unhealthy years they have a 10 “health years life index”. The other person lives to be 60 and has 7 unhealthy years they have a 8.5 , iow they have it worse. What is funny is that they actually had 53 healthy years and the first person had 45, but this index was created to make it seem as though women who live longer , who have a greater number of healthier years have it worse because of percentages.

        This is what people call FAIR.

        • Ok, good point, but does that have anything to do with how we change the system for teens? What can we learn and take away from that and bring it back to how to stop bullying?

          • John Schtoll says:

            Unfortunately Julie, we aren’t going to stop bullying, we should try YES for sure BUT we aren’t going to stop it. SO, if that is true ( my assumption of course) , then we have to lessen the damage and IMHO, we do that by showing kids that they have to learn to deal with the bully.

            • So absolutely. There would need to be a few points of intervention. 1) the kids themselves (and not punishing the bullied from fighting back cause this happens). 2) parents need to deal with the reality if their kid bullying someone. 3) schools need more authority to deal effectively with things they see.

              • Joanna Schroeder says:

                You guys would all probably LOVE Jeremy Feists’s piece It Gets Better… With Fists

              • How I was told by many people to stop my bullying – Bash the shit outa the bully. What would that accomplish? Respect? Yes I did fight back sometimes n scare the hell out of them but there are times it got me into trouble. Seeing as a I didn’t want to screw up my school history I held myself back. There were times I could have beaten the bullies up but what if I went too far, a single hit can kill, so jailtime would do what for me?

                So we teach the kids to deal with it themselves and then magically at 18 they get legal protection by the police, they can just call 000/911 and the cops will go deal with the “bully”. But until then they have to be Quick Draw McGraw with dem der fists hyuck and take matters into their own hands.

                So how do we get the kids to fend for themselves which is what we expect? Hell they made it illegal here to spank kids, or at least frowned on bigtime, yet kids hitting other kids? Just part of growing up I guess. For anyone that think’s that is acceptable, if another kid accidentally kills your kid because your kid bullied them and they fought back, would you say “just part of growing up”? And yes this is taken to extremes but any physical alteration has risk, a few bruises is the good outcome but permanent, serious injury, or death can result. And since fighting isn’t legal as adults why do we tolerate it for our kids?

        • “My point was that I was taught how to deal with by the values instilled in me by my parents, that is that what is important is how I view myself and my deeds not how others view them.”

          I’m glad that worked for you, but that doesn’t actually work for everyone. Sometimes it actually makes things worse.

          I was taught the same thing by my parents, and bullying still screwed me up. I come from a very loving home with parents who were sympathetic when I told them about how I was bullied. They loved me unconditionally (still do, actually) and also taught me self confidence and that, like you said, what is important is how I see myself. But they (and my school) still didn’t do anything to stop the bullies, and that’s a problem. Not only did I have to deal with other kids taunting me, authority figures were turning a blind eye. And that seemed to validate the kids who were taunting me. I was told that I had change, be less sensitive and get over it. It made me feel as if it were somehow my fault…if I would only learn how to deal with it better, it’d go away. Which just made me feel like what the bullies were saying was true…I was weird and as such I should expect to be ridiculed. Which in turn only made me feel weak for letting what other people said about me affect me, as if I had control over it.

          So yes, we should instil children with values which help them deal with bullies…but that has to be done in conjunction with actually doing something to stop the bullying as well.

  5. Copyleft says:

    Bullies are generally well known by name in the schools where they operate.. by faculty as well as students. Now, we could argue that teachers or administrators need to step in and deal out some discipline to bullies–but that inevitably runs up against the bullies’ parents, who are themselves largely to blame for their child’s sick and vicious attitudes.

    And teachers nowadays are powerless to enforce discipline in the face of parents, who are the REAL bullies. I suggest that at least one aspect of the solution should address this power imbalance. Teachers should be the masters of the school environment; parents’ options should be limited to
    1) Support the teacher,
    2) Stay out of the way, or
    3) Remove your child from school.

    • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

      Yep, yep, yep.
      Parent’s today are too defensive in the face of school administrators who are addressing a problem. When I was in high school, I caught shit for all infractions brought forth by the school (and I was relatively good). Skipped a class? Grounded from all media and friends. I failed one class because I just didn’t get it, so I gave up instead of asking for help. When my report card came home I got my hard-earned concert tickets taken away and donated to friends who didn’t fail the class, and they made me quit my part-time job until such time I could bring my marks up and prove that I could do both. I have to say, watching those concert tickets walk out the door was the single most effective punishment doled out to me in my LIFE.
      Not once did my parents ever fight the school or make excuses for my unruly behaviour. What they did do was talk to me. Alot. About my behaviour, about the fact that in life, there would always be consequences for the good and bad choices I made.

  6. gabby watts says:

    If your kid is facing deadly conditions at school, you pull him from school, end of story. I don’t understand how parents keep sending these kids in for more and more damage.

    • Kids with suicidal thoughts often hide it from everyone in their lives. There is still a strong stigma against sharing these problems because it is a sign of weakness and these children fear further rejection. Kids that muster the courage to seek help often don’t have the tools to express what they are feeling. Many people don’t recognize the signs and will dismiss them as normal.

      • gabby watts says:

        Unfortunately, I think lots of people think of bullying as normal (see Mike L’s above) but I haven’t read a news story yet where the parents didn’t know their child was being bullied and the extent of it. To think that one’s kid is being ruthlessly bullied but is ‘coping with it pretty well’ is negligence, in my book. Going to school is not more important than living; it’s just not. The conditions that kids face there, even kids who are not being bullied ‘the worst’ are deplorable and I would venture to guess not something that adults would put up with at their work.

        Contemporary schooling is a relatively new invention and we can see now that some of its flaws have deadly consequences. Learning skills at home with your parents is as old as the hills and I just wish people understood their rights and responsibilities as parents. I’m tired of hearing parents say, ‘no one did anything’ (meaning school officials) when they themselves did not do what was necessary.

        • Agreed. And the bullies who grow up with no consequences do the same thing in their adult life I imagine. No reason to think that if pushing people around didn’t work in high school it wouldn’t in college, work, or elsewhere. Adults do learn to be more subtle about it, but if the basic senses of empathy and compassion weren’t built early on…hard to see why they’d turn a corner later.

          As for those who are bullied, seems like they either grow up to be very very compassionate and work hard against bullying in their adult lives or if they weren’t protected by parents or the school, decide that “Well, that’s what happens, too bad for them, they should suck it up.”

          Now that we have the speed and anonymity of the internet, bullying takes on a whole new meaning. Media Hound mentioned a term recently, Netopath, which is beyond “troll” and I’ll link this Urban Dictionary term (with pretty dramatic language, so YMMV) but yeah, I think there are people out there who see nothing abnormal about bullying and I think feel disdain for those who wind up bullied as if they don’t want to even consider that it could happen to them. Which is why I think school officials side with bullies quite often.

          That and the parents of bullies often bully, it appears. Sad that it does take law suits for adults to do the right thing.

          Humans. We are strange creatures for getting such pleasure out of others pain. Good thing we have people who fight back.

  7. These stories always sadden me deeply, but one thing I just don’t understand is why are kids killing themselves these days in seemingly higher numbers than when I grew up? We had bullies back then, and often they were much more violent. We didn’t have sensitivity training or tolerance training for school staff, so usually bullying was ignored. Was it just that the media didn’t give it as much attention, or has something changed over the years that has eroded a child’s ability to positively overcome this unfortunately normal part of adolescence? I’d really love to know.

    • I wonder if more kids actually are committing suicide, or if it’s just being more reported now.

    • The internet and social networking I believe plays a huge factor. The kids can’t even get away from the bullying when they go home. They probably feel as if they don’t have anywhere to escape.

    • I don’t know about this school in particular, but I’ll add that a lot of schools actually aren’t doing enough to provide support for bullied kids. This is particularly true for LGBT kids, where there are still schools with policies that prevent teachers from “promoting the homosexual lifestyle,” by being sympathetic when their students are bullied.

      The rhetoric in the title of the article I linked to is perhaps a little strong, but frankly I understand it after reading it. It’s an example of a district that had policies in place that, I think, really hurt the students.

    • Talon, there is a backlash against recognizing prejudice. Jerks want to defend the indefensible by saying political correctness has gone out of control. They don’t want to take responsibility for thoughtless or hateful behavior by making excuses. Other simply refuse to believe that bullying can push some people to suicide.

      One excuse that seems to be gaining popularity is the cliché “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. It places all responsibility upon the victim while forgiving the bad behavior of bullies.

  8. This story is heart-breaking…especially since I am the mother of an 11 year old boy who has yet to run the gauntlet of bullies so many kids encounter in middle school and beyond….I drive him to and from school and I worry about being too protective, but when I hear stories like this, I wonder if I am doing enough to protect him or prepare him for the cruel world out there….Will he be able to insulate himself from the stupid, random insults and bullying that kids do?

    I also, think about the kids I knew in JHS and HS….last reunion (the 25th), I would say a good portion of the class turned out to be gay (or bisexual) [and I had no inkling of that back then when we were 12 years old!]…..luckily for them, our school was more liberal and progressive than most schools…although it still must have been difficult to struggle with that internally…

  9. “I really don’t want to ruin somebody else’s life, or take someone else’s son or daughter from them. But, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it to stop,” said Chambers.”

    Sadly that is probably what it is going to take, and the grieving parents will have no one to blame but themselves.

    • And since it seems to be a problem in a numbe rof these cases, where religious belief is involved, it should be treated as an aggravating circumstance and that particular sub-community held to account for incitement to violence – preferably by their own religious leaders, but failing that, by some other form of authority.

      • Suicide is a personal choice, end of story.

        We cannot hold ANYONE else accountable for a personal choice.

        Saying that someone is “bullied” into suicide removes the individual agency involved in suicide and questions the entire idea of “right to die” in the first place. Is a terminally ill patient who chooses to die also “bullied” into suicide by their disease? If the answer is yes, then their death is not actually a choice and needs to be regulated (is the disease really incurable? should we get a second opinion?).

        On the other hand, if not, then suicide is a rational choice that all are free to exercise, and we should all have a “right to die.”

        When you claim that someone else is “responsible” for a suicide, you are claiming that the suicide was neither a choice nor rational (for rationality can only apply to a freely made choice in the first place).

        • Suicide happens when the person choosing suicide feels like that is their only option left. It’s not like they’re sitting around saying “gee, you know, a lot of people are bullying me. I have three options: I could ask for help, I can try to stand up for myself, of I can commit suicide. I think I’ll choose suicide.”

          A person asking for assisted suicide due to a terminal disease is not the same as someone who is perfectly physically healthy committing suicide. The person asking for assisted suicide is making a rational decision. They can weigh their options, and if they feel it will give them the most dignity, then they should be able to make that decision. The perfectly physically healthy person committing suicide is not making a rational decision, because their mental health has completely deteriorated due to excessive and constant harassment.

          You can’t just tell a 14 year old kid that “oh, don’t worry about what other people think, don’t listen to them!” We are a social species. Humans like to be in groups. The people doing the bullying are affecting the bullied child’s mental health, and that child now feels isolated and hated. They lose their trust in others, they lose all sense of self-worth, and when no one steps in to stop it, the child resorts to suicide because they feel like a waste of space. They see no other option. They think the world would probably be better off without them.

          • Steph,

            In your world 14 year olds cannot make rational decisions: your post suggests they are subject to a narrow and distorted perspective. I disagree with your worldview, I believe that 14 year olds are perfectly capable of rational choices. I do not think there will be a way past this impasse.

            • In my world, that of working with, raising, and observing children 8 and upwards, the older and more experienced a human child becomes the more rational their choices may become. However, many teens make irrational choices often. As do, I might add, adults.

              In the case of bullying, ostracism and teen suicide (or it’s opposite teen homicide), there may well be chemical changes connected to continuous anxiety and depression that make options of self violence seem entirely rational, even when the decision is not. Humans thrive in social environments of acceptance and suffer psychologically during the opposite.

              In any regard, the bullying and abuse is something that seems completely out of hand. It’s something that I, as a parent, and a person working with youth have some great empathy for.

              • Julie,

                I have no reason to believe (and have seen no evidence to believe) that bullying is any worse today than it was 10 years ago, or 100 years ago.

                It’s part of growing up, that’s it.

                What I do believe is that the rapid dissemination of news has made the bullying problem seem larger than it did before.

                In order for bullying to be “out of hand” we would need a baseline comparison. None exists.

                • I can easily think of things that are different today than in days when I was in school such as more parents working, perhaps less guidance for kids in genera, far more social media and ways for teens to reach each other outside school hours (txting, twitter, FB etc. That kind of harassment is brand new). In addition I think there is increasing pushback against gay and lesbian teens who, back in my day would have worked hard to pass and now are out.

                  I agree that the rapid dissemination of news allows us to hear stories that can make problems seem larger. But to me, any size of that level of bullying is too large.

                • Do you think bullying is a normal part of growing up? I just saw this. Do you think FB harassment up to a 24/7 kind of period is normal? Being called all the names in the book, rumors spread on social media, pictures etc is normal behavior for teens?
                  Even if you do think it is somehow a baseline human trait, do you think it is right and healthy for a child to be put through it?

                  I do think displays of dominance and aggression are part of the human animal but just like we teach toddlers not to hit and bite? We should be teaching teens not to bully. And we should be teaching people in the workplace not to bully/harass etc as well.

                  I think it makes for a much nicer place to be, but maybe you disagree?

                  I think things are worse actually, then my high school in the 80’s There was some bullying as I recall, but our school had some seriously tight ethics taught, bigtime community stuff. I knew a kid from a school two hours a way (gay) who was bullied and he killed himself. This was in like 86. It wasn’t on the news of course, but it was horrible to hear. He was treated terribly according to our mutual friends and the school did shit. I hope his parents sued.

                  I’m glad of the media attention, frankly, because while it may have seemed like a normal part of growing up for you, I find the behavior to be something we should fight against. no reason not to evolve.

                  • Julie,

                    I graduated from High School in the early 2000s. Photos and info could be rapidly shared with everyone over AIM pretty quickly. Sometimes it was embarrassing, sometimes it wasn’t.

                    The thing is, it’s all so insignificant. Looking back, no one even remembers who did what with whom anymore. Compared to your accomplishments in college, and where you ended up after college, almost everything in high school has become insignificant.

                    From my standpoint, I think things have improved dramatically, if anything. You talk about “24/7 facebook bullying” but all I know is that members of my parent’s generation had to worry about being actually hit, you know, with fists. That was never something I had to worry about. I think you have lost perspective when you don’t recognize this basic shift.

                    Furthermore, I believe the issue, as mentioned above, is how truly insignificant all of the high school drama really is in the greater scheme of life. When we punish someone for “cyber bullying” we are granting credence to the idea that “the outfit Becky wore on Tuesday” actually matters to anyone anywhere.

                    Growing up is about making this critical realization. When we target this sort of “bullying”, we make pretend that these sorts of things really matter, and we interrupt the necessary process of coming to realize that no, no it doesn’t matter.

                    • Class of 2005 here, for the record.

                      I was “lightly” bullied in high school – by which I mean frequently teased, but no violence or threats of violence. I can look back NOW to when I was 14/15 and see how insignificant all my little dramas, disputes, and dilemmas were. No doubt. But I can also remember how, when I was that age, none of it seemed insignificant. To the contrary – everything was monumental. Instances of being teased would replay in my head for days afterwards. I had elaborate fantasies of revenge against the perps. I got really mad when I saw the bullies I knew picking on other kids but I knew I was risking myself if I defended them. So while the kind of school-hallway & social media teasing we’re talking about here may seem insignificant in mature eyes, to the teens, this kind of social interaction is what many of their lives revolve around.

                      Maybe you weren’t so self-centered as a teen, and if so, good for you – you probably had an easier time through adolescence than most of your peers. But in my personal experience, and in observing others, adolescence is often a very self-centered time. And on top of that, there is research to show that the stage of brain development of a teen means they often *don’t* act rationally. I once pierced my own lip with a sewing needle and an ice cube in an act of defiance against my parents. And that’s tame compared to some of my peers. There are MANY things I said and did as a teen that I wouldn’t repeat now, with the benefit of maturity. So are 14-year-olds capable of rational decisions? Of course they are. Do they always behave rationally? No.

                      I am personally so glad that Facebook was not around during my high school years – it was just emerging as I was entering college, in the days before status updates were even possible, when it was just an online profile and only open to college students. It’s hard to quantify the damage kids can to do each other online, but couple the relative “protection” of hurling insults and threats from behind a computer screen (things you might not say in person – and I’ve seen adults do this too, hence, online trolls) and this relatively new, ever-present, ever-connected medium, and today’s teens do indeed have a different way of experiencing bullying & harassment than we had growing up.

                    • Teenagers have a growing mind, the mind between the kid stage and adult stage but the emotions are at the adult level, the hormones are new and causing havoc, sexuality is cranking up and adding a whole new level of drama to their lives but the last part of the brain to develop governs “rational thought”, the emotional maturity, the ability to handle all of these new stresses. This leaves them vulnerable to doing “stupid shit”, and it also can feel like the world is ending even for stresses adults see as small.

                    • Firstly, Mike, the idea that somehow physical bullying is worse than emotional bullying is incorrect and actually quite a harmful view to have. It’s like suggesting that domestic abuse, or child abuse, is only about physical abuse…which fails to recognize the damage that psychological and emotional abuse can have on someone, particularly a child.

                      I don’t know if you’re just trying to push buttons or what, Mike…but I ask that you read what a few of us have been writing about our own experiences with bullying. It wasn’t just a kid criticizing our clothing once. We’re talking about repeated incidents of physical and/or emotional abuse. It’s the abuse itself that has an impact…a very long lasting impact.

                    • Mike, I graduated in 2002, what we went through was fucking nothing compared to facebook. Facebook is 24/7, and what makes it different from AIM is the high speed spreading of information, public posts, etc on a platform that is used by far more people (not a mix of msn, aim, yahoo, but most people are probably on facebook now). These posts can be seen by outsiders, by parents, older siblings, friends n family, even random strangers.

                      I never saw anything remotely like what I’ve seen for facebook when I was at school and I dare say that neither have you.

                      Bullying has always been around but the key difference is at home you generally had a safe area and had a few hours to unwind and seek solace. Nowadays kids are using social media most of their waking hours, to the point they have an online life as well as their offline life to worry about. They can be bullied at 3am, pictures of them can be spread at all hours of the day at high speed and NEVER be stopped. Once it’s online it can be permanently there.

                      Sure they can just ignore facebook but that’s a large part of human socializing these days, they will lack a medium which others are happy on and others don’t get harassed on. I like facebook because I get to talk to friends n family who aren’t here, who are overseas even, it can be a good thing but bullying on it get’s extreme.

                      How do they stop it? Remember these are teenagers, people who’s brains have developed far enough to have adult level emotions but the last part of the brain to develop covers maturity and ability to process the new emotions, it doesn’t finish till about 21-25! They can’t handle their emotions like adults can, what we see as just bullshit n harmless could be the worst thing in the world for these teens.

                      Bulllying is terrible as fuck when it’s offline, all of my bullying that left me with a social anxiety disorder, major depression and fucked up a good portion of my life was completely offline. If it was online as well I doubt I would have been able to cope….There is a point where it becomes too much and there isn’t enough help out there, I had been going through countless programs etc to end/help fix the bullying and they all failed n made it worse.

                • Bullying can and is out of hand. The difference between past bullying and bullying now is: technology mixed with society. Technology makes it easier to bully someone and society makes it easier for the victim to believe the taunts. There’s no denying that.

            • There is something of a motto among suicide prevention groups: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” In the case of something like a terminal illness, the problem is actually no longer temporary but permanent. The only thing that will change is that it’ll get worse.

              In the case of bullying, however, the problem is temporary…thus the mantra. And yes, when these teens commit suicide bullying is not the only factor, but it is always a factor. These teens (or pre-adolescents in some cases) are looking at their current situation and are unable to imagine that it can get better. Or, they are unable to imagine surviving long enough to see it get better. They view their temporary problem as a permanent one.

              That is where the difference is.

              • HeatherN,

                If you honestly believe these things, then you must agree that no one can be blamed for the suicide except for the teen.

                According to you, the problem is temporary, but the teen has failed to see it that way. It is improper to blame others for the teen’s own misperceptions.

                • What is it proper to blame the other teens for? Bullying, abuse, the creation of a hostile enough environment that a teen may (correctly or not) believe that self violence or violence towards others is warrented.
                  If the suicide is the teen’s responsibility, then what of the bullies. Or do they go about scot free to act in toxic manner?
                  What’s your solution to the systemic problem, Mike?

                  • Also Mike, I believe you are a lawyer yes? Is there any chance you’d offer us your personal take on bullying (outside of the arguments here)? I ask because while it can be informative to discuss what the legal pov might be on who is responsible for what, I’d also enjoy hearing your personal take.

                    They may be one and the same, but would still like to know.

                    • I’m not a lawyer yet, I’m still in law school, but I’ll give the best take I can.

                      The law on bullying isn’t clear yet, and very many of us were really hoping that the Dharun Ravi case would collapse (except for personal injury attorneys, who gleefully watched with dollar signs in their eyes).

                      In most instances, the law is extremely concerned with two ideas. First, people should only ever be punished for volitional acts (people are punished for choices, not things beyond their control). Second, people should, at most, be held accountable for foreseeable damages (though this is relaxed in instances of personal injury under the “eggshell plaintiff” doctrine).

                      Bullying-suicide cases seem to run afoul of both of these principles.

                      Suicide is not a volitional act of the bully. Because we hold people accountable only for their own choices, a choice made by the “victim” breaks the chain of causation. The bully should not be held accountable for the decision of another.

                      Furthermore, and there is no easy way to put this, some people are simply more delicate than others. Patting someone on the back will usually not break their arm, but could if they have a crippling case of brittle-bone disease. Because rare diseases are unforeseeable in many cases, the hypothetical back-pat-leads-to-broken-arm will usually not be punished.

                      This is relaxed, somewhat, when the volitional act is meant to cause harm, but it usually requires the type of harm to be foreseeable. So, a punch that breaks an arm, even if it is only because of brittle bone disease, will still be punished because the type of harm was foreseeable (most people know a punch could break a bone).

                      Here too, bullying fails. Where the bully has used words, the death of the “victim” is not foreseeable. Had the bully thrown a punch, or fired a gun, or done any other physical act, then the bully would be punished. But as words do not foreseeably cause physical bodily harm, it’s difficult to see legal responsibility here.

                      So, that leaves statutes.

                      Where a statute is passed that explicitly outlaws certain conduct, then that conduct can be punished provided there isn’t some overriding fundamental concern (usually dealing with the Constitution or some big-picture value). This is how speeding and other mostly harmless behavior to be punished.

                      Statutes are problematic, however, because they usually tie the hands of the judicial system. California is in its current swamp of difficulties because voters thought it would be fine to create massive mandatory minimum sentences to accompany the three-strikes laws. When you remove judicial discretion, people go to jail for 25 years for stealing a load of bread.

                      So there we are, we’re heading down a path of more lawsuits, more incarceration, more lives ruined, all without a single punch being thrown.

                    • How does emotional abuse play a part then? Only an idiot would believe words can never harm. Sticks n stones may break my bones but words can surely hurt when done right.

                      In Australia I believe we have a new law with a possible 10year sentence for bullying in the extreme. I fully support a law which punishes those who wilfully use emotional manipulation, words, etc to abuse someone. If words didn’t hurt then psychologists would be far more rare than they are today. I could take the hits, the fighting didn’t bother me much, it was the words that really left their damage coupled with the social outcasting and other bullshit.

                      You really need to do some research on the damage of emotional abuse, you’re clearly underestimating the damage it does. As they say it’s easy to see physical scars but emotional scars are far harder to see….and I find they’re often the most damaging in others let alone myself.

                    • Me??? I’m quite clear about emotional scars.

                    • I meant Mike, couldn’t reply to his as the tree is too deep. Sorry:P

                    • Archy,

                      You act like I haven’t read about the “scars” of emotional bullying.

                      I have read about them, indeed, I’ve had to read about them extensively for school.

                      And what I’ve found is that they’re impossible to quantify and hotly debated, even within the mental health community. If you look at court transcripts and expert testimony you can find loads of statistics both “proving” and “disproving” that any amount of emotional “scarring” exists in any given situation.

                      The fact of the matter is that it’s far from clear. In these instances, what people *want* to believe begins to matter more than what is.

                      Look at some of Julie Gillis’ replies. In one in particular she calls me out for holding an opinion when I do not yet have children. It’s clear that she ties a certain amount of her beliefs on this issue to her own feelings about her own children.

                      This is a classic example of *wanting* to believe. She wants to believe that this issue is real and can be dealt with because of her own fears relating to wanting her children to grow up in safe and healthy environments. Not unlike parents who hold back from getting vaccines for fear of autism (or whatever the latest conspiracy is), her fears have caused her to lose perspective. What can be demonstrated no longer matters, only what can be feared.

                      I’m not going to be afraid of a moral panic. I’m going to look at what can be demonstrated empirically. And when it comes to “emotional scars” the jury is still out.

                  • Cause schools may or may not be adequately addressing the needs of the bullied student. Often, the child who is bullied is encouraged to leave the school for a safer venue, rather than the bully made to leave (which makes more sense to me). Several cases like that here in Austin.

                • I agree it is not as simple as saying a bully was the sole cause of a teen taking his/her life. However it can certainly contribute to a toxic environment which led a teen to take his/her life.

                  So yes the problem (bullying) may be temporary…but the problem (bullying) shouldn’t be there to begin with.

        • Speaking as someone that self-harmed and had many suicidal thoughts in his teens due to bullying I felt I should comment.

          Define rational? If your health was suffering and you felt it was getting worse, you had a decade+ of bullying reinforcing negative beliefs in yourself, found your life got worse and worse over quite a few years where you feel helpless, empty, you’ve sought help and the MULTIPLE levels of help failed, would it be rational to believe your life will magically turn around one day or would the years of experience mean the rational thought is life will continue to be miserable?

          You see there are a few possibilities, life gets better, life gets worse…life gets better and then worse, life stays the same. In my life it got better then worse, got better again then worse than before, this cycle went 3 times or so and left me feeling life wouldn’t ever stay good. I had been to a variety of counselors, psychologists, many many attempts to stop the bullying at multiple schools across all the grades but it got worse n worse. My health suffered as well, depression, obesity, sleep apnea, untreated adhd, grades went to shit, a social anxiety disorder popped up bigtime and life was no longer really living but existing. It got so bad that the feeling of a cut on my arm was better than how I felt inside, the pain distracted me as I felt so empty that the sharp stinging actually made me feel an emotion of physical pain instead of mental. It also showed real visible wounds, scars that you can see vs the scars I have inside that no one can really notice unless I give them my full history.

          So keeping that in mind is it rational to keep existing, knowing you will be in pain, knowing life will fuck you around, knowing people will hurt you and abuse you? Or is it rational to realize enough is enough and end the pain n suffering, finally find some peace? Is it rational to believe in hopes of life getting better, that life will turn around and become better for you?

          They’re all rational quite frankly, they’re judgments made with intelligence using past experience with reasonable understanding of how your own pain exists. But we cannot tell the future, so life can get better, stay the same, or get worse. In my life I had this curiosity of what comes next, wondering if around the corner was a ray of hope and that is the ONLY thing that kept me alive. I got extremely close to ending it all just after high-school, after watching my father die and my health went very bad but I was curious at what was around the corner.

          I worked hard at turning it around, the catalyst was weight-loss surgery to help bring me down in weight which in turn gave me more energy and my sleep apnea disappeared, it increased my confidence which allowed me to seek more treatment with professionals for my mental issues. My social anxiety left me afraid of the world and pretty much inside a house for most of a decade, unable to work. But I persevered and continued fighting it all, got treatment for adhd, social anxiety and slowly have worked on my mind and body to bring me to a stage in my life I’m about to take a new step. I am much fitter but with more to go, my confidence is rising a lot after doing a photography course and doing well at it, even considering starting a business and working again. I do work at home with cleaning, building stuff, fixing up broken shit, all to prepare me for working at a real job and also to help give me the confidence n strength to overcome all that past history.

          It’s been about 20years since the start of my bullying, and most of it ended about 7 years ago but it left me crippled with fear and hiding from the world. If I knew it would have taken 5-10 years after my major suicide risk time to get even remotely better I’m not sure I would have waited, I’m glad I did now because I know so much that very few get to understand and with that is understanding somewhat of the feeling of hopelessness, judging a major decision of whether to continue living in a world of pain or ending it all. Quite frankly I can’t fault people that suicide, it’s their choice but we all need to ask ourselves what makes life so painful for people that they not only desire but actually do overcome the extremely strong instinct for self-preservation? This kid had to overcome instincts that keep us alive! That is an incredible amount of pain and suffering to over-ride and succeed at ending your life.

          It’s a major tragedy whenever anyone commits suicide but don’t you dare ever assume no one else has responsibility. If you continually bully, harm, abuse someone to the point they kill themselves, YOU have blood on your hands. Some handle abuse “better” than others, some turn to drug/alcohol abuse, some to violence, some to suicide or self harm, some seem to bounce back quick, some take years/decades, some never recover, some take enormous amounts of help which may or may not help, some take no help. Slap a dog and expect to get bitten, abuse someone and expect to get bitten, they may not bite you but they might end up shooting you or a bunch of others. There are many possibilities but we all have responsibility to those we harm, we have responsibility to protect our kids especially in schools. It’s sickening to hear people assume the responsibility for suicide lies solely on the deceased, it’s pathetic and wrong.

          Bullying is a part of growing up FOR SOME, but so is rape, abuse in all forms. Do we sit by and allow it to claim more lives, cripple more lives? Do you think I got this way because of the odd bit of bullying? What goes on in schools for example would put adults away for a long time with very little consequences at times, and very little concern in some who assume it to be “just a part of growing up”, part of normal hazing and learning experiences for a child. Wanna know when it gets out of hand? When it leaves lives ruined and harmed, when kids would rather kill themselves than face living another day, when kids feel so much vengeance they bring assault rifles to school, when kids let alone adults are so drugged out of their mind to escape their own sober thoughts.

          Yeah, bullying might be a bit excessive these days…..especially since the kids can’t even escape it online now where their humiliation can be exposed to millions overnight instead of just a few kids on the corner. How do you think it feels to have your bullying on your own facebook page, or recorded on video forever online with millions of views and plenty of dipshits leaving comments bullying the victim further?

          • I don’t know what you want me to say here, but I still disagree with your point of view.

            I don’t know what you were bullied for, it wasn’t really clear, but it’s hard to believe it was something that truly mattered in the larger scheme of things.

            When I was in high school (I graduated almost a decade ago), people were bullied for the usual stuff: they were short, or they were fat, or they were ugly.

            Now, less than 10 years later, all anyone talks about is what college people got into, what kind of grad school they got into, what kind of job they have, etc. Nothing that was “bully worthy” matters in the slightest. Indeed, I know for a fact that there is real jealousy running in the opposite direction in at least one instance where someone has done quite well for themselves working for a major Wall Street firm.

            It’s difficult to believe that an online video of a bullying incident from high school would detract from the kinds of success that college and grad school bring. Indeed, it’s difficult to believe it would even have relevance 4 years later.

            Rather than punishing bullies, which can ruin lives (just ask Dharun Ravi), we should be teaching this really simple lesson: nothing that happened in high school really matters 5 years out.

            • I suppose it all depends on your perspective. You seem to believe that in high school there is nothing a person can go through verbally or with online tools that would constitute emotional abuse. That it’s something to just get over. Ok. Others would disagree.
              Same with getting beat up, that’s not a good thing for kids to grow up with.
              I hope that if you eventually have kids they are neither the bullyers nor the bullies, but especially not the bullies because it seems clear you wouldn’t have a lot of support for them other than “it’s part of growing up, get over it.” Kids deserve more than that. Justice and fairness and seeing a system follow it’s own rules and empathy and people showing altruism by intervening and community and all that.
              Good luck with all that. Out.

              • “You seem to believe that in high school there is nothing a person can go through verbally or with online tools that would constitute emotional abuse. That it’s something to just get over. Ok. Others would disagree.”

                Here’s something that makes no sense to me: if a parent were to do to their kids what bullies do, they’d have social services all over them. If an adult were to threaten another adult in the same way bullies do, they’d potentially be arrested or, at the very least, there’d be grounds for a restraining order.

                When a kid bullies another kid we tell the victim to suck it up. What the hell? I’m not saying we arrest bullies…but instead of just ignoring it and telling the victim to get over it, we should definitely separate the bully from the kids s/he is bullying and educate him/her on the harm s/he is causing. Get the bully some therapy if needed…but don’t ignore it.

                And even for kids who don’t commit suicide, bullying can, and does, have long lasting effects. Archy very kindly shared his story…and I’ll just add that I’m nearly a decade out of high school and I still find myself behaving in ways that are meant to deter bullies. It doesn’t matter that I’m no longer bullied…I developed coping mechanisms and methods of self preservation that I’m sort of stuck with. Subconsciously I expect to be bullied, even though it’s something that hasn’t happened to me after I graduated high school. Being bullied has shaped who I am, and not in a good way.

                • Right. Parents abusing kids = not good. Adults threatening adults in the work place = not good. Both = potential suits, involvement from the state. Kids bullying kids = part of life.

                  Like I mentioned, in a day care setting if a toddler is a biter and doesn’t stop that’s the kid asked to leave the day care not the bitee. We don’t tolerate it then, why in high school?

                  My guess? The administrators and teachers were in high school and they probably were bullied/the bullies/witnessed bullying that no one stopped. So why intervene now? Like it’s a rite of passage or something. Plus things are more litigious and teachers have far less authority in the classrooms so….”it’s just kids being kids.”

                  And maybe that’s true, but that doesn’t make it just or fair or a model for how to be a strong, compassionate, ethical citizen.

                • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

                  HeatherN, you make an excellent point…the same behaviours in different relationship contexts would constitute harrassment or abuse.

                  Ok, we can’t go around charging kids when someone takes their own lives, but there SHOULD be a punishment mechanism in place for kids who bully/harrass others, regarless of the outcome. Detention and/or suspension, I suppose would be a couple of ways to go, but what about some sort of re-training? I honestly believe that, if we could make these bullies more empathetic by showing them what kind of impact their actions can have, they would be inclined to stop.
                  When I was in high school, by best friend’s cousin committed suicide (didn’t know him, different school). Several months later his mother came and spoke to our class about the devastating impacts of not only the harrassment he faced, but of his suicide on the family. While I was never inclined to bully others, listening to what she said made me think to try and be more conscious of the feelings of others, and how words and actions can be detrimental to others.
                  On the flip side, what can we do to prevent suicide? Stopping bullying won’t completely abate teen suicide, it not being the only thing in their angst-ridden lives that can push them over the edge. We need to talk, to keep talking to our sons and daughters, neices and nephews, friends, neighbours, children and teens in need. We need to show them that there is life after what they are going through. Provide examples, introduce them to people who survived the same (in this day and age there are a wealth of successful and happy gay adults who have likely faced the same as alot of the gay teens in crisis today). Remind them that they are loved, that they have purpose, that there would be a horrible void left in life without them. We need to show them that there are safe outlets for them (support groups for teens facing the same, proactive community outreach, you and others around them who will listen and not judge).

            • It’s the fact that it happens during a very important part of your life. You’re a child, you’re still learning about the world and you end up learning to fear others, you have a brain that can’t fully comprehend all of your emotions and then you end up with emotional abuse that cripples adults, what do you think it would do to a child? The most common mistake people make in bullying is assuming the words don’t hurt, the bullying doesn’t hurt or mean much, that it’s just playful banter but the reality is it’s a stress that many adults find difficulty in coping with let alone a child.

              “I don’t know what you were bullied for, it wasn’t really clear, but it’s hard to believe it was something that truly mattered in the larger scheme of things.”
              My weight. It made me feel like I was a fuckup, a loser, like I was worth less than all of the other people in the world and that I was extremely ugly and no woman would ever want me. I copped it in school, I copped it in afterschool activities like soccer. These kids would tease, torment me, hit me, and for what? I was overweight. How is that such a huge issue, in the grand scheme of things it’s a small issue but the bullying I recieved because of it was a major issue.

              (Going to generalize a bit here) Thing is these days many people move on and act as if school was no biggie, and for THEM it probably wasn’t but for victims of bullying they’re victims of emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse. They can have trauma, their experiences at school were traumatic, their mind can literally be changed to expect pain, bullying, etc whereever they go. Their trust in humans can be diminished bigtime, they question their self-worth, they can spend much of their life leaving others at arms length, never feeling comfortable or safe because of shit that happened in their childhood. Of course not all victims experience the same thing, nor the same severity so this differs person to person

              Ever seen those tv shows rescuing dogs after they’ve been beaten? That dog bites humans n is scared shitless of them? That can happen to people. The stuff bullies do when they’re kids would leave them in jail for quite a while as an adult.

              Another thing to realize is bullying varies in severity, it might be once a day, once a week/year, or multiple times a day. These kids can be outcasted for being different, being fat, whatever, and that can play havoc on a young growing mind. What happens in highschool, primary school matters because it shapes the mind of the victim, that is the time of life we learn how to LIVE, how to learn, how to form relationships and interact with others.

              A very important note: Bullies themselves are often victims of abuse and need protection, support, and to learn healthy ways to express their emotions. They need intervention before they get too serious with bullying, early on it’s good to sit victim and bully down, get them both to realize how similar they probably are. MTV had a program on bullying where they did something like this and it seemed to have some success. Punishing doesn’t always work and should be saved for the serious stuff, the better option is to try get the bully and victim to work on their self-esteem, find healthy ways to deal with the shit and find common ground. I think often there is a reason for bullying and that is what needs to be tackled.

              Much of what goes on in the school drama is trivial for the future of course, but it’s how it goes down that is the problem. People will quickly forget about a lot of shit in school but the bullying can be quite excessive, violent, and really stick with some people. I understand your point in realizing the stuff we get bullied over doesn’t matter in the future much, but I want you to understand that isn’t the problem. The problem is the bullying itself which does the damage. Being told I was fat isn’t the problem, the problem was being outcasted, constantly criticized and treated like shit, the constant barrage of negativity that made me feel like I wasn’t even the same kind of human as others.

              To be made to feel like you’re nothing, you’re ugly, you’re not worthy of respect is painful at that age. These days I know a shitload more on it and can shrug a lot of shit off but that took a hell of a lot of work on myself to build that strength and it’s a huge amount to ask of a child.

        • I agree with you it is a personal choice but that choice can be changed by the actions of others so in a way other people are responsible for it sand should take some responsibility if people accepted him i bet he would have never even considered suicide. It is tragic and i hope he R.I.P.

    • nene wright says:





      GOD BLESS!


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