Seth Walsh, 13, died in a California hospital Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010, more than a week after he was found unconscious and hanging from a tree in his back yard from a suicide attempt (AOL News). According to authorities, Seth’s suicide was directly related to years of bullying and abuse by fellow students because the teen was gay. Police in Tehachapi, Calif., announced no charges will be brought against the bullies leading to the teen’s suicide.
Unfortunately, Seth Walsh’s story is in no way unique. This month alone, Seth’s death marks the third suicide resulting from bullying.
Megan Meier was also 13 when she committed suicide (NYtimes.com). A grown woman four houses down from where Megan lived pretended to be “Josh,” a young boy interested in the teen. After gaining Megan’s trust and affection, Lori Drew (aka “Josh”) broke contact with Megan, claiming no one liked her and that she should kill herself. Megan committed suicide as a result.
What is most disturbing about this case is not the unfortunate outcome of Megan’s suicide, but that Drew, who bullied Megan because of a disagreement between her daughter and Megan, was convicted (source) but her conviction was later overturned (NYtimes.com). Even though Megan’s attacker was an adult off school property, Drew walked away with no penalties.
Jaheem Herrera was disturbingly young at 11 when he committed suicide from bullying (CNN.com). Not only was Jaheem only 11, he and his mother complained to school administrators about no movement by school officials to stop the boy’s tormentors. When asked, Jaheem’s best friend told Jaheem’s mother the 11-year-old was “just tired” of complaining and seeing nothing happen.
Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, also 11, also hanged himself after “weekly” discussions and pleading sessions between Carl’s mother and school administrators (source). What brings Carl’s case to mind is both his age and his mother’s documented and repeated attempts to stop the bullying with no action by the school. What is also important about Carl’s case is that, unlike most other bullying cases that make national headlines, this boy was neither white nor female. This points out an unfortunate but striking media bias, but also pointing out that bullying happens everywhere, not only in middle- and upper-class towns and not only in white neighborhoods.
If history is any indication, nothing will happen. The media will drum up hype about anti-bullying legislation. Viewers and readers will shake their heads at the poor young soul dying at such a young age. A foundation will probably be started in Seth Walsh’s honor. And, to be certain, no one but Seth’s parents will ever be punished for the bullying. Even though the school was aware, even though the bullies knew what they were doing was wrong, the world will forget Seth Welsh. Another teen will be bullied to death and only the victim pays the price.
What can be done?
Going beyond anti-bullying programs is necessary. Speaking from experience, when children go to adults with accusations of bullying, the victim is laughed at or told kids will be kids or just to grow up. When parents intervene with the bully, the bully becomes angry and doubles his efforts. When parents go to school administrators, more often than not, administrators shrug the parent off as being over-reactive and over-protective.
What is necessary is a school administrator willing to actively stop bullying. What is necessary is local officials willing to actively prosecute bullies.
Parents are not allowed to psychologically abuse their children. But as Megan Meier’s story proves, all other adults and all children can psychologically abuse to their hearts’ content.