When Bullying Turns Deadly: Can It Be Stopped?
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2024210,00.html?xid=newsletter-daily#ixzz13PMH395w
Bullies can be anywhere, but there's no place they show up more than in schools, and no time more than in September. Once the academic year starts, the complicated social hierarchy of a campus — popular kids, nerdy kids, ADHD kids, nerdy ADHD kids who are popular because they sell Adderall — gets reinvented. But this fall the casual brutality of the schoolyard seems particularly bitter. In the past few weeks, at least three teenage boys — one in Houston, one in Greensburg, Ind., and one in a small central California city called Tehachapi — have committed suicide after being bullied. And, on Sept. 22, a freshman at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, threw himself from the George Washington Bridge in New York City. His roommate had secretly recorded a video of Clementi kissing a guy; the video went up on YouTube. On Facebook, Clementi offered a final status update: "jumping off gw bridge sorry."
All four communities have been torn over whether they could have done more to protect their sons. On Oct. 1, 600 people crammed the First Baptist Church in Tehachapi to remember Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old who liked Pokémon, dance music and reading the Bible — and who had (somewhat reluctantly) acknowledged to understanding family members and friends that he liked other boys. Seth had been teased relentlessly; it started when he was in fourth grade, according to his grandmother Judy Walsh. "By sixth grade, kids were starting to get mean," she says. "By seventh grade, he was afraid to walk home from school."
Seth hanged himself in his backyard on Sept. 19. His mother Wendy, a 44-year-old beautician, found his body. Seth was unable to extend her the mercy of dying quickly: a helicopter came, and he was on life support for nine days.
The four cases tumbled onto one another so quickly that they caught school officials across the country off guard. The education system has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in antibullying campaigns in the past decade. At least 42 states have passed laws against bullying — most since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two troubled boys killed themselves and 13 others. The U.S. Department of Education opened its Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in 2002, and just last month Secretary of Education Arne Duncan hosted a Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, where he noted that, even in this economic climate, President Obama had asked for a 12% increase in funding for antibullying programs.