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Death by Bullying


On Nov. 29 in Salt lake City a little after 3 pm, 14 year old David Phan committed suicide in front of his fellow classmate over a pedestrian crossing bridge. (Parker)The month before David death, September had 4 suicide deaths by teenager. September 9, William Lucas of Indiana hanged himself in his family barn. September 22 Tyler Clementi of New York jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. September 23 Asher Brown shot himself in the head. September 28 Seth Walsh tried to hang himself and ended up on life support for a week before dying. All these teenager were unrelated to each other but had one thing in common, they were victims of bullying. Being a victim of bullies leads to a greater chance of suicide.

The recent high profile suicide death caused by bullying has awakened America to the danger and threat facing youths in educational institution. In a recent survey of high school students 47 percent had admitted to being bullied, teased or taunted. 40 percent of bullied girls and 46 percent of bullied boys admitted they been bullied for a year or more.  Less than half of those admitted they never told their parents of the problem. (Billitteri) An estimated 160,000 students missed school and 10 percent drop out of school because of bullying. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 4,400 teens commit suicide each year because of bullying.(Dalton et al)

The bullying that we know of when we were kids has changed over time due to the new technological age we live in. No longer can you go home and feel safe, as cell phones, internet and social media sites have become the new playground of bullying.  In today information age cyber-bullying is all but a reality. The popularity of social media sites like Facebook, twitter, Instagram and Tumblr has become weapons of terror against victims. Pictures, comments, taunts and verbal assaults become 24/7 billboards online for everyone to see. Even if victim ignores the online attack, the chances are their fellow classmates, friends and family members will see it. This creates an atmosphere of zero escapes for these victims of bullies. Taunts, humiliation and intimidation takes a toll both psychology and physically over time on these youth who are trying to find themselves in this world.

The bullying isn’t the sole factor in these suicide deaths but rather attributed to it, studies have found victims of bullies have a 4 time higher risk of being suicidal.(Billitteri). In the case of David Phan, the 14 year old student of Bennion Junior High had come out about his sexual orientation. David had started to tell his family and close friend about him being homosexual and his family responded by embracing him. However his sexuality made him a target of bullies at school. Tyler Clementi a student at Rutgers University who is also homosexual took his own life when his roommate secretly recorded him on webcam during his private encounter with another male.  For these teenager dealing with their own sexuality and coming out to their family is hard enough, but add in bullying and humiliation it just exacerbate the situation to dangerous levels.

In Phoebe Prince case of bullying, it had nothing to do with her sexuality but rather jealousy over who she was dating. Phoebe Family had moved to the states after leaving Ireland, and she started attending South Hadley high school. There at the high school she had started dating the popular boy at the school who was also the quarterback. This drew the jealousy of other girls and made her into a target of bullies. These girls used social media sites like Facebooks to taunt and harass her. Posting comments like “Irish slut, slut” and other derogatory terms long before they physical threw a coke can at her from a moving car. Later that afternoon Phoebe hanged herself under the stairway before her 12 year old sister found her body.

Responding to this growing pandemic of bullying, the Utah League of Cities and Towns hosted a meeting with hundreds of high school students to find ways to address this problem. The meeting was held at the capital in a mock hearing to discuss ways to deal with the growing issues of bullying. The students first set out to define what constituted bullying and what punishment a bully would face. They even debated on a criminal penalty of 0-5 years in jail for the crime.(ULCT)



More than 44 states have passed legislation against bullying and enacted education programs to bring awareness to the issue of bullying. Some states have tried to address the problem through peer mentoring. Where students mentor each other and help express the root cause of their anger and frustration. For many bullies, the root of their problem often stems from a trouble at home or family problems that create this hostility within them. Counseling has also played a part in dealing with the deeper underlying psychological problems facing the victims and the bullies.

On the federal level, increase in spending rose for education on anti-bullying campaign and programs that reward school money for educating teachers in dealing with the problem. The departments of civil rights have made education institution be responsible for creating a safe and bully free zone for students, the consequence of not doing is the cut to funding to this institution.

While curbing the bullying problem and creating a safe learning atmosphere has become the top priority for educators, a new problem has arisen. The issues being a student free speech guaranteed by the first amendment of the constitution. The ability of the school to censor what is said on campus is one thing but to take this censorship to the new online media is another.  Social media posting and student ability to say what they want off campus is protected by the first amendment as long as this free speech does not disturb educational learning of the school. This means the student free speech does not protect them if they call in a bomb scare but it does give them immunity to use vulgar, profane language to taunt or harass others. This new area is still being looked at in court and will be address soon in the Supreme Court on the jurisdiction of school policy maker and student free speech right.

The problem of bullying has been around for a long time and has really come to the attention of the American public through these series of high profile suicide deaths. It’s a good thing that we can face these issues by addressing the problem through policy, education and law to change how society feels about bullying. No child or person should be bullied, harassed nor taunted either physically or emotionally due to their creed, race, sexuality, religion or gender. However in the process of protecting these rights, we must not silence their freedom to dissent or criticize also. There is a fine line between freedom of speech and humans rights, one must not violate the other.










Work Cited

Dalton, Rick, and Virginia Wilkins. “The Way to Really Stop School Bullying: Student Mentors.” Christian Science Monitor. 28 Oct 2011: n.p. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 11 Feb 2013

Billitteri, Thomas J. “Preventing Bullying.” CQ Researcher 10 Dec. 2010: 1013-36. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Cloud, John. “Bullied To Death?” Time 176.16(2010): 60-63 Academic Search Premier. Web 11 Feb. 2013

Utah League of Cities and Towns. “Utah teens discuss beefing up bullying law.” Desert News. 7 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013

Parker, Ray. “ Utah family hopes son’s suicide buries bullying.” The Salt Lake Tribune. 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013


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