Slog

Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bullied Gay Teenager Commits Suicide—Will His Tormentors Face Charges?

Posted by on Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 4:57 AM

Motherfuckers:

Billy Lucas
  • Billy Lucas
He was a teenager who didn't quite fit in. His classmates said Billy Lucas was bullied for being different. The 15-year-old never told anyone he was gay but students at Greensburg High School thought he was and so they picked on him.

"People would call him 'fag' and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he's different basically," said student Dillen Swango.

Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy's mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.

Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself. "They said stuff like 'you're like a piece of crap' and 'you don't deserve to live.' Different things like that. Talked about how he was gay or whatever," said Swango.

Six teenagers who bullied a student to death in Massachusetts—a straight female student—are being prosecuted for harassment, amongst other crimes. Will charges be brought against the students who bullied Billy Lucas to death? Or are we going to continue to treat gay kids like their lives are less valuable than those of straight kids?

And, hey, another dead gay teenager—mission accomplished, "Christians."

UPDATE: The crime tip number for the Greensburg police department is 812-662-7463.

 

Comments (59) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
74
chill brah chill
Posted by waslin420 on October 25, 2011 at 11:39 AM · Report this
72
By saying "Mission accomplished CHRISTIANS" you really are generalising...I am a Christian and would NEVER judge someone or bully someone like that.

That comment really pissed me off...you are stereotyping EXACTLY the same as the people do who critisise gays, hello pot meet kettle!!!

Idiot.

- Malette Snyman, Cape Town, South Africa.
Posted by Malette Snyman on October 15, 2010 at 12:33 AM · Report this
71
Regarding the snarky remark in the story which reads:

"And, hey, another dead gay teenager—mission accomplished, 'Christians.'"

This may come as a shock, but people can claim to be things they actually aren't. If I hadn't actually gone to medical school and obtained my M.D., I could still claim to be an M.D. With this analogy in mind, applying the biblical absolutes, which I'll assume the author just momentarily became ignorant of, would show that anyone who harassed this individual under the guise of Christianity was not a Christian (whether they knew it or not). It's strange how people would completely acknowledge that it's possible to pass yourself off as anyone that you're not except of course when it comes to Christians. Most define a person is something or someone when they meet a set of criteria, but the reverse is many times the case when it comes to Christians. As such, the author has just placed in the same set those who commit acts of atrocity under a banner of Christianity with persons such as John Wesley, Billy Graham, Martin Luther, Francis of Assisi, Justin, and Christ. That's what you get from a four sentence blog about a story. Welcome to the "Informed Generation."

Am I happy his bodily life has been ended...no. I say bodily, because he is still alive--the only question is where--and the answer to that is known but to God.

When you do a psychiatry rotation there are several things you learn. First, people are responsible for their own actions. Second, as we are human, we are not all-knowing and the completed suicide was ultimately not preventable. The students who bullied are responsible for bullying. The individual who committed suicide is responsible for committing said suicide. People feel guilty when someone else commits suicide and guilty people often try to take righteous action to atone. The problem is the guilt they feel is not their's to bear and atonement is neither necessary nor remedial for the feeling. When one talk's about self-righteousness, this might be a great example.

What is a consistent failure in understanding is that we have been commanded to go and preach the gospel to all people. We love you because we are no different, just saved. And as much as it would delite us to spend our time in constant worship, few things bring the as much King glory as when we love those who hate us--and that is love--to rescue the perishing.

"Preach law to the arrogant, preach grace to the humble; they will not understand the need for Mt. Zion unless they are first shown Mt. Sinai."
More...
Posted by gen2name on September 30, 2010 at 10:50 PM · Report this
68
Actions that result in the death of teenagers cannot be described as sad: they are illegal. All credential professionals in the vicinity of this harrassment are subject to criminal prosecution, as well. Forgive me for the acerbic nature of this comment but enough is enough; ALL AMERICAN ADULTS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THESE LAWS.
Posted by milkmandead_neo on September 25, 2010 at 9:09 AM · Report this
67
I have a similar story to billy's when i was in school i was constantly teased tormented bullied and was phisically assualted by others because i was open about being a lesbian. I understand why he would take his own life because i have tried several times throughout my 21 years. I eventually dropped out of school because it got so bad. When i left scholl things did get better. Except for in my freshman year of college my car was vandalized by anti-gay students. All four tires on my truck were slashed and they wrote on my car "die dyke" and burn in hell dyke" when i told the dean he was at a loss of words. The college is still investigating the hate crime that was commited against me. The college also paid for my truck to be repaired and repainted. Still today that haunts me. It is truely a struggle for teens and young adults who are gay in society to day as well as adults who are gay. At my college we have a GLBTQ club on campus and there is a no tolerance act for any type of bulling on campus. This semester i am the President of the GLBTQ club and i am trying to have an event to educate people on the harmful effects of bulling against anyone because i have lost alot of friends to suicide because they are gay or just being bullied. When i heard about this young man killing himself because of other students tormenting him it hit home and i broke down in tears because i completely understand. For these students who tormented him to the point that bhe couldnt take it anymore and decided to kill himself is an outrage. I agree that these students should be held responsible for his suicide. People need to be made aware of the actions that they take and how severly they can affect the individual that has to deal with what they are doing to him/her. I just hope that billy is in peace where ever he is now. And I hope his family will be okay and i send them my condolences.
More...
Posted by jaimeuddo on September 24, 2010 at 10:42 AM · Report this
66
I have a similar story to billy's when i was in school i was constantly teased tormented bullied and was phisically assualted by others because i was open about being a lesbian. I understand why he would take his own life because i have tried several times throughout my 21 years. I eventually dropped out of school because it got so bad. When i left scholl things did get better. Except for in my freshman year of college my car was vandalized by anti-gay students. All four tires on my truck were slashed and they wrote on my car "die dyke" and burn in hell dyke" when i told the dean he was at a loss of words. The college is still investigating the hate crime that was commited against me. The college also paid for my truck to be repaired and repainted. Still today that haunts me. It is truely a struggle for teens and young adults who are gay in society to day as well as adults who are gay. At my college we have a GLBTQ club on campus and there is a no tolerance act for any type of bulling on campus. This semester i am the President of the GLBTQ club and i am trying to have an event to educate people on the harmful effects of bulling against anyone because i have lost alot of friends to suicide because they are gay or just being bullied. When i heard about this young man killing himself because of other students tormenting him it hit home and i broke down in tears because i completely understand. For these students who tormented him to the point that bhe couldnt take it anymore and decided to kill himself is an outrage. I agree that these students should be held responsible for his suicide. People need to be made aware of the actions that they take and how severly they can affect the individual that has to deal with what they are doing to him/her. I just hope that billy is in peace where ever he is now. And I hope his family will be okay and i send them my condolences.
More...
Posted by jaimeuddo on September 24, 2010 at 10:36 AM · Report this
Donolectic 65
@59 - Lots of things have been going on for centuries, does that make it right? Or maybe you think that tradition is sacred and it should never be discarded, kinda like "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever?"

@60 - Yes, they could be I guess, but the link that Dan is referring to is to Focus on the Family's crusade to stop anti-bullying legislation so that they can continue to bully gay kids until they either "stop being gay" or kill themselves, but I wouldn't expect you (who doesn't appear to enjoy the fact based "liberal" media) to understand that nuance.

And for the record, if a bunch of muslim or jewish kids had bullied a kid until he killed himself, I'd call them out on it too. But ultimately yours is a straw man argument.

P.S> Stop projecting your own segregated justifications onto us. The "I hate muslims no matter what and liberals defend them, that means that liberals must love them no matter what" mindset is ludicrous.
Posted by Donolectic on September 23, 2010 at 1:20 PM · Report this
64
capricorn44

I read your post and it sounded exactly like I would have written, I often wonder how I would have turned out if not for the constant bullying not just from other kids but teachers as well. I can still remember several teachers names even at 45 yearsold now.
Posted by gfsgallant on September 22, 2010 at 6:05 PM · Report this
63
capricorn44

I read your post and it sounded exactly like I would have written, I often wonder how I would have turned out if not for the constant bullying not just from other kids but teachers as well. I can still remember several teachers names even at 45 yearsold now.
Posted by gfsgallant on September 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM · Report this
mattatat 62
As tough as it is to write these words, thank you for using your voice to tell the world about what happened to Billy. It almost happened to me, too. I was very close to ending my life as a lonely and terrified gay kid on Missouri. I had so many reasons not to, but I was very close to doing it. Hopelessness is a tough thing to battle, but your new YouTube channel is going to instill a lot of hope. I'm a gay singer/songwriter committed to instilling the same hope. I'd love to record a video for your channel, Dan. Here's a link to my music: www.youtube.com/mattalber with gratitude, Matt
Posted by mattatat http://www.youtube.com/mattalber on September 21, 2010 at 3:52 PM · Report this
AnotherOklahomaRose 61
To Dave M.: I, also, am a childhood abuse survivor: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological at the hands of numerous family members. To say the bullies in the above story should not be held accountable for their actions and the end result is wrong. To say they are not responsible for this perfect young boy killing himself is highly erroneous. They are. Please educate yourself online or at your public library on the tactics of psychological and sexual terrorists and "hands off" homicide.

This is out of control on a global level. The same tactics were used during WWII by the Nazi Regime, encouraged and trained by an array of psychologists - Jewish and non-Jewish -- and promoted and funded by American corporations deeply involved in the practice of eugenics, antisemitism, and population and mind control. These statements are all documented and can be found in whole or in part all across cyberspace: which has become another tool in the use and promotion of terrorism and civil and social injustices in all forms, and the exploitation and sexploitation of women and children. Women have become as abusive as their male counterparts. Bullies, terrorists, sexual predators, and control freaks don't need reasons for their actions. They can find them for your benefit. They can lie with the best politician on earth. Bullies are as sociopathic and psychopathic as the worst serial killer on the planet.

Have you ever heard of "suicide by cop"? A lot of criminals pull this: committ the crime, draw down on a cop, threaten, scream, badger, even fire the gun in order to force a cop or cops to shoot to kill. This happens every day. "Hands off suicide" is becoming a major issue in America, including wrapped around domestic violence and now the emotional and psychological abuse of children ---- by children --- because they feel like it.

The same psychological warfare was used against POWs in every war this country has ever been involved in. Jews have been the victims of these type tactics since the beginning of time. Please research this if you doubt. I do want my abusers prosecuted and held accountable for all they have inflicted on me and my son over the past 56 years: five decades in which no one has done a thing to stop the abuse, including law enforcement.

These bullies need prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And this country is going to have to enact tougher laws to deal with this increasing psychological terrorist method of homicide and the inciting of civil and social unrest. These bullies are your new generation of leaders: your new Lords of Chaos. Much of this is also a result of the Mental "Health" communities and the vast array of MAOIs ---- mind ALTERING psychotropics. Hitler's developments with US help and support. Mind control. Mind altering.

Please research and get involved. You are not exempt because you are an adult. If you have ever been involved in such activity, however minor, you still are not exempt. These tactics are used by children, teens, and adults. The above profiled young man was murdered. No one even knows if he is gay. Who cares? I don't.. Who decided and why? Because he isn't built like a linebacker for the Rams? Because he was educated and his future mattered to him more than being popular? Because of his religion? Whatever the excuse, it is just than and another awesome life with a heavy future potential is gone because of bullies and their "hands off" homicide.

This has been going on in St.Louis, Missouri, for decades and has been picked up by gang bangers, dope dealers, and abusive men and their children. I got caught up in this at the hands of a bus driver -- all plotted out around the 1995 Murrah bombing. I have had these tactics inflicted on me as a result of relatives who served honorably in WWII and this repugnant country's decision to slam the doors on 10 million Jews while giving safe haven to over 200,000 of Hitler's Elite. This country began this in 1920 when it enacted an immigration control act levied straight at the Jews. Not criminals. Not terrorists. Not drug traffickers, but people who believed in God. People who built just about every worthwhile aspect of every culture on Earth since the beginning of time. Literally

Another Oklahoma Rose

More...
Posted by AnotherOklahomaRose http://erniepyle.wordpress.com/ on September 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM · Report this
57
@55: Yes, exactly. Good points about the relationship difference.
Posted by Gloria on September 17, 2010 at 2:00 PM · Report this
venomlash 54
@52: I'd say that middle school is more hellish. The teachers tend to be apathetic, the kids are even more immature, and everyone's a huge asshole at the age of 12. When I was in middle school, I was harassed constantly about being gay (even though I'm straight as an arrow) due to my long hair and poor social skills. And from what I saw, the few kids who were gay (or had gay parents) were picked on even more; in high school, however, everyone seemed to have matured enough to understand and accept homosexuality.
This may be different in smaller towns, but I'd say that middle school is a breeding ground for irrational hatred and ostracizing.
Posted by venomlash on September 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM · Report this
52
@49 I am a high school teacher, and in my state we must, by law, report any instance where we feel a student is in danger from others or to him/herself. Bullying would fit that. I don't buy that a teacher could/should/would stand by if they really felt that a student was being bullied because it's "too hard". We have to be better than that. The real reason some teachers are not standing up for the gay students in their classes is because they don't believe that gay students are equal, they don't agree with the "lifestyle", they have a bullshit religious conviction against gays, or they're just plain uncomfortable around gays. There is no tolerance curriculum in teacher training programs for gays. There is no curriculum for gay students. High School is HELL for most gays and it isn't improving much. I stand up for gay kids and I get bashed and judged by other teachers, by parents and by students who don't believe 'gay people deserve to live'. This is the reality. It sucks. Keep fighting the good fight, Dan. I'm fighting from the inside.
Posted by Diane on September 15, 2010 at 8:16 PM · Report this
51
@35: "I dont think it's okay to make a bunch of kids felons for the rest of their lives for the biggest mistake of their lives that they probably hugely regret and are teenagers."

What if the offense had been a DUI, and they killed someone in another car? Should they be let off the hook and have a clean record because they are kids?

I agree that you can't hold them responsible for someone else's decision to kill themselves. Different people have different tolerances to abuse. One person might conceivably off himself after a single particularly cutting remark, and that is too low a bar to incarcerate. On the other hand, a pattern of abuse is measurable and should be actionable on its own demerits. The threat of ruining the life of the perpetrator along with the victim should be all the more incentive for parents and administrators to intervene early in the cycle.
Posted by avast2006 on September 15, 2010 at 12:36 PM · Report this
50
Thanks, Dan, for putting the word "Christians" in quotation marks. Every time I hear that word used to refer to people like these, it makes me sick. Same thing with "Family Research Council"-- they destroy families, there's no research, and "council" suggests benevolent, honest discussion. Being forced to use these names gives these assholes a legitimacy that is a total lie.
Posted by AG in CT on September 15, 2010 at 7:31 AM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 49
@46: I'm not saying I think it is OK for teachers to overlook bullying - I am simply saying why I think they do it.

Teachers are human. Correcting students for routine rule violations is easy - it's an authority figure addressing a subordinate. Intervening in bullying is different. The bully is establishing his or her dominance over the victim. To correct that, the teacher has to confront the bully - has to stand up to a display of dominance.

That is harder to do. Most people won't do it. I could stand in the middle of the sidewalk insulting and abusing the person beside me, and 99 out of 100 passers-by would avert their eyes and walk on by, not wanting to attract my attention. Teachers are no different.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on September 14, 2010 at 10:19 PM · Report this
kim in portland 48
So very heartbreaking. I wish I would have known him, to be so desperate to choose ending his life as the means of eliminating his pain. I wish I could have told him that it gets better, from one former bullied (and beaten) child to another. The scars remain, but the best 'revenge' is a life well lived. Shit.
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on September 14, 2010 at 8:36 PM · Report this
44
Lots of straight kids get bullied as well. It is a horrible thing to go through. Try being the fat kid at school.
Posted by STLJoy on September 14, 2010 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 43
@42: For most teachers, I don't think the apathy has anything to do with bullying as a management technique.

Today's teachers were yesterday's students. Pick any class of 30 kids. One or two will be bullies, one or two will be victims, and the rest? They are keeping their heads down. The worst of them will join in the bullying after it has been instigated, the best may offer some support to the victims after the fact, but most are just happy it isn't them.

This pattern doesn't change when they become teachers. The best teachers will try to help, the worst will actually support the bullies, and the rest... just want to stay out of the way.

Confronting a bully is hard to do - even for an adult dealing with an adolescent. Enforcing discipline is hard, too - will the administration back the teacher? Will the bullies parents? For a lot of teachers it can just seem easier to overlook it all.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on September 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM · Report this
41
@40 makes a good point (by the same token, bullied girls are always called a slut). Another part of the problem is that the hand-wringing over all of this happening in high school ignores the fact that these patterns are already set in elementary school. That is where anti-bullying measures have to start, if they are to be effective. The elementary school near where I live takes a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, and the parents I've asked
about it say it works quite well. Kids WILL be kids, which is to say that the majority of them will be assholes at least some of the time if the adults in their world don't stop it. All of those kids who never stood up for Billy have learned a terrible lesson, but it wouldn't have been this way if adults hadn't allowed it. My guess is many of the teachers just didn't want to deal with the parents of the main instigators, since the apple doesn't usually fall too far from the tree with those kids.
Posted by teamcanada on September 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 40
The anon @13 pointed this out but not sure if anyone else did: the story says the Billy "never told anyone he was gay" but the students thought he was.

Bullying hasn't changed much in the past 30 years. Back when I was in high school, "faggot" was the insult of choice for any boy who - like me - was the target of bullying. I was called every variation of that under the sun, with a sideline involving the alleged faggotry that I got up to with the other kid in my grade who was also being singled out.

But we weren't gay. We didn't even present as gay . We were just outcasts who were being hit with the heaviest insult that unsophisticated ninth-graders could come up with - ninth-graders in 1980 who had probably never met an actual out gay person.

I'm not saying that out gay kids aren't bullied - they are, probably more than any other kids. But homophobic bullying like this isn't just a gay thing, and focusing on the gay aspect of it may miss the broader issues. The problem isn't simply that Billy was being bullied for being gay, it is that he was being bullied full stop - whether or not he was gay.

The biggest gay issue in this for me is more the fact that "faggot" is still the insult of choice, that the accusation - even a completely groundless one that everyone knows is untrue - of homosexuality is so damaging.

Posted by Backyard Bombardier on September 14, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
39
We need to teach our children that mental assualt (bullying) is as unnacceptable as physical assault. Right now we don't really do that i think... Kind of weird that we don't actually.
Posted by subwlf on September 14, 2010 at 12:26 PM · Report this
rara avis 38
if the teachers/admins knew about the bullying and did nothing, then they are as culpable as the students who committed the bullying.

as a teacher, though, i'll say that there's a lot of teenage subtext that we're not always privy to. we don't have the context or even the language some of the time. the kids may have all known but the adults may have been clueless. it's a problem we struggle with.
Posted by rara avis on September 14, 2010 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 37
Heartbreaking.

I blame parents, school administrators, and teachers for allowing school culture to be what it is. We accept cruelty from children on a level that we would never accept from non-incarcerated adults. Why do people act like it's ok?

I dropped out of high school largely because it was a toxic social environment (and, yeah, academically useless.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder http://www.imeem.com/jukeboxmusic51/music/y1malqpG/prince-the-new-power-generation-featuring-eric-leeds-on-f/ on September 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM · Report this
36
DaveM: So hold the kids responsible for their own behavior. Making someone's environment into a hellhole absolutely should be prosecutable, whether or not the victim kills himself to escape it. There needs to be some reasonably objective standard concerning what the perpetrators did: what it was, how severe, how often, how prolonged.

School bullying should be treated as the social equivalent of the next KKK -- universally recognized by society as an admission by the perpetrators as to what complete losers they are. Their harassment should be treated as exactly that: harassment, and dealt with accordingly. If violence is involved, it's assault and battery, pure and simple. If it happened on a random street corner, the police would be involved, no question. The fact that it occurred on the schoolyard should be entirely irrelevant to how the authorities prosecute it.
Posted by avast2006 on September 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM · Report this
35
I dont think it's okay to make a bunch of kids felons for the rest of their lives for the biggest mistake of their lives that they probably hugely regret and are teenagers. I feel like in any situation that this would occur and the victim was not gay you'd agree dan.
Posted by anal smith on September 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 34
@28,

And it's patently absurd anyway. In my schools, bullies were often the kids with shit grades who got in trouble for any number of infractions. Giving them free reign to harass other kids was not the way to maintain order.
Posted by keshmeshi on September 14, 2010 at 11:15 AM · Report this
33
@32 the tragedy is that kids like Billy take their own lives while people like you continue to thrive - have a nice day asshole.
Posted by bpinsea on September 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM · Report this
31

This is a sad and tragic thing.

Although, I would ask that some SLOG commenters turn a mirror to their own treatment of people who are "different" from the prescribed norm here.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on September 14, 2010 at 10:50 AM · Report this
30
I wonder if there's a case for 'outing' people who bully others? Some kind of permanent record on the internet?
Posted by James Hutchings on September 14, 2010 at 10:30 AM · Report this
macavitykitsune 29
This shit isn't going to end until tolerance seeps down into small towns. And I'm so very sure that administration/teachers were aware what was going on and condoned it, either to stick to the party line or because of their own homophobia. Irresponsible fucks, the bunch of them; there's no way in hell I'd let one of my students endure that without stepping in. And the first time the bullies realise you WILL give them shit for acting up is usually the last time they'll open their yap at that kid, at least where you might find out.
Posted by macavitykitsune on September 14, 2010 at 10:27 AM · Report this
macavitykitsune 28
@23 Holy shit... that's some paranoia you've got going there. All the bullying-tolerant teachers I've known tolerated it when the victims were groups they themselves hated (female, low-caste, dark-skinned, below-average, above-average, name it). I've never seen one that used bullying as a management tool - I sure as fuck wouldn't and I come from a family of teachers who are all uniformly intolerant of it. I don't know what kinds of schools you attended/saw the workings of (perhaps it's different in violent neighbourhoods?) but I haven't seen one run that way, ever, and I've been in some pretty shitty places. Apathy, sure. Active hate of the kids involved, sure, even. But I don't think teachers are quite that sick, thanks.
Posted by macavitykitsune on September 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM · Report this
despicable me 27
My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas. I wish I could have told you that things would get better and that not everyone in your life would be a jerk.

I hope those who harassed you get jail time.

Rest In Peace kiddo.

Posted by despicable me on September 14, 2010 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Badger 26
My high school/jr high years sucked and I was bullied every single day, and told by my family that "Fighting back or reacting to it was just giving the bullies what they want." I did try to kill myself, because being told I was hideous, obese, and stupid every day took a toll, and eventually I believed it. But what could have been done? I wasn't being bullied by one person, I was being bullied by most of the student body, and any efforts that my teachers made to stop it only resulted in more bullying the moment that I was out of the teacher's sight. It is easy to say that the school should have "done something" but what could they have done? Most of the bullying probably happened in the hallways between classes, or out of sight of the teachers. For every bully who is put into detention, there are five more out there waiting to punish the guy who put them there.
Posted by Badger on September 14, 2010 at 9:55 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 25
Greensburg is a conservative, ignorant shithole, as is the rest of SE Indiana, with the sole exception of 1 building: Saarinen's North Christian Church in Columbus, IN. http://www.architecture.uwaterloo.ca/fac…
There's a reason it's called flyover country.
Posted by Max Solomon on September 14, 2010 at 9:44 AM · Report this
24
Canuck, you're right, and in rural districts school funding is often so terrible administrators resist any costly new duty. That's why I rather suspect brute economic force via litigation might be a way to go - making impoverished schools realize the cost of NOT protecting kids from bullying is much greater than the cost of the most comprehensive program available.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 14, 2010 at 9:39 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 22
Kids don't kill themselves because they want to die. They kill themselves to escape pain. Billy killed himself because he was in so much emotional pain that he felt suicide was less painful than continuing to live.

Yes, that was his choice, but he wasn't the one causing the emotional pain. The bullies caused the emotional pain. The other kids, the teachers, the principal, his parents... everyone around him saw what was going on, and nobody did anything to effectively stop it.

So yes, I think the bullies should bear part of the responsibility. Billy clearly wouldn't have made the choice he did if it weren't for the harassment he received.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on September 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM · Report this
Canuck 21
Gus, I don't know what it's like in the States, but here the media never reports child/teen suicides, for that very reason, although in the age of Facebook, I guess it doesn't really matter anymore.

In my experience, changes at schools happen from the top down. When the administration tolerates bullying, it happens, when they crack down on it, it stops. If there were severe consequences for chronic bullying in schools, and the principal/teachers were held responsible, I bet it would make a big difference. As sad as it is, I would imagine that in a lot of these small, rural communities, most of the adults are homophobic themselves, so they perpetuate the problem.
Posted by Canuck on September 14, 2010 at 8:52 AM · Report this
20
Since when has punishment been a deterrent for the actions of adolescents? I'm just saying ....

Do I think these kids are scum, well yes. Do I think that punishing them will deter other acts of bullying, or teach the bullies a lesson about life to make them better adjusted citizens (or even bring the kid back), of course not.

The only thing that might have a ghost of a chance of hell in making a dent in bullying, is making the parents accountable for the shithead behavior of their kids.

Good luck!
Posted by former tri-state on September 14, 2010 at 8:52 AM · Report this
19
@3 and others, we're talking about prosecuting bullies for harassment here, not negligent homicide (a case *could* be made in my opinion), manslaughter, or assault, or even a hate crime (again, a case could be made for a hate crime enhancement where the harassment is homophobic). I don't know about Indiana specifically, but the penalties for harassment typically aren't that steep, and it's often a misdemeanor.

But, it sends a clear message to everyone from the bullies themselves to school administrators and parents that bullying will NOT be tolerated. If that still doesn't do anything, then, by all means, start charging the adults who should have intervened with criminal facilitation.

It's absolutely incomprhensible that, as an adult, two sets of laws protect me from harassment by those who I must associate with (criminal law and labor law, as 15 mentioned), but harassment by children against children is just shrugged off, and the kids are left to endure it, make accomodation for it (moving to a new school) or kill themselves.
Posted by Ms. D on September 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM · Report this
18
My heart grieves for another child's life lost because some pastors, priests and ministers preach hatred and intolerance to their communities. These people, who are so fond of waving bibles about to justify their evilness, could do with a bit of education about their religious foundation. We're all God's* children. Period.

There are Christians who actually believe it's their duty to be kind to everyone, to meekly love** and respect them while they're here on this earth and leave any judgement to God. Unfortunately, too many of the other kind are around that you'd even notice these.

_______________
* I mean, for those who claim to believe in an almighty, omnipotent deity who created everything and everyone.

** By "love" we don't mean that you can be nasty to someone while telling them you love them and want to save their souls (from some scary thing which shouldn't even exist if you actually believe in a loving, omnipotent God -- you know, like it says in the New Testament?) This is not love. This is abuse, and these people are abusers.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on September 14, 2010 at 8:44 AM · Report this
17
@15: Because I believe in free will. I think we always have choices, even when it seems like we don't. You're probably right that what I went through helped ingrain this in deeply in my mind, that even when I felt like I had no escape and no choice, I really did, I had the choice to keep going, to pick myself up, and get through it.

Now I'm not looking down on anyone who doesn't make it through whatever they go through, no one can really know the inside of another person's heart and mind.

But when someone takes their own life on their own, even if they have been suffering at the hands of others, it is still their own decision. Holding others responsible for that is something I am not comfortable with.

I think we should look at the specific actions (and inaction in the case of adults in Billy's life) involved in this specific case, and punishment should be dealt out to individuals based on what they themselves did. Assault, harassment, stalking are all crimes and there are appropriate punishments.

But for me holding the bullies responsible for Billy's death is too far. It was Billy's decision. It is sad and terrible, and I feel the same outrage and wish to "make it right" just like everyone else. But I feel strongly that we cannot blame person A for person B's actions.
Posted by Dave M on September 14, 2010 at 8:44 AM · Report this
16
It's important to remove as many of the temptations to suicide during the volatile teen years as we can, and as adults take care to offer alternative means of escape to our kids if we see them starting to feel hemmed in by any of the terrible hurdles of social development.

There will always be cracks through which youngsters can slip, because in the hyperimitative, romantic world of the adolescent the tragic aftermath of suicide is itself a temptation to suicide. Just as when fewer kids bully, fewer kids bully, when fewer kids kill themselves, fewer kids kill themselves.

Right now there are children feeling trapped in their world with no escape - they're not actually trapped, of course, but they believe they are, and I know the reality of that - who are looking at the outpouring of emotion on that facebook page, maybe even in these comments, and wondering: what about me?
Posted by gloomy gus on September 14, 2010 at 8:34 AM · Report this
15
If I harass somebody at work, I'll get fired. If I harass my neighbor or some random person on the street, I'll be arrested. Usually, when crimes are committed against children, the punishment is more severe. These "bullies" should absolutely be prosecuted.

I'm not sure what the laws says, @3, but if you systematically abuse somebody over an extended period of time, to the point that they commit suicide, then you are at least partially responsible for that person's death and should be held liable. The fact that you can't see an obvious connection like this is very telling and probably a result of your own abuse. Going back to your story; if you had committed suicide while suffering physical and emotional abuse from your father, it would not have been your decision. How can you believe a child in that environment has any kind of control at all?
Posted by Brandon J. on September 14, 2010 at 8:14 AM · Report this
puppydogtails 14
The only way to stop bullying is for others to stand up to it. Parents, teachers and other kids need to take a stand when they see it. Prosecuting people is way too dangerous. I was bullied relentlessly as a kid but I was strong enough to face it down. Why should my tormentors get a pass, but those who were unlucky enough to bully a frail, sensitive type go to jail?
Posted by puppydogtails on September 14, 2010 at 7:53 AM · Report this
13
Billy wasnt gay. People said he was but he wasnt. We live in a small comunity and teen boys around here can be mean and hateful if you are diffrent. PEOPLE KNEW ABD DID NOTHING ABOUT IT! You couldnt not know. I wish i did more. Billy was a good kid... troubled though. May Billy rest in peace.
Posted by missemcs on September 14, 2010 at 7:25 AM · Report this
Vince 12
If there is any evidence that teachers or administrators knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it, they should be prosecuted as well.
Posted by Vince on September 14, 2010 at 7:14 AM · Report this
11
I need to add that in many cases, bullies are victims somewhere in their own lives. I feel a good first step is a mandatory home study and mandatory outside-school therapy for any student identified as a bully or toady. Intervention for a bully could save his/her life as well as the potential victims. Breaking the cycle is what our goal should be. Bullying should be considered a cry for help as obvious as cutting.
Posted by HRH on September 14, 2010 at 7:05 AM · Report this
10
If the comments thread of the local news article is any clue, everybody and their sister knew that Billy was being bullied and no one lifted a finger to stop it. The pricipal saying he was unaware of the situation is patently ridiculous on its face. Anyone who has been bullied knows that teachers are perfectly aware of these things and choose not to get their hands dirty. The principal is only slightly less guilty than the actual tormentors, since he has a responsibility first to the safety of his kids, a responsibility he obviously doesn't care about.
Seriously, read some of the comments. Kids at the school say this is a regular thing. GHS sounds about as bad as Itawamba Agricultural....and if the comments are any clue has less than setllar educational standards.
Posted by Lynx on September 14, 2010 at 7:02 AM · Report this
9
I think school administrators need to be public, harsh, and swift in their punishment of bullies, and I believe cases that end like this need to be thoroughly investigated for possible crimes that can be prosecuted. Bullies are a severe threat to ANY child's mental and physical health, and school systems are incredibly apathetic. The phrase "kids will be kids" needs to be stricken from our lexicon forever. Zero tolerance for any and all bullying. PERIOD. Why is this so difficult to comprehend? I don't give a crap what excuses school systems can come up with. They can't possibly have a reason good enough to allow this to continue.
Posted by HRH on September 14, 2010 at 6:59 AM · Report this
gember 8
In light of this, and yesterday's post about the arson and harassment of the lesbian couple in Tennessee: I don't want to hear "small town values" lauded again. Maybe that should become a slog meme in the style of "They will know we are Christians.." and "Every child deserves a mother and a father."
Posted by gember on September 14, 2010 at 6:48 AM · Report this
7
@3, I think you do both. Of course you ask yourself how this happened, where were the parents, the teachers etc. I was bullied during my childhood and the attitude of most teachers was complete apathy. Of course prevention of future deaths must be made priority nº1. However that doesn't mean you don't hold people who physically and psychologically torture someone responsible. Of course they should have been punished before. I've read about lots of bullied kids that have to change schools, while their tormentors are allowed to stay in theirs. There are lots of things that need to be done before it comes to the death of a child (or an adult, for that matter). We shouldn't merely be content to drive the little pieces of shit out of town, but there is a place for punishment. Swift, unforgiving punishment also sends messages, both to bullies and to their victims, that can be useful to prevent further incidents.
Posted by Lynx on September 14, 2010 at 6:42 AM · Report this
6
It seems clear to me that little has changed since I went through horrendous bullying in school. By the time I reached middle school I gave up trying to get help after being told 'kids will be kids', 'buck up, they're only words', 'they don't really mean it' and on and on.

It was 30 years ago for me and I'm still not fine. That kind of bullying messes with your mind in ways I'm at a loss to explain. I'm not sure why I never killed myself because to this day it still crosses my mind. Unless someone in authority takes this seriously it won't get better. I've written to Focus on the Family numerous times regarding their heartless stance on this. As you would expect, there's been no response. In the meantime, I'm supporting the Trevor Project in hopes the next Billy picks up the phone instead of killing himself.
Posted by capricorn44 on September 14, 2010 at 6:39 AM · Report this
Canuck 5
I sent you an email a couple weeks ago, when there was that post about the other sweet kid (with video) who killed himself, asking the same things Dave M did: How can you prevent this? What are a family's options, if they know severe bullying is going on, but aren't in a position to move? How would you help if you were an adult who knew what was happening? One of the Sloggers, on that other post, said every gay kid he knew in school had tried to kill themselves at one point or another (he came from a small town, in MN?) First of all, if those numbers are anywhere close to reflecting other small towns/small attitudes across the country, then this should be getting major media attention, I would think. So, what would help? What would some of you have wanted, if this had been you?
Posted by Canuck on September 14, 2010 at 6:09 AM · Report this
4
It was late last night when I scheduled that post—no excuse though. Thanks for the heads up, guys, and it's now corrected.
Posted by Dan Savage on September 14, 2010 at 5:55 AM · Report this
3
This is really sad, and I wish something had been done to help Billy. But something about holding others responsible for someone's suicide still makes me uncomfortable.

I was physically and emotionally abused continuously through my childhood by my father. I attempted suicide a couple of times, and contemplated it almost daily, however, had I gone through with it, I wouldn't have wanted him held responsible since it was my decision. I would want him to held responsible for the abuse, but the suicide would have been my decision.

I think this is one of those situations where out grief and outrage at the situation leads us to become poor decision makers and we need to step back and ask if we really want to say that person A can be held responsible for person B's decision and actions.

Think about it this way, should Dan be held responsible if someone kills themselves after one of his particularly harsh responses in Savage Love? I don't think so. I realize there's a big difference between one harsh response from an advice columnist who was sought out, and daily harassment at school from bullies, but I'm just making a point.

To me the real tragedy here is that more wasn't done to help Billy before he took his own life. Nothing we do now, not even flaying the bullies alive, will help him. We need to figure out what was really needed to help him before he came to that point; did he reach out to adults for help who failed him? Where were his parents? Was there no LGBT support group in his area? Where were the teachers? Was there no authority at school he could talk to?

It's easy to just want to string up the bullies, but I think that's not very helpful really.
Posted by Dave M on September 14, 2010 at 5:50 AM · Report this
2
Dan, I think you've mixed up the names. From the story, Dillen Swango isn't the kid who died, but another kid who's quoted talking about him.
Posted by SkyHuxley on September 14, 2010 at 5:35 AM · Report this
1
Billy Lucas was the kid who was bullied to death. Dillen Swango was a kid who commented on the harassment. Just FYI.
Posted by HRH on September 14, 2010 at 5:32 AM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.
Advertisement

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy