Who is responsible When a Twelve Year Old Commits Suicide from Bullying?

The Headline read, “Parents of 12-year-old who killed herself following alleged bullying want school officials ‘held responsible'”

Upon first reading the headline I thought, “Yeah, they should have done more to protect this girl.  When she is at school it is their responsibility to keep all kids safe right?

But after further reading the story I had to ask myself the following questions.  “Is it really all their fault? You read the story, then come back to this page so we can have an online conversation about what should have happened and who is really responsible.

The parents of a 12-year-old girl who took her own life after they say she was severely bullied by peers, and even adults, at her Florida middle school are calling for school officials to “be held responsible, ultimately, for what they’ve allowed.”-Click her to read full article.

You’re back.  Thanks for returning so let’s talk about what should have happened in this very tragic situation.

WHAT SCHOOLS SHOULD DO

Federal Courts have already ruled that when a child is at school it is the schools responsibility to ensure the safety of that child.  I recall nearly 40 years ago watching an after-school special about a cheerleader who was routinely bullied by the athletes, ultimately culminating in a violent rape of the student while she was participating in school activities.  I can’t remember the name of the movie, so if any of you remember the case or the movie, please post it here.  The parents tried repeatedly to get the school to do something about the problem but they continued to blow off the parents and ignore the problem even to the point of blaming the cheerleader.

The parents sued the school system and the case made it’s way up to the Supreme Court which ruled that it is a schools obligation to protect children when they are on school property and/or participating in school sponsored activities and events. In effect they are to operate under the same reasonable care a parent would.

WHAT PARENTS SHOULD DO

Parents should fight for their children.  A couple of friends of mine have personal experience with this issue.  One friends child was routinely bullied on the bus.  He would come home crying every day about how he was treated.  She tried talking to the bus driver, to the school principal, and the superintendent and nothing was done.

One day she’d had enough and stepped onto the bus and told the bus driver that if her child “comes home one more time crying about some child hitting him upside the head or otherwise physically harming him , then the next time you see me on this bus it will be to kick your ass!”  Then she turned to the students and addressed each bully personally, “When I am done with the bus driver, then I am going to kick your asses! If your parents come after me than I will kick their asses!

Result-Bullying stopped!

Please note: I am neither advocating nor disavowing her methods. What I am saying is that it was her direct involvement in the situation that made a difference.  Those bullies realized he had a protector who was willing to do whatever it took to protect her child so they left him alone.

It’s easy to say kids should stand up for themselves, but some kids are just not made that way. Others like hers have minor disabilities that keep them from being able to stand up for themselves.  Someone has to fight for them.

My other friend who was dealing with his issue also tried in vain to get the schools to help, so she and her husband finally elected to remove him from the situation completely.  They looked into other educational options, eventually choosing homeschooling. He is now a thriving, confident teenager who is on schedule to graduate.

If the issue is causing stress that interferes with school performance, they might also be able to get an Individualized Student Success Plan (This plan may be known by various names depending on your school district.) When a student has a plan, the school must meet all the requirements laid out in that plan for that student to succeed.

Remove your child from the drama.  You are not obligated to send your child to that school.  Your child is not entitled to a cell phone or access to social media. Change schools, change districts, find a private school, or home-school. Ban social media. Take away access. Do what you have to do to protect your child.

Finally, parents who can’t or who don’t feel comfortable exercising those options can force school accountability by filing formal grievances and lawsuits BEFORE something happens to their child.  This sends notice that you are serious and forces the schools hand, because now it’s a district issue.

WHAT INDIVIDUALS CAN DO

Gabbie made the sad decision to end her own life.  Jackie in my book Jackie’s Way: Jackie’s Terrible Temper ;(-Click here to learn more.) elected to talk to her grandfather about what was going on.

 

Find a Place of Refuge

Grandpa offered Jackie some concrete advice that helped her solve her issue. Not only that, he offered a willing hand to help if the situation continued to spiral outside the scope if her control. Grandpa became her place of peace.  You must find yours.
PHOTO: Gabbie Green is seen here in this undated file photo.
Gabbie Green is seen here in this undated file photo.
 Help Others Find a Place of Refuge
When my daughter was much younger we enrolled in a home school co-op run by a group of women who’d started the co-op for their own children. As other children became involved this group of children became increasingly cliquish; excluding others including my daughter from their close knit group.
Since I didn’t care much for the women or their immature kids  I elected not to waste my time enlisting their help in solving the problem.
I gave my daughter the following advice. “The next time you are at class look around the room.  See who else is not fitting in or who is not a part of their clique.  Sit next to them. Talk to them, Engage them. I promise you they are feeling like you and will be happy you reached out to them.  Soon you will find yourself with a group of friends and none of those other people will matter.”
It worked, and it was a lesson she has carried with her to this day.  She never worries about “fitting in” because I taught her how to help other people “fit in” with her. When you find your place of refuge and help others find their place of refuge, then those small minded people no longer matter.

 

Fight For Yourself-Make it clear to all that you will fight for yourself.

According to the article Gabbie was also being bullied by teachers and administrators at her school as well as by students. I know for a fact this happens because it happened to me my first week of high school. For some reason an upper class student singled me out as their victim.  I was attempting to enter the gym for class and she blocked the door and refused to move.  Behind her stood the gym teacher/boys varsity basketball coach and  the Jr. Varsity basketball coach, both egging her stupidity on.

I stood there for a few seconds as she continued to block the door and daring me to move her and finally said calmly, “It seems to me you are feeling froggy today.  Go ahead and leap.”

Both coaches stopped the egging and stood behind her in silent shock. This is not what they were expecting. She noticed it too and stopped talking and just stared at me. Then, I proceeded to walk into the gym, using my arm to gently sweep her to the side as I entered.  To save face she said, “Well I guess I’ll let you in this time.”  I laughed.  I could have said more, but what was the point.  I’d won. I never had another problem from that girl, and I’d won the respect of those immature adults.

It was possible that the girl may have been able to beat the snot out of me, but I had to take the risk. See, she had more to lose if she lost the fight, so taking the risk was worth it because since word spreads quickly in high school, it put everyone on notice that this girl (meaning me) will not allow herself to be a victim.

I recall another girl in high school who was repeatedly bullied and no one bothered to help her.  She got so mad she pulled a butcher knife on her antagonists.

PLEASE NOTE: I not justifying resorting to violence, but I can attest to this, those girls NEVER bothered her again.  Find your way to stand up for yourself or resolve to remove yourself from the situation before it escalates to the place where you feel violence or suicide is the only option. Which leads to the next strategy.

Retreat is not Defeat

Everyone of us is different.  We have varying strengths and weakness which ebb and flow as we age and mature. If you don’t feel you are strong enough right now to fight alone, enlist your parents in the battle and retreat to home school, or another school if you need to while the battle is being waged.  Or don’t bother trying to fight that stupid system at all.  If you can-LEAVE! Just get out of it all together. Stay off social media if that is where the bullying is taking place, find another school, or home-school. You won’t always be a kid. Eventually you will get stronger.

Ignore Rumors

 “They were saying that they were going spread rumors about her,” Tanya Green said of the messages. Shane Green added the texts “were telling her that she should just kill herself” and that “nobody liked her.”

When you know yourself rumors about you roll off you like water off a duck. Mind you, I’m not talking about “self-esteem.” Every person struggles with that from time to time.  I’m talking about KNOWING WHO YOU ARE AS A PERSON.

For example:

During my junior year of high school a boy who’d changed schools began spreading a rumor that he’d had sex with me. When it first reached my ear I wanted to drive across town and bash his head in, until the friend who’d told me said, “I knew it was a lie when I heard it because I know you.  You know you too, so nothing he says about you should matter.” Pretty profound words for a 16 year old boy. He taught me in that moment that as longs as I knew who I “was” it didn’t matter what others “thought.”

If You Cant Take it Anymore -TELL YOUR PARENTS SO!

According to the article Tanya Green said she “never, never” thought it was possible for her daughter to take her own life. I believe her.  No good parent would leave their child in this situation of they believed it would lead to suicide.  Your parents love you and want the best for you.  They will help you if you help them understand how to help you.  Tell them how you feel and how you want to solve the problem, so they can work with you and advocate for you.

WHAT THE COMMUNITY CAN DO

Following Gabbie’s death, two 12-year-old middle school students were charged with cyber stalking and police believe this contributed to her death. Other students who witnessed the cyber bullying could have stepped in and told the bullying students their behavior was wrong.  If you are a student and you see bullying happening stand up and speak out. Let administrators know you won’t tolerate it happening to others.

Teachers, let your students know you won’t tolerate bullying. When I managed programs I let every participant know bullying would not be tolerated. My staff and I worked to ensure that kids who participated in our program felt safe and valued.  If we witnessed bullying we dealt with it immediately.  As a community, we have to let young people know that conflict is a normal part of life, but when conflict occurs routinely as in bullying situations it will not be tolerated.

 

Bullying is preventable and resolvable, but it takes all of us working together to help ensure that tragedy’s like the one that befell this family never happen again.


Lena Arnold is the author of Jackie’s Way: Jackie’s Terrible Temper.  Return to product information

The book deals with bullying and anger management and offers parents and youth concrete tools to deal with bullying. She has worked with youth for more than 25 years developing programs to help them succeed.  She has a bullying prevention certification, teen date rape certification, and is working towards her prevention certification license. Jackie’s Way can be purchased at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

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