The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline

Illustration for article titled The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline

Defense lawyers now say Tyler Clementi's bullying wasn't as bad as it seemed — but the invasion of his privacy was still a standout in a year that's been rife with bullying incidents. After the jump, a timeline.

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Many of the teens and young adults below were bullied for their sexual orientation, but not all. Their injuries and deaths should remind us that for too many young people, school isn't safe — and that's something that desperately needs to change.

January 14: Fifteen-year-old Phoebe Prince, who was bullied at her high school in South Hadley, Massachusetts, committed suicide. Nine teens were charged in connection with her death, and though some have questioned whether bullying was really the cause, the case did direct a lot of attention to the problem. Unfortunately, "attention" does not equal "solution."

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Illustration for article titled The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline

March 17: Florida fifteen-year-old Wayne Treacy kicked Josie Lou Ratley, also 15, so viciously that doctors had to induce a coma and remove part of her skull. Ratley had sent him a text message about his brother, who had committed suicide the previous year. After a series of texts that make for pretty upsetting reading, she wrote, "jus go visit ur dead brother." He responded "UR F—- ING DEAD! I SWEAR TO GOD I'M GONNA KILL YOU!"

March 21: Alexis Pilkington, 17, of Islip, NY took her own life after being mocked on Formspring — and the online attacks persisted even after her death. However, her parents said cyberbullying wasn't the main cause of her suicide.

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March 28: Thirteen-year-old Jon Carmichael committed suicide. A friend said he had been bullied at his Texas school "because he was short." Another friend's mother said, "If there's one positive thing that would come out of this is that kids would learn to treat other kids with respect."

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May 31: Christian Taylor, 16, killed himself after months of bullying — a bully allegedly told him, "you need to just go commit suicide and get it over with." His mother says his school did nothing to punish Taylor's tormentor.

July: After 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter used violent language in a YouTube video, 4chan users posted her home address and phone number and she began receiving death threats.

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July 9: Minnesota fifteen-year-old Justin Aaberg hanged himself. Friends say he was bullied for his sexual orientation and had recently been through a breakup. Some believe three previous suicides in Aaberg's Anoka-Hennepin School District were linked to homophobic bullying as well. His mother asked the district to change its sexual orientation policy (which basically instructed teachers not to discuss the issue), "in order to give teachers training in how to be more sensitive to GLBT students." Unfortunately, the district appeared unwilling to review the policy — a spokeswoman said, "We have a community that has widely varying opinions, and so to respect all families, as the policy says, we ask teachers to remain neutral."

September 9: Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself in his family's barn in Greensburg, Indiana. A fellow student said bullies assumed he was gay, called him homophobic names, and told him to commit suicide: "They said stuff like 'you're like a piece of crap' and 'you don't deserve to live.'" A graduate of Lucas's high school, now 21, says homophobic bullying is a long-standing problem there: "I can't help but take it personally because when all of this was happening to me I was the same age he was. I also attempted to commit suicide."

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Illustration for article titled The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline

September 19: Thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, CA died of his injuries after trying to hang himself. Friends say he had endured years of bullying for being gay.

September 22: Eighteen-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after two dorm-mates allegedly filmed him having sex and streamed the footage over the internet. Their lawyers now say they were the only ones who saw it, but the fact remains that Clementi was the victim of a serious invasion of privacy. In the wake of his suicide, New Jersey lawmakers have introduced an "anti-bullying bill of rights" that would be the toughest in the nation.

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Illustration for article titled The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline

September 23: Texas thirteen-year-old Asher Brown shot himself after a long history of bullying that had forced him to change schools. Brown had recently come out, and his father said, "They called him different names for being homosexual. He just had enough."

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September 29: Raymond Chase, a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, hanged himself in his dorm room. Chase was openly gay, but friends say he was not bullied. We include him in this list anyway since his death has been discussed alongside other recent suicides of gay youth.

Illustration for article titled The Year In Bullying: A Horrific Timeline
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October: A sixteen-year-old from Staten Island was repeatedly bullied by classmates for his Muslim heritage. Bullies beat him and called him a "terrorist."


October 5: Nineteen-year-old Zach Harrington of Norman, Oklahoma killed himself after attending a City Council meeting where other attendees made homophobic statements. His father says he was also bullied in high school, and "feared for his safety on many occasions."

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October 10: A fourteen-year-old boy in Newark, Delaware trapped another boy, who was only seven, in a portable toilet and then pushed it over, leaving the younger boy covered in human waste. Said one police officer, "This is the most disturbing case of bullying I've ever seen."

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October 12-13: A Long Island fourteen-year-old was beaten on his school bus two days in a row by boys who also yelled homophobic slurs. Neither the bus driver nor an adult monitor on the bus reported the assault the first time it happened, leaving the victim vulnerable to getting hurt again.

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New Twist In Rutgers Gay Suicide [NY Post]
NJ Weighs New Bullying Laws After Rutgers Suicide [AP, via Brattleboro Reformer]

Phoebe Prince image via Slate. Tyler Clementi image via CBS. Raymond Chase image via The Advocate. Billy Lucas image via Fox 59.

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DISCUSSION

tiredfairy
tiredfairy

The "you should kill yourself" thing seems to be a very common line bullies use. And I really have to wonder...how completely lacking in empathy do you have to be to say that to another person just because you don't like them? I don't like every person I've ever met and it has never, not once, occurred to me to say that to them.

This is what I will never, ever, understand about bullies. It's not that everyone is going to like each other. But it's that people feel ENTITLED to verbally, physically, and systematically abuse someone else just because they don't like them. It's one of the insidious manifestations of othering, because it's children doing it to other children, usually for being "different" in both obvious ways (being gay, although obviously I don't personally believe that's "different" or wrong in any way) and non-obvious (wearing the "wrong" clothes etc.). It's often totally random, with no definable "reason" (by which I mean something that is cited as the cause of the bullying, but is not to blame for it because no one ever deserves it). Yet we act like it's no big deal. Even in these threads someone always says "you have to get tougher".

You know what? Life is definitely tough. Just being alive can be tough in various ways no matter who you are. But we have a social contract we're expected to uphold. And not abusing other human beings is part of that. It doesn't matter if it seems harmless or no big deal to you because it's NOT ABOUT YOU. You don't get to define what is and is not hurtful to someone else.

I was bullied from age 12 or so well into high school. And it wasn't just someone being mean sometimes. It was people going out of their way, every single day, to say horrible, awful, terrible things. Every class. Everywhere I went. I didn't feel safe, I didn't know how to process it, and I couldn't get away from it. You try handling that at that age and tell me it doesn't leave some kind of mark. That experience will be with me until I die, and it has profoundly shaped who I am today. Because being -hated- simply because you aren't like everyone else, however they choose to define that? What exactly can you do to change that? And when it's every day, every hour, with people working on breaking what little self-worth you have? I don't know. I think you'd have to be a pretty oblivious person for that not to have some kind of an effect. Not to feel something when people tell you, in all seriousness, that you should die because there's something about you they find so awful they want you to disappear.

But you know what? I did get out of that. And it's taken me over a decade to even get at half the emotional wreck it left...but I'm okay. I'm successful. I have friends and people who love me, and who I love. I think I'll always be surprised when people don't think I'm all the things those horrible peers used to say I was...but it's nice to know that that was the anomaly.

I just wish these kids had had some of the life saving outlets I did (art, mostly). Because it really can get better.