Mom: Bullies drove boy to kill himself

Discussion in 'Special Ed 101' started by Sheila, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    Allowing bullying of students has dire consequences whether educators will acknowledge the fact or not.

    LEE'S SUMMIT, Missouri (AP) -- The bedroom bears the telltale signs of a typical boy on the cusp of his teen years: discarded food wrappers, video game consoles, clothes scattered on the floor.

    The disarray hides tragedy inside the suburban Kansas City home. The room is a memorial to 12-year-old Brandon Myers, who killed himself in February 2007.

    For Kim Myers, Brandon's death is the result of what she calls incessant bullying that her son's teachers and other administrators at Voy Spears Elementary School failed to stop.

    "He was teased in class on the day he died for acting depressed," said Myers, a single parent. "He was screaming for help. If he had got the help he needed, he would still be alive."

    Teen suicide has long been considered one of the greatest risks faced by vulnerable adolescents. But an increasing number of mental health experts are warning that younger children such as Brandon also are susceptible.
    A nationwide survey of more than 15,000 students in grades six to 10 showed that 30 percent reported experience with bullying -- 11 percent as targets, 13 percent as bullies themselves and an additional 6 percent who said they had been both aggressor and victim. The survey was published in 2001.

    Nationally, more than 3,000 children ages 10-14 committed suicide from 1995 through 2004, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Missouri, 34 children in that age group killed themselves between 2001 through 2005, state records show.

    Many of the details of how Brandon was harassed -- and the school's response -- are incomplete. Myers has hired an attorney and said she plans to sue the Blue Springs School District for her son's wrongful death. She and her ex-husband, Brandon's father, don't want to jeopardize the pending lawsuit by discussing it publicly.

    A lawyer for the school district said officials would discuss only Brandon's "educational experience" with The Associated Press, and then only with his parents' permission.
    The case is not without precedent. In 2005, a teenager from Tonganoxie, Kansas, who was bullied for years by classmates who believed he was gay was awarded $440,000 in a settlement against his school district. The young man, who said he is not gay, was harassed with homophobic slurs from seventh grade until he quit school his junior year.

    Pain stays in or rages out
    The direct effect of bullying on those self-inflicted deaths is impossible to determine. But as in the case of Megan Meier -- a 13-year-old suburban St. Louis, Missouri, girl who committed suicide after receiving cruel messages on her MySpace page -- the social pressures that drive some children to suicide are immense, said bullying expert Hilda Quiroz.

    "Schools are social settings," said Quiroz, a former teacher who works for the California-based National School Safety Center. "And in social settings, there are kids who wield power."

    Bullying victims direct their anger in two directions, Quiroz said: at themselves or toward others, including their tormentors.

    "Children sometimes turn inward and hurt themselves, or they turn outward and bring weapons to school," she said.

    For Brandon, life didn't come easy. Born with a cleft palate, he endured several corrective surgeries that improved his smile but didn't get rid of a pronounced speech impediment.

    His parents divorced when he was five. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the third grade, and later depression, he took a daily chemical cocktail to combat those impulses and regularly saw a counselor outside school.

    In the days and weeks leading up to his suicide, Brandon dropped several hints to classmates and teachers that his troubles may have grown life-threatening, Kim Myers said. She didn't learn of those warning signs until it was too late.

    The day after Christmas would have been Brandon's 13th birthday. His absence made the holiday a painful one for his older brother and sister and his parents too.

    "This is the first year he's not been around," said his father, Randy Myers. "We're struggling."

    Note, drawing announced suicide plans
    Down the block from Brandon's house, a solitary plaque marks his shortened life, a tribute to the passion that drove him to awaken in the pre-dawn darkness each morning so he could fish at the neighborhood lake before school.

    "Forever Fishing," the plaque reads. "Brandon Myers."
    Fishing was an escape for Brandon. He would go fishing with his buddy Trystyn, or with his mother's boyfriend at nearby Lake Lotawana. Summertime meant bullfrog hunting trips with his grandfather in southwest Missouri.

    Inside Trystyn Wagner's home, toy frogs of all shapes and sizes surround a hallway display of baseball cards, fishing photos and other reminders of his late best friend.

    A few days before Brandon's death, the two friends argued over a girl. They quickly patched up the dispute, but guilt from that encounter and its proximity to Brandon's suicide hangs over Trystyn, his mother said.
    "He said he wanted to be next to Brandon," said Amy Wagner, who said she has since moved Trystyn and his younger sister to a private school as a result of what she calls her son's own bullying experience.
    "It's just been a nightmare," she said.

    During an investigation of Brandon's death, Trystyn told police that Brandon drew a picture of himself hanging from a rope. The drawing was found by another student and turned in to a teacher, according to a police incident report.

    Another classmate later shared a note from Brandon that further hinted at his risks of suicide.

    I "have had enuf of this ****(p)y life," the note reads. "I will hang myself tonight so if you have anything to say to me I suggest you tell me before 4:35 p.m. tonight."

    The note, a copy of which was provided to the AP by Kim Myers, asked the unknown classmate to tell other students in Brandon's class and listed the phone numbers for two students he wished to alert.

    Kim Myers said she first learned of the warning note in May, nearly three months after Brandon's death, from a Lee's Summit police officer. The note was given to school officials on March 2 by a student's parent.
    The unidentified student's mother told police and school officials that she found the note folded on a table in her home two days after Brandon's death, and brought it to school later that week.

    Finding reminders
    Brandon's unkempt bedroom isn't the only reminder Kim Myers carries of his brief life. She wears a frog ring on her right hand, a Mother's Day gift to commemorate her son's amphibious passion.

    She keeps a jar of green BB gun pellets in his honor -- tiny memorials that have mysteriously turned up in the most unlikely of places, from the doctor's office where she works to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she and her mother traveled to seek peace after Brandon's death.
    "As soon as I picked it up the tide came in and washed everything away," she recalled.

    "I think it's him talking to me ... letting me know he's around. He's watching over me."
  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Bullying is such a huge issue. The 1st elem school the kids were in had a very very strong policy against bullying, and it was quite successful. the school we are in now (same SD, just across town) has kids bullying Tyler quite frequently. And, as they are usually on the playground and older kids, he doesn't know names so they don't protect him.

    One factor in removing Jess from the Middle School is that she was being bullied and abused in the hallway between class. Even GROPED, which we were told did not and could not happen. But it did - she had marks. This is our middle schools' reaction toward bullying - it does not and cannot happen. But there is NO staff in the hallways between classes. I actually went to check this claim out - and there was NO staff/faculty in the hallways.

    I hope this family finds some peace,and that the school district changes how they handle all of this.

  3. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Several years ago in our community, a 15 year old boy who was a victim of incessant bullying threw himself in front of a train. Since then (and so sad that it had to take something so tragic) our SD has taken a tough stance on bullying. They get federal grants geared for bullying 'training', anti-bullying campaigns, what have you. They are really, really good about it in the middle school and junior high.

    I can't speak for all 5 of our elementary schools, but the one difficult child attended lacked a lot. They had the posters and gave it cursory acknowledgment, but that's it. When difficult child was in the 3rd grade (our absolute nightmare year at that school), she came home from school complaining of a boy that hit her repeatedly on the arm and her arm was red. So, I called her teachers. Their response was to call both difficult child and this boy up and talk to them together. The boy said it was an accident, although how you 'accidentally' hit someone repeatedly is beyond me' and difficult child said ok. That was it.

    So, difficult child enters middle school where they are really good about handling bullying issues and difficult child, who is an easy target like a lot of our kiddos, complained daily of bullying, but refused to name anyone for fear of being ostracized or forced to face her tormentor in the manner she had before. The 2 names I was aware of were handled and the kids did talk to difficult child AFTER it was addressed and apologized and the bullying from them stopped. But, she would never name anyone.

    It's so important that education of this begins in the younger years so that the victims of bullying aren't afraid to speak up.

    As a note, I was never seeking punishment for her tormentors. I realize they are kids that have their own issues, insecurities, what have you and just needed to be guided. I was angry at the way her 3rd grade teachers handled the situation. You take a kid with extreme anxiety and put her in an environment where she doesn't feel safe and it's not going to be good.

    It's different, too, when you have a difficult child being bullied compared to a easy child. easy child was being bullied on the bus big time when he was in the 7th grade. He did not want me to interfere and I didn't, though I struggled with that for a long time. Many, many days he would come home from school and head straight to the basement and the punching bag. In the end, he made friends out of his bullies.

    People really tend to downplay bullying as kids being kids, but when you're a kid school is your world. How you fit in is everything. You have to go, no choice. It's not like an adult who can change jobs. They have almost no control over the situation.
  4. Calista

    Calista New Member

    Thank you for this. It is very timely since I just yesterday called an ARD to address this very issue.