Bullying Addressed at Suicide Victim's School
Tue, 01/10/2012 - 11:00 RCN Newsdesk
Three months after a 13-year old boy shot himself inside his family's South Covington home, the growing issue of bullying, cited as the culprit in young Sam Denham's suicide, was addressed Monday evening at Woodland Middle School where he was an 8th grader. Sergeant Scott Harvey of the Nicholasville Police Department and a popular speaker on the school forum circuit spent an hour in the Taylor Mill school's cafeteria before a crowd of twenty-five people, mostly parents concerned about the bullying epidemic plaguing young people at school and online. "This school is no different than any other," Harvey said. "Bullying is an issue all across the state."
Sam Denham's parents, Darryl and Carol, as well as his older brother Dan, were in attendance. Their son and brother was brutalized by bullies in the growing market for such behavior: the internet. The Denhams were surrounded by other parents and students fully aware of this new bullying frontier. "They are never out of touch with each other," Harvey continued. "When I ask students where bullying takes place, they always say the internet first. There is no distinction between their life and their online life." Harvey's presentation included multimedia elements of video featuring young suicide victims whose deaths were blamed on torment suffered at the hands of bullies.
Harvey identified the main characteristics of a bully as someone that is popular and may also possess a physical or psychological advantage over their victims. The presentation suggests that though the topic of bullying permeates teachers lounges and even state legislatures, the issue is one that must be addressed seriously by students. "I know there are 750 students in this school who can be the solution instead of the problem," Harvey told the parents. "Empower your kids to be part of the solution. If kids laugh when it happens or ignore it, then they are part of the problem."
Too often, bullying victims and to some degree, bullying witnesses have trouble finding the courage to discuss what they are going through. "Parents need a lot of education to fix this problem, they have no clue about it," said Lisa Hughes, founder of Coexist In Peace, an online anti-bullying site. Hughes's own daughter has suffered at the hands of bullies at school because of her battle with epilepsy and a learning disability. "Kids online spill their guts to me and never talk to their parents," Hughes said.
"We spend too much time focusing on the bully and not enough on the victims," Harvey said. "If we don't treat them, they have a much shorter shelf life." In attendance at the presentation were Covington City Commissioners Sherry Carran and Shawn Masters who voted to pass a resolution urging the Kentucky General Assembly to pass anti-bullying legislation. Kentucky Fairness Alliance Executive Director Chris Hartman was also there and expects some form of legislation to emerge this session. The Denham family appears committed to join the fight to prevent more families from suffering the way they have. "We live in fear every day that something else is going to happen," Darryl Denham said. "I don't even know what day it is anymore."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Photo: Sgt. Scott Harvey speaks at Woodland Middle School/RCN