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Extreme Bullying Leads to Suicide

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Grief counselors are on hand at Vasquez High School in Acton, California after a student committed suicide at the school.

Jeremiah Lassiter

Jeremiah Lassiter, a 15-year-old freshman, shot himself in the head in the school bathroom yesterday afternoon. He was a special ed student who, according to students and campus officials, was almost constantly bullied.

Classmate Paige Cummings said the day of Lassiter's suicide kids were throwing food at him. "One of the kids that is here stood up for him, and basically told the other kids throwing things, told them off, told them to stop," Cummings said.

"He was about 6' 4", very big guy, and he never laid a hand on anybody, at least not that I ever heard of or saw, and I saw kids push him to the limits," said teacher Roman Moretti.

"Bullycide" is all too common. A study by Yale University finds that bully victims are two to nine times more likely to report having suicidal thoughts than other kids. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people in the United States.

Momlogic asked Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of Love Our Children USA, the national nonprofit leader on child violence prevention, for tips on protecting our children from bullies.

Kindness starts at home: "The reality is, any kid can become a bully or be victimized themselves, so it's crucial to take preventative measures now," says Ellis. "Bullying is a learned behavior. So when kids see you criticize others ("Can you believe what Jill was wearing?"), they mimic your actions out in the world. What's more, insecurity usually triggers a bully's behavior. So raising confident and empathetic children will have a two-fold effect: Not only will your kids have positive self-esteem, but they'll be more likely to stand up for other kids who are being harassed."

Develop a buddy system: "It's a fact that bullies rarely strike groups -- they just don't have the guts," says Ellis. "If your child is being harassed, make sure he or she walks around school with a friend, or is within earshot of a teacher." If someone does start bullying your kid, have them look the bully in the eye and say, "I don't like your teasing. Stop it right now." Then they should walk away and report the incident. If the bully pushes, teach your kid not to hit back. "Bullies want a reaction, so if the victim reciprocates, the problem will worsen," says Ross.

Take action: "As tempting as it is to sit down with the troublemaker's parents, don't," says Ellis. "Most parents are defensive toward criticism of their child or are in denial there's even a problem." A better idea: Go to the school directly, and record every incident of harassment. Then ask your school to develop an anti-bullying program and form a watchdog group with other parents. "The sad truth is most prevention lies with parents, because most schools just don't take bullying seriously enough."

Do you think Jeremiah's school bullies should be prosecuted?

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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
geen October 21, 2008, 4:30 PM

I hope that those kids get expelled

dbarret October 21, 2008, 5:22 PM

My daughter went to school w/ Jeremiah. I think it would be a prudent suggestion to have an anti-bullying club. Jeremiah isn’t the only one who feels left out and overburdened with hurt emotions. The fact of the matter is that he didn’t feel he could talk to anyone at home either. The sad thing is that with the economy in the straits it is in, many parents are going through their own stress and don’t consider the kids could be having problems of their own.
This is a very small school, so I am not really sure how the club would work out for this particular school, but I believe it is important that every child have someone they can go to.

Bob Moreno October 21, 2008, 5:28 PM

My daughter goes to High Desert a Jr. High in Acton. She has the same problem and how true about schools not taking bullying serious. They think just because they went through it when they were in school that kids should learn to handle it. While that may be true for some kids, other kids may not be able to go through bullying and need assistance handling such things. Acton schools are not well managed. They do not have good principals or teachers who stand up for our children.

Bob Moreno October 21, 2008, 5:46 PM

What a great idea an anti-bulling club. Kids could have each other to talk to, kids in the same situation. One kid is easy to pick on by cowards, a group of kids to “hang out” with each other is much tougher to pick on.

kimberly_s October 21, 2008, 7:22 PM

i definitely think those bullies should be prosecuted. kids that age know better and know that bulling is wrong. and to bully a special ed child? that is even lower than low. those bullies should be ashamed of themselves. they are lower than low.

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 7:26 PM

One question were is action california?

Dr. Elizabeth Englander October 21, 2008, 8:23 PM

I’m the Director of an academic Center at an eastern College and we teach schools to form student groups to address bullying and cyberbullying. If anyone from this school would like to call me, I’d be happy to help them out. This is no charge or cost. We are always devastated to hear about these cases.

ex-student of VHS October 21, 2008, 8:32 PM

This is very sad people see these kind of things on tv shows movies and the news the thing that bugs me so much is that people see some one get bullied they say OMG how sad but they never do anything about it whats wrong with standing up for something that’s right like telling people to stop. When i went to school there there was a kid that also got bullied we would always say to stop because they one day might bring a weapon and so some crazy things. The bullying club should have been started years ago but no one actually does something until something tradgic like this happens. the next time you see someone bieng picked on or bullyied DO SOMETHING don’t just watch because then you are being part of the bullying and think back to this terrible accident.

Someone October 21, 2008, 8:54 PM

it seems so sad
i never knw anyone who commited suicede but my friend knows this jeremiah kid and it the closest to knowing someone who was suicidal

Someone October 21, 2008, 8:54 PM

it seems so sad
i never knw anyone who commited suicede but my friend knows this jeremiah kid and it the closest to knowing someone who was suicidal

Kara October 22, 2008, 7:20 AM

What probably amazes me the most is that we all think “Oh my kid would never bully!”
People, take a good look at your kids and yourself! None of us are perfect and yes we all make judgemental comments once in a while but kids pick this stuff up at home! Two years ago when my son was 7 he was in a Cub Scout group in a small school. These two boys joined the group and they were clearly from a very poor family. They were polite, they were nice, they followed rules and were well behaved and never caused a bit of trouble. Some of the parents started calling them “rat boys” (don’t ask me why, small minds and low I.Q.) and pretty soon the kids picked it up and made those poor kids miserable. My son never teased them but I was disappointed that he didn’t stand up for them either. He was afraid of getting picked on too and that is something we are working on - learning to stand up for others even when you are scared. The teasing did not start with the kids though, it started with the parents. We, as adults, need to take a good long look at ourselves and see and hear what our kids are seeing and hearing from us!!

Alumni of Vasquez 2006 October 22, 2008, 8:08 AM

I was a student of Vasquez all four years and let me tell you, these kids (like most High Schools) can be AWFULLY CRUEL. My sister left last year, she was teased NONSTOP, to the point where she developed anger issues and abused drugs (she was also a Special Needs student). Because she did not dress like everyone else, and because she spoke her mind, she was an outcast. When she attempted suicide a while back we took her out of Vasquez and she now attends a charter school and is MUCH happier. This is a small town, one I’ve grown up in all my life, so it doesnt help when you made a little mistake in elementary school, and people refuse to let it go until they never hear from you again. You know what the school needs that it hasnt had in almost five years??!?! A counselor, something they do not have, that would be a huge step.

Anonymous October 22, 2008, 12:18 PM

Ok, isn’t there antibullying laws that hold the school administration accountable for the bullying at their schools? This is a problem that THEY need to address. They need to play a more active role in STOPPING this from happening at their school. They can say they were unaware, but I do not believe that at all! I do agree that bullying starts at home. We were always taught to treat others-no matter how different they were- with respect and kindness. Had my brother or I ever got in trouble for bullying another kid, we would have gotten it when we got home!! But, not everyone’s parents teach their kids that way, so it is up to the school to ensure that it is not happening on their school grounds. There have been several cases where parents of kids bullied sued the schools. They are there to make sure your kids have a safe learning environment and in my opinion, they failed this kid and should be held accountable.

Elizabeth Bennett October 22, 2008, 1:59 PM

I live in the Los Angeles area and work on this same problem. What happened with this child is not uncommon whatsoever. Bullying is a form of abuse and a violation of human and civil rights. Its high time we stop making excuses for it and get serious about this problem.

Alot of this is about education. How can we solve problems if we do not understand what we are dealing with in this first place? Parents, teachers, schools and communities need to start becoming aware. Its a matter of learning the “hot spots” on campus for bullying and Peer Abuse which is what this is.

Please, PLEASE get educated! Bullying is not kids stuff but a form of abuse. My condolences go out to the family and friends of this young man. He could have made a difference out there but these bullies put an end to that.

Take Care,
Elizabeth Bennett
Peer Abuse Know More!
Los Angeles, CA

Joe October 23, 2008, 1:44 PM

My daughter attends a private elementary school in Los Angeles that has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. It’s spelled out in the parent handbook all the different forms of bullying. Violation #1 is a warning, #2 is suspension, and #3 is a request to leave the school. As a result of this, my daughter’s perspective of “mean” kids is what it should be at this age - someone who is impolite, doesn’t play fair at recess, or engages in occasional teasing. That helps her build character and understand right from wrong, without threat of constant bullying.

Mike October 24, 2008, 8:14 AM

Another teen the school system has failed to protect. Anyone who’s witnessed the bullying should be held accountable but mostly this scumbag principal. This is just going to get worse and worse

Anonymous November 13, 2008, 1:22 PM

what that is bad

Anon January 17, 2009, 12:41 PM

Okay kimberly_s, Prosecuted for what? There’s no law against being mean to someone. Seriously, tell me what law you think they could be prosecuted with.

Natasha February 19, 2009, 1:42 PM

As a high school student, this article sickens me. I myself have faced bullying, but never backed down. I myself have bullied and I am truly and sincerely penitent in my apologies. The age-old euphemism “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is possibly one of the largest lies I have ever heard because bullying is so much more than words; they are scars that one will carry forever unless one can forgive and forget. Currently I am writing a 1500 essay for a scholarship contest, and this particular piece of writing is haunting, and will probably be included in my work.

Katie April 16, 2009, 3:12 PM

So if the teacher saw all this happening why didnt they do anything.. Its pretty sad when you have a teacher say they seen someone get harrassed and just stand there you could have prevented it!

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