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The End of Their Rope
The Devastating Effects of Student Bullying
An article from David R. Smith at

On September 9, 2010, 15-year old Billy Lucas reached the end of his rope, figuratively and literally. Suspected of being gay, Lucas was tormented continually. He ended the torture by hanging himself.

But Lucas wouldn’t be the last bullied kid to hang himself in September.

A Tragic Month
September of 2010 proved to be a heartrending month for several families.

The horror began in Greensburg, Indiana when Billy Lucas hung himself in the barn behind his parents’ home. Though Lucas never claimed to be gay, the mere suspicion of his homosexuality by peers supplied them with the necessary reasons to ridicule him.

School officials, including the principal, claimed to be unaware of any bullying, but this video shows Billy wasn’t the only homosexual who was picked on at Greensburg High School in recent years.

Just 10 days later, the pain of teenage suicide was felt again, this time across the nation in Tehachapi, California. On that Sunday, September 19th, Seth Walsh hung himself from a tree in his back yard. He was just 13 years old.

Adding to the tragedy of this young man’s story was the fact that he spent the last 8 days of his life connected to breathing tubes and IVs, which gave his family the false hope he might survive his self-inflicted wounds.

He did not.

On Monday, the 27th of September, more than a week after his suicide attempt, his frail body finally lost the fight. California news agencies reported that Walsh was yet another victim of anti-gay bullying and teasing.

Astonishingly, between Walsh’s suicide attempt and his eventual death, a third student committed suicide, this time on the east coast.

On the evening of September 22nd, another horrific story about a tormented homosexual student emerged. Earlier that afternoon, Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, committed suicide after a homosexual encounter between himself and another male student was secretly filmed and then publically displayed online by his roommate.

When Clementi, an accomplished violinist, discovered the video, he posted a message on his Facebook account at 8:42pm that simply read, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

Unfortunately, Clementi followed through, and ended his life by jumping from the George Washington Bridge in New York City later that night.

And though there were 8 more days left in September, only one would pass before the last suicide of the bloody month.

On September 23rd, Asher Brown, a 13-year old living in Houston, TX ended his life with a fatal shot from a Beretta 9mm pistol.

Without a doubt, the young gay Buddhist – who also suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome – stuck out in the Texas town. And he paid a high price for it. His suicide that afternoon followed an episode of bullying – what he determined would be his last – at school that same day.

From now on, every September will bring memories and remorse and regrets to several families across the country.

But it doesn’t have to.

Self-Inflicted Wounds
Teen suicide is, of course, self-inflicted. Sadly, many of the wounds leading up to that “final solution” are also caused by teens.

In fact, according to one of the largest studies ever conducted on the act of bullying, it was discovered that 50% of U.S. high school students say they’ve bullied and/or teased someone at least once in the past year, and 47% of the same group say they’ve been bullied in that same period of time.

For the first time in the history of their institution, the Josephson Institute of Ethics researched bullying as a part of their bi-annual Ethics of American Youth Survey. What they discovered can only be described as appalling.

Researchers found that:
  • 52% of students have hit someone in anger

  • 37% of boys say it’s OK to hit or threaten a person who angers them

  • 19% of girls also believe hitting/threatening a person who angers them is permissible

It appears as though many adolescent problems are being sorted out through violence.

With all this pent up bitterness and stress, it’s little wonder why the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found suicide to be the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year olds.

National Notice
Most of the devastated families mentioned above never noticed anything that led them to believe suicide was on the horizon for their kids. But now, an entire nation is taking note of the peril today’s students find themselves in.

October has officially been declared The National Bullying Prevention Month. A myriad of organizations and high profile personalities are joining forces to help end the senseless devastation wreaked on kids by other kids.

MTV is offering students a chance to draw a line, literally. Their Draw Your Line campaign gives teenagers a chance to outline what steps they’re taking to make themselves, and others, safer. An interactive map of the US shows that one teen has “joined a group on digital abuse,” while another tweets she has “blocked a phone number.” Yet a third has “called someone out for their hurtful message to a friend.”

The problem of teen suicide hasn’t just captured the attention of parents and the media; politicians have taken note...even politicians at the (very) top.

The pro-homosexual campaign It Gets Better, received a huge boost when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posted an online video which told kids, “Here at the State Department, I’m grateful every day for the work of our LGBT employees who are serving the United States….” Her overriding message was one of encouragement and hope because of where the country has come from in regards to its treatment of homosexuals and where she believes the country will be in the future.

Even President Obama is weighing in on the matter. In this YouTube video released by the White House, the president claimed to be “shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay.” He denounced bullying from both a parents’ perspective, and also from an American perspective.

Overall, it’s a good thing for our elected officials to involve themselves in such a traumatizing issue that affects so many families. But I’m not sure that the kid who is being bullied right now cares about what the president and/or secretary of state thinks about his/her struggle.

But I am certain that the same kid cares what his/her parents think.

Stay of Execution
Teenagers have plenty of people resources available to help them deal with bullying, teasing, and suicidal thoughts – guidance counselors, teachers, mentors, even politicians – but without a doubt, the most effective voice is that of a parent or godly youth worker. Here are some simple tips that may go a long way toward helping a troubled and tormented teen.

  1. Ask your kids the hard questions about the issue. Don’t make it an interrogation, but be willing to ask your teenagers the tough questions regarding bullying and teasing. Have they done it? Has it been done to them? Have they seen it done to others? If so, what did they do about it? This is not a conversation you can have just one time with your kids and consider yourself done. Have it over and over again. In my experience with larger student ministries, I’ve found that “suicide attempts breed suicide attempts.” If a kid in our city – or sadly, even a kid in our ministry – attempted suicide, we put everything on hold and talked about it because we observed that suicide attempts were not isolated incidents, but rather, they came in pairs (or even larger numbers). Bottom line: it’s better to communicate too much than not enough.

  2. Keep the issue about the issue. This article, nor this problem, is about homosexuality. With all due respect I admonish you to not allow yourself to become sidelined by the homosexual agenda that can so easily spring from these travesties. Though these kids (above) shared that in common, let’s not forget that lots of kids are bullied for lots of different reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality. Kids who are overweight, unpopular, non-athletic, religious, ethnically diverse, poor, etc. have all felt the pain of bullying. So, let’s not allow the greater need to be hijacked by an agenda. Our kids need to be taught to love and defend everyone…not just those who are homosexual.

  3. Know how to handle the situation – and share the strategy with your kids. First, train yourself on what to look for when it comes to kids who are wrestling with bullying and suicidal thoughts. Since there’s no hard and fast sign that automatically equates with suicide, just keep your eyes open for hurting kids. If you encounter a kid who’s potentially suicidal, get them professional help immediately…then show them large and frequent doses of unconditional love. Don’t forget to equip other teenagers to be a first line of defense against bullying, too. Bullying doesn’t happen in the dark; scores of teens – if not hundreds – watch it happen every day! Tell them how to handle the situation courageously and effectively. Don’t consider your job done until both you and your own children know how to handle bullying and suicide.

Bullying and suicide are delicate matters. But so are the lives they negatively affect. So many problems teenagers find themselves in can be talked through, even after the mistake (including pre-marital sex, shoplifting, or even drug use). But with suicide, no more conversation can be had. So let’s do a lot of talking now, providing our kids a much-needed stay of (self) execution.

David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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Comments on this post

   Clay         11/16/2010 4:30:27 PM

People, we are not at war with homosexuals. It's okay to say, "It's not okay to bully people for being gay" without getting all political about it. When you make sweeping generalizations about the "homosexual agenda", don't you see how you become the bully? It creates this Us vs. Them mentality that drives homosexuals from churches. The greater need can easily be hijacked by an anti-homosexual agenda, as well. I am convinced the best way to approach this is with our "homosexuality is wrong" attitude completely removed, and saved for another conversation at another time. Surely making kids feel safe, secure, and loved, and introducing them to the Gospel is far more important than convincing them of God's plan for male/female relationships.

   James Preece         11/12/2010 4:18:57 AM

One of the terrible things we are seeing with this issue is how the homosexual lobbyist have grabbed this and turned it into their agenda. I am pleased to see that someone else clearly sees that teens are bullied for other reason that are not sexual orientation related.

   Ron Maggi         11/9/2010 10:40:58 AM

Great article

   David R. Smith         11/8/2010 11:15:18 AM

Stephanie, Your question (about biblical passages for teaching on this subject) is a great one. Here are just a couple of ideas to get you going: 1. Use Psalm 10 to introduce the truth that oppression and injustice – perhaps the biblical equivalent of “bullying” – have been around for millennia. Ask students about the wicked person’s heart and attitude. Ask students questions about the WAY the wicked man attacks the weaker person. Finally, and most importantly, note God’s reputation and what is being asked of Him by the psalmist. 2. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 shows God’s people that violent retribution is NOT the way God intended His people to handle physical injustice. As Christians, we are to help the person who is suffering, but we also have a responsibility to the person who is doing the bullying. 3. I want to be careful here – please don’t read more into my words than I’m saying – but look at how Jesus treated the despised people of His day, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the sinners. Those people, who everybody hated, were loved by Jesus. Bullies are hated by everyone, too. Wouldn’t it be great if Christian students in local schools truly loved bullies, and showed them a lifestyle of peace? I think that’s a great ideal to shoot for in our teaching. Stephanie, I applaud your effort to teach on this crucial subject. These were just ideas to get you started. The Bible contains a wealth of truth that will help you in your endeavor. Thanks for doing what you do! Yours in Him, David R. Smith

   Josh Nelson         11/4/2010 1:57:34 PM

As always, quality work, David. It breaks my heart the amount of teasing and negative banter that takes place in the lives of teenagers. Unfortunately, we see it in the church, too! I'm looking to start some kind of no-tolerance policy for bullying within our ministry. In response to Stephanie's query about scripture based on this topic, Jesus' admonition to love our neighbor as we love ourselves works. Also, Jesus continual examples of having compassion on people throughout His ministry: Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, the crowds that pursued him when he was tired and hungry, etc.

   Kelly Sykes         11/4/2010 11:36:37 AM

"Gay" seems to be the sort of catch all word these days to tease anyone who doesn't seem to fit in or is different in some way. Thank you for pointing that out in your article...many times that term is used and like you said is not at all about homosexuality.

   Kurt Hoffman         11/3/2010 9:12:45 AM

WOW! I have heard some of the stories but not all. In some ways, I didn't know that bullying had become such a big issue with a huge impact. I know it is a problem, but this is bigger than I gave it credit. I will pass this on and talk with my parents of the students that I have the opportunity to minister to at my church and community. Heart-breaking, but needed article.

   Joyce         11/3/2010 4:27:55 AM

Its really interesting, just last night we were having a discussion around these theme in our marriage Bible Study and made resolutions. The issue raised was evolving homosexuality amongst the young people and how what our role is. this article brings about a new angle to the same. thanks!

   Kelvin Low         11/3/2010 1:42:31 AM

It gives a good perspective on the bullying situation and how to help youths talk about their situation and process through. Thank you!

   Vicki         11/2/2010 8:53:52 PM

Thank you so much for addressing this issue. Working with middles schoolers --Bullying, is their number one concern and their number one actiivity. It is amazing how when discussing this topic most students will have an excuse to why they were being a bully. Most do not believe it is bullying unless they actually use force to harm another. Thanks again.

   Beth         11/2/2010 7:00:53 PM

excellent article

   Elizabeth Parramore         11/2/2010 6:40:18 PM

I am a pastor's wife that has found articles like this very useful for Wednesday night devotions at church. They give thought provoking discussions,especially for my 12 year old daughter who is very inquisitive.I hope to equip her with information that will make her a bold witness for the Lord.

   Steve McDonald         11/2/2010 6:18:51 PM

There are many facets to bullying and none are good. We must look at Scripture to see how Jesus dealt with bullies and sinners. Think about the woman caught in adultry that was to be stoned by bullys. He refused to judge her and told her to sin no more. We too must follow the Christ's lead!

   Alan Fewkes         11/2/2010 2:15:38 PM

the youth culture window is a great way to see the things that are going on in teen lives. this article rings home for me as some of our youth are struggling with some of the same issues. thanks for the hard work you do, it helps to clear up some of the difficult areas in ministry. Al

   Dairn         11/2/2010 12:20:24 PM

Good, timely article! I think that the stats are probably very similar in Canada, so the warning signs are important to watch for here, too.

   Tim A         11/2/2010 12:15:22 PM

We as the Church should take some responsibility on this issue. We have done little to prevent this kind of behavior, even in our own students in the Church. I don't know what is the best solution to solve this issue of bullying but it starts at home. Parents let their children watch and play whatever they want to without any supervision, this includes the Christian parents.

   Jim Hambright         11/2/2010 12:04:09 PM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   James Huenink         11/2/2010 11:53:19 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   EFY         11/2/2010 11:39:07 AM

What a heartbreaking but helpful article for youth leaders and parents. We can't close our eyes ~ "Be vigilent!" Blessings

   Jeff         11/2/2010 11:26:25 AM

Homosexuality is wrong, but are these same kids bullying kids that lie or cheat? I don't think so. Good article.

   Linda Granato         11/2/2010 11:24:59 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   Jeff         11/2/2010 11:24:52 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   Linda Granato         11/2/2010 11:15:20 AM

liked that it took a look at the real issue and gave some basic opening pointers for parents/youthworkers to go with. We have to start somewhere and practical is important!

   Joe Gough         11/2/2010 11:15:17 AM

Absolutely Great article, David! Thanks for writing it and reminding me not to get sidetracked by secondary agendas.

   Randi         11/2/2010 10:42:28 AM

This article is so relevant for today! And it just adds to my reasons for getting my pastor to watch "To Save a Life" so that we can use it in our curriculum this year!! Thanks!

   Brian         11/2/2010 9:53:42 AM

another great article, I look forward to reading these every week.

   Todd Cramer         11/2/2010 8:40:22 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   Brian Schouten         11/2/2010 8:00:44 AM

Great article. I plan on using as part of a discussion on bullying using To Save a Life.

   Joe Gough         11/2/2010 6:48:54 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   Jay Crouch         11/2/2010 5:52:29 AM

I used this to add to my sermon on Self Injury after doing a movie event for To Save A Life. Thanks

   MLiss          11/2/2010 5:42:08 AM

excellent article on bullying

   Stan McNabb         11/1/2010 7:18:49 PM

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   Nora Flores         11/1/2010 1:47:46 PM

i remember those suicides its really sad but we see this kind of stuff all over...satan is really having a field day with our youth of today..but whats even sadder is the fact that alot of the youth group here i our community do the same they always make teenagers feel like they dont belong...its time we stand at use the authority God has given us to bring satan down easier said then done in out culture today!!! you keep up the good work...God is awesome

   Erin Fritsch         11/1/2010 12:06:50 PM

Thanks for this article. I know for sure teasing is a HUGE issue, unfortunately even in our youth ministry. Even though they try not to show it, I know the teasing really gets to some kids. I have a few who confide in me about the teasing/bullying at school, too. I've been trying to make sure to get those kids involved in ministry as much as I can so they feel useful and important to someone.

   Bryan Drum         11/1/2010 11:22:12 AM

This article was rated but no comment was left

   Jake         11/1/2010 10:50:38 AM

Good's important to consistently communicate with hurting teens. We need to show them God's love and provide community for them to belong in.

   Matthew Schutter         11/1/2010 10:05:53 AM

Great article!

   Jonathan McKee         11/1/2010 8:55:32 AM

Great article David! This issue is huge across the country right now... thanks for some great insight and application. As for your comment Wes... as a dad of a kid that was bullied... I hear you man! This is a tough issue and self defense surely isn't unreasonable at times.

   Wes         11/1/2010 5:32:42 AM

Call me a redneck...I think the best solution to bullying is a hard left jab to the teeth followed up by a hard right. Maybe I'm old school but through out my elementary & high school years I saw this work better than any thing else. Bullying is nearly non-existant where my kids go to school. In large part b/c administration looks the other way when the up & coming bully gets cracked. It is part of the culture that has been fostered. The students don't tolerate bigger, stronger students who prey on the weaker or smaller. I have taught my own kids this from the time they were 4 years old. I see this throughout scripture that we are to care for & protect the widow & orphan, the weak and defenseless. I have taught my kids to walk away from their own trouble but to intervene when they see someone weaker or smaller being bullied. Even Jesus drove the abusers from the temple w/ whip and thrown tables twice during His earthly ministry. Wes