An 11-year-old brain cancer survivor shot herself shortly after getting off a school bus in Champaign County, Ohio, on October 19. Her parents are now speaking out and think that relentless bullying caused the young girl to take her own life.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that Bethany Thompson, a student at Triad Middle School, walked inside her home after she got off of the school bus for the day, found a loaded handgun on top of a shelf, and shot herself in the head. It’s still unclear who the gun belongs to, but her mother, Wendy Feucht, 34, said that she’d been bullied constantly at school for the past several years.
“I think that she was just done. She didn’t feel like anybody could do anything to help her. People need to know that even the littlest things can break someone.”
Bethany shared her thoughts of suicide with her best friend. According to the friend, a group of girls bullied Bethany to no end on the day she decided to take her life.
“She told her [friend] she loved her and that she was her best friend forever, but that she was going to kill herself when she got home,” said Feucht.
In 2008, Bethany was diagnosed with a tumor in her brain. She successfully went through surgery and the tumor was removed, but the end result was a crooked smile. Students at her school allegedly bullied her constantly about it. Triad Middle School’s superintendent, Chris Piper, claimed that although she was bullied last year, there was no evidence of it happening this school year.
“There was no evidence of a pattern of bullying this year,” said Piper.
However, Piper also indicated that he’s currently interviewing a number of the students’ parents, but couldn’t disclose any other information, due to student privacy acts.
This isn’t the first time someone at Triad Middle School committed suicide. Springfield News-Sun reports that on April 19, 2012, Kamden Ketchell, a fifth-grader at the school, took his own life, likely because of bullying.
“Bullying has many forms and may be interpreted differently by everyone,” his family said in a statement. “Our hope is that everyone would be more cautious, attentive and empathetic to others.”
Craig Meredith, the school’s superintendent in 2012, said that there was “no credible information that showed bullying played a role in the incident.” Yet, two children who attended the same school are now dead, and family members and friends of both kids account it to bullying.
Prior to her death, Bethany created several anti-bullying posters that she wanted to share at the school, but the administrator wouldn’t let her hang them up or display them because they weren’t considered positive.
Shortly after Kamden’s death, Amy Hass, the senior prevention specialist with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, stated that both parents and educators alike need to be more involved in bullying prevention, and should work as a team to do what they can to prevent it.
“It’s not about blaming anyone. It’s about what do we need to do to prevent suicide.”
Meanwhile, Piper continues to search for answers. He surmised that suicide can be a complicated process with a number of variables.
“Suicide is a complicated act. We’re trying to find the cause. And there’s no single thing that says this is what led to it….We are going to step back and evaluate what we are doing.”
Russell Penhorwood, the dad of Bethany’s best friend, is concerned that suicide could happen to any child, but not enough is being done to prevent it. He indicated that he called the school on several different occasions before the incident occurred, but was told that the situation was being “supervised.”
“I think this could’ve been prevented if the right measures were taken, but hindsight’s 20/20. It’s aggravating, this could’ve been anybody’s kid. I even called the school a few times on it so they could do some checking in and they said they were supervising the situations.”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact the Teen Suicide Prevention Hotline at 614-294-3300. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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