According to friends and family, a teen from Iowa has taken his life after receiving death threats on his cell phone and being made the subject of a Facebook hate page by schoolmates.
14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn was teased and bullied by his peers after he came out as gay earlier in the year. His sister Kayla says that Kenneth’s friends turned on him when they found out about his sexuality.
She claims it was the boys in his class who were the worst and that others followed the bullies’ lead because they were too meek to do otherwise.
According to a KITV report, “She says they took their teases online, to websites like Facebook, creating a hate group against gays and adding Kenneth’s friends as members. However, it was only the beginning, family say he started receiving death threats from South O’Brien students on his phone.”
When his mom questioned him about the death threats, Kenneth just behaved as though it wasn’t a big deal, she says. However, he did tell her that she couldn’t understand what it meant to be hated.
As is now the common practice, a Facebook group has been set up in the late teen’s memory. Tullula Moore, who claims to be Kenneth’s grandmother, posted this on his tribute page:
“Loved that child from the day he was born and now even in death. I am KJ’s grandmother and would like to thank all of you for your support. Hopefully each and everyone of you can make/start a change with the schools, local gov. because Bulling is done by SISSY’s. And it really doesn’t matter if you are gay, you could be fat, skinny, walk funny, talk funny, have old holey clothes, no teeth. Those that are bullying are just ignorant. Make the Authorities responsible!!!!!!”
Laura Leigh Saintsing had this to say:
“Unfortunately, the culture most of us have been raised in has been the mindset that you get ‘picked on’ in school and that’s just part of growing up. Bullying is like most other crimes, the only way it’s going to stop is if the offenders get caught and are prosecuted. We, as parents, need to take a stand for our children against bullying in any form and hold those responsible accountable from the school administration right down to the bullies themselves.”
The Sioux City Journal reports that the Superintendent of Kenneth’s school would not talk about the case or elaborate on whether or not cyberbullying and peer abuse in general played a role in the teen’s death. He said that even though he’s heard the allegations, he’s not sure why the former student killed himself.
Nevertheless, Superintendent Dan Moore says that grief counsellors have been dispatched to the school to help students in mourning better cope with the tragedy. He said the school is taking the incident seriously.
A loving tribute video on YouTube entitled “In loving memory of Kenneth James Weishuhn” can be viewed here.
Even though we don’t know the details of this specific case, we do know that cyberbullying is a real problem and potentially devastating to vulnerable young people.
If you’re a parent and your child shrugs off being abused online or on the phone, make sure to address the problem immediately and proactively. After all, Kenneth acted as though the abuse didn’t get to him. Until it was too late.
Talk To Us! Do you speak to your children about the dangers of cyberbullying?
Image Source: Ktiv