Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Preventable Tragedy in Chardon, Ohio

This morning, in a sleepy town 30 mile east of Cleveland, Ohio, 17-year-old Thomas "TJ" Lane opened fire on some of his high school classmates, injuring five.  One of the five was fatally wounded.  There's an unconfirmed report that a second victim has also died.  It has been reported on a Cleveland news channel although no details were given.  Yet another of the victims is still in critical condition.

Initially, the reports were that "TJ" had been bullied by this group of students that he obviously targeted in his rampage.  I personally heard a news report that said that the alleged gunman confessed to stealing the handgun from his uncle and that he'd been "picked on" and bullied by this group for a long time.  Conversely, there was this quote from one of his fellow students:  “Even though he was quiet, he still had friends,” said Tyler Lillash, 16. “He was not bullied.”  I will add here that in a recent suicide, there were those who admonished that, despite what I'd reported, the victim was not bullied when, in fact, he had been.

What's harrowing about this great, life-changing tragedy is that the warning signs were in place.  Reportedly, TJ posted on his twitter just last night that "I'm bringing a gun to school".  And, as a response to that, as a Washington, D.C. news outlet reported, one boy tweeted that he'd probably be one of the first ones to get shot because he'd always been mean to [TJ].  Lots of unanswered questions.  What is known is that there has been a dark side to TJ that has gone unchecked.  A check of his facebook account suggested that he, himself, was interested in learning more about clinical depression.  I've been saying for a while that it's so vital that we as adults pay attention to what's being said.  No one took TJ seriously when he tweeted about bringing a gun to school.  No one paid attention to the dark posts he made on his facebook page or that he was looking to learn more about depression.  Now, there's one confirmed death in this unfortunate event and unconfirmed reports of a second.  If someone, ANYONE!, had paid attention and taken that tweet or facebook posts seriously, 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor may still be alive today.

If it's, in fact, true that Thomas Lane had been bullied, this wouldn't be the first time that the bullied took matters into his own hands rather than commit suicide.  Just recently, a Florida youth was found not guilty in the murder of a teen who had allegedly been bullying him.  In 2001, I followed the story of a young man who had been bullied at his Maryland school.  His father moved him to a San Diego suburb to get him away from the torment.  However, the bullying continued there as well.  He took a gun to school and killed two of his bullies.  As with Lane, this young man had told someone the day before that he was going to take a gun to school.  He wasn't taken seriously.  As a result, three young lives were lost:  two boys lost their lives, and the shooter will spend the rest of his life in prison.

If bullying was, indeed, the driving force behind this, there cannot be louder wake-up call.  What that would clearly indicate would be that not only are we losing young lives to bullying because of suicides but also because, in cases like this one, the one in Florida, and the one in the San Diego suburb, sometimes the bully, themselves, pay the ultimate price with their own lives.  In either case, it's an unthinkable tragedy, one that can be prevented.

What can we do to prevent life-altering events such as what happened in Ohio today from happening again?  There's a laundry list of things that needs to be done to prevent this from happening again:

  • BULLYING MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY!  It's a serious issue that is claiming lives at a break-neck pace.  NO LONGER is "boys will be boys" or "kids will be kids" acceptable.  
  • Listen to what these young people are saying.  Remember:  hearing and listening are two completely different functions.  In far too many cases, these troubled young people are screaming out at the top of their lungs, like Andy Williams did in San Diego, but no one listens to them.  So, to get their troubled voices heard, they act out.  The result of that action is rarely good.
  • Pay attention to the mental health of your child or even a troubled young person you may know from your neighborhood or through your own child.  I'm no professional, but I would bet that very rarely do events like we witnessed today happen out-of-the-blue.  There are always warning signs.  We have to pay attention, however, in order to see them.  
  • Understand that bullying and depression can be a disastrous combination.  It was that combination that claimed Jamie Hubley's life last year.  It was the combination that caused Andy Williams to go on his rampant is the San Diego suburb in 2001.  And, according to early reports, odds are that it played a role today in Chardon, Ohio.

All of this is so very preventable.  What happened in San Diego in March of 2001 didn't have to happen; what happened in Chardon, Ohio today didn't have to happen.  Life will never, ever be the same for the people of that small town in northeast Ohio.  The young people who witnessed the horrifying act will see it play out in their mind's eye for the rest of their lives.  And, as was the case in Santee, California back in 2001, three families have lost their beloved young ones forever.  To the people of Chardon, I wish you godspeed in your recovery and healing.  To the families of the victims, may you find peace.  The world mourns with you.


  1. Try telling that to the people who comment on yahoo.A bunch of psychopaths over there that think this was a good thing.It's a terrifying world we live in.

  2. Thank you for discussing this subject. It's so important to listen to and be in tune with our young people, and I just wish that parents would spend more time with their kids, be more honest about the world and teach their kids better ways to cope with all of the cruelness they will encounter.

  3. I WANTED to do it way back in the early 70's.
    I've been dropped into a dumpster, jammed into a locker, been hit in the crotch with a bass drum mallet & had a knife pulled on me.
    I will put it as simply as possible:
    It really IS just that simple, take it from one who fantasized about it.

  4. As a mother that worked had 2 wonderful girls and a disabled husband I have let depresion in one of my girls almost get out of control--we have to realize this can happen to our children no matter if they are shy or outgoing you have to really be a part of their lives everyday Mothers look at their FB--Twitter ect. never judge them and remember they arn't little clones they are in a world we could never understand--what we have left them isn't the same world our grandparents left us-Open your eyes and heart before we loose anymore precious lives.

  5. Yep! I posted on yahoo after reading how many people were just ready to blame all on the kid calling him an animal. I'm sure I'll get thumbs down. As an adult who was bullied and still bears the scars and as a parent who has 2 kids who are bullied, I can't say enough that something NEEDS to be done and done NOW. Talking to the school rarely brings any results as it seems the teachers are ready to stick up for the popular kids who do the bullying. I fear for my own kids to feel pushed this far. My daughter when she was in grade school was pushed down DAILY on her way to the playground. I complained and tried to get something done, yet NOTHING was done til she fractured her arm falling. Still don't know who it was but she said she saw the same color coat pass her when it happened. When will this stop? What does it take? Just makes me sick.

  6. According to the police. He DID NOT GET BULLIED. He chose them at random. He comes from a home where the father is in prison and the mother non-existent. You are no different than the rest of the speculative media. GET THE FACTS FIRST. These are the facts from the suspect, according to the police.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I spent countless hours doing research, including watching live feed directly from an Ohio news outlet last night. In fact, I watched that news outlet for two hours. Realizing the gravity of the situation, I wanted to do my very best at reporting this as accurately as I possibly could. And, every piece of information that I was receiving pointed to bullying, INCLUDING information from one news outlet that Lane, himself, had confess that he'd stolen the gun from his uncle and that the victims had been "picking on" him for a long time. Yet, even with that being said, and with all of the information I gathered pointing towards bullying, you will not find a place within this post where I definitely said it was bullying. Reporting responsibly, I did give it as a possibility while also leaving open the possibility that it WASN'T bullying. While I appreciate your comment, I will say that your attack was unwarranted. In addition, I would suggest you thoroughly re-read the article.

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  8. In his statement in the courtroom at sentencing: "the hand that pulled the trigger that killed your sons now masturbates to the memory. F%ck all of you", I think TJ Lane expressed the only way he knew how exactly what he thought of, not only to, the people who ignored him but also the people who ignored the hidden problems behind the scenes. He ran into a dead-end road. God help him for where he is now. Such a wasted young life.