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.