Op-Ed: Our Son Committed Suicide. We Can’t Let Bullying Take Another Child

Parents David and Tina Long, featured in the film ‘Bully,’ share why schools must do more to protect kids from bullycide.
Tina and David Long, whose 17-year-old son Tyler Long committed suicide as a result of bullying, talk to reporters at the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary film 'Bully' on March 26, 2012. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Feb 20, 2013

As parents who’ve dealt with a child that has taken his life because of bullying, the question still lingers, “Does society even care?”
The personal impact of finding your child hanging in his bedroom closet cannot be written or said in words. Only the parents who have endured losing a child to “bullycide” can even begin to relate. Unless tragedy strikes you in the same manner, you cannot even begin to feel the anguish and pain that exists in our daily lives. Forever gone is the presence of your child. No more laughter; no more seeing the warm, smiling face…just no more.
Having Tyler’s story told in the documentary Bully has been a healing process. Tyler’s story is mirrored by hundreds of other parents. We are only ONE of the tragic stories that could have been told. Parents and students across this nation needed a means to create an open dialogue on the effects of bullying. The film has done that. Bully has given victims of this senseless behavior a voice to say, “We are not alone, and together we can make a difference.”

Many articles and opinions have been written and spoken about bullying, its effects, and what we as a society should do about it. To do nothing and accept this behavior is killing our children. Because of the differences in the definitions of what bullying is, there is no united stance or consequences for these actions.

Almost all states have an anti-bullying policy that school districts use as guidelines. Some districts enforce these guidelines, while others, the majority, do the minimum. States allow districts the flexibility to word their policies as they see fit with very little, if any, oversight and no accountability.

When our children step foot into the school, they are in a battle zone without armor.
Currently, we send our children to school with the thought that our kids are to be protected while in the care of school officials. In lawsuits filed against schools for failing to act on bullying related cases, federal judges have ruled that because a school district does not have a custodial relationship with your child, they have no constitutional duty to protect your child while in their care. If your child is incarcerated or in a mental facility only then do the states require protection.
The time has come for us to redefine our responsibilities and duties. More and more, school violence is on the rise and more protection is required. Negligence alone is not enough to find or hold schools accountable for their actions. When our children step foot into the school, they are in a battle zone without armor.

We owe our children an environment where they can learn and thrive not only in the educational arena, but also on a social scale. I hope no other child ever endures the pain that our child endured at the hands of others. We must stop running from the truth.
Some families choose not to make public their stories of tragedy. Only through the truth will we clearly begin to understand what the effects of bullying have on our children.

Our story runs parallel with so many other families across the United States: the Denham family in Kentucky, the Walz family in Illinois, the Epling family in Michigan, the Berry family in California. The time for change is now. We owe it to our children.

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.

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