he suicide of Phoebe Prince has familiarized Americans with the term "bullycide," but unfortunately, the phenomenon of adolescent suicide linked to bullying is not new. By many accounts, it's getting worse, as social networking and text-messaging have expanded the bully's toolkit: Studies show that between 33 percent and 42 percent of kids say they've been attacked or humiliated online. The Week looks back at some key incidents in the sad history of "bullycide":
Died: September, 1998
High, 13, shot himself five months after an older boy severely beat him up in the gym of his Pasco, WA, middle school. In those intervening months, Jared couldn't sleep, heard voices, and grew increasingly depressed, says his mom, Brenda High, who's since become a leading anti-bullying advocate. She has compiled several stories in a book, Bullycide in America. (Daily Beast, JaredStory.com)
Died: October, 2003
Halligan, 13, hanged himself after years of bullying. According to his father, John Halligan, Ryan had been able to stave off physical assaults after learning Taebo kick-boxing techniques, but was eventually overwhelmed by psychological harassment at his Essex Junction, VT, middle school. After Ryan's suicide, John discovered instant-message archives revealing that one so-called "friend" had spread a rumor that Ryan was gay; a female schoolmate had flirted with Ryan to gather embarrassing secrets, only to broadcast them. John Halligan became an early proponent of anti-cyber-bullying legislation. (Wikipedia, RyanPatrickHalligan.com)
Died: October 2006
In the first high-profile case of cyber-bullying, Missouri teenager Megan Meier hanged herself weeks before her 14th birthday, after she was cruelly "dumped" by a fictitious boy, "Josh Evans," with whom she'd corresponded via MySpace and IM. In his final message, "Josh" wrote: "You are a bad person and everybody hates you. Have a shitty rest of your life. The world would be a better place without you." Josh, it turned out, had been created by a friend's mom, Lori Drew, reportedly to "mess with" Megan for slighting her daughter. Vilified by the media, Drew was convicted, then acquitted, of federal misdemeanor charges related to Megan's suicide. The case has prompted several cyber-bullying laws. (Fox News, Wikipedia)
Died: March 2007
Mohat, 17, was the third student at Ohio's Mentor High School to kill himself in his school year. His suicide followed years of taunting — provoked, it seems, by his odd physique (at 6'1" and 112 pounds, he was nicknamed "Twiggy") and his defiant tendencies to wear pink and attend school with a stuffed lemur "velcro'ed" to his arm. A classmate reportedly told him: "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself? It's not like anybody would care." Eric's parents sued the school district, alleging that it had been aware of the bullying but failed to take action — and that its existing policies (based on the Olweus Anti-Bullying Program) were ineffective. (CBS News, Daily Beast)
Died: April 2009
While Phoebe Prince's death has increased pressure on the Massachusetts legislature to pass its pending anti-bullying law, the law itself was prompted by Carl's suicide in Boston. At just 11, Carl hanged himself using an extension cord after being tormented for months by bullies who called him "gay." (Boston Channel, ABC News)
Alexis Skye Pilkington
Died: March 21, 2010
The Long Island, NY, 17-year-old teenager killed herself after receiving vicious, anonymous attacks via the social networking site FormSpring.me. In a dark, new twist to the bullycide phenomenon, Alexis is still being taunted after her death by anonymous posts on a memorial Facebook page set up in her honor. Police are currently investigating what role cyber-bullying may have played in her suicide. (CBS News, Wayland Student Press)
- WATCH: Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly spar over the Obama scandals
- How the White House's war on media backfired
- 10 things you need to know today: May 23, 2013
- WATCH: Suspect defends brutal beheading of London man in broad daylight
- A linguistic dissection of 7 annoying teenage sounds
- Could the Cleveland kidnapping victims have been rescued sooner?
- Is Greek yogurt hurting the environment?
- Sadly, you are uglier than you think
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Did IRS official Lois Lerner waive her right to silence?
- The politics behind Kanye West's 'New Slaves'
- Are we on the cusp of a solar energy boom?
- Why Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn doesn't want tornado relief money
- WATCH: Jon Stewart hates everyone in Washington now
- LIVE UPDATES: Massive tornado tears through Oklahoma City area
- Angry at the government? 5 ways you can fight back
- 7 purported health benefits of drinking coffee
- What is a quantum computer — and why does Google need one?
- Why NASA is funding a 3D pizza printer
- The cool backstory of the Slurpee