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The children’s rights lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys fight every day to protect children who are bullied. Part of our effort involves publishing articles that we hope raise the awareness of this issue. We’ve covered several different aspects of bullying recently, including bullying studies, bullying statistics and even bullying from a worldwide perspective. While all of this is important information, it can be easy to forget that there are individual consequences of bullying, and some young people and their families pay the ultimate price. Tragically, that is what law enforcement personnel in Missouri are alleging in response to a teen committing suicide after being subjected to bullying in both the workplace and at school. The teen’s work manager has been arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter. This is a heartbreaking situation and one that we hope is never repeated.
This tragic story is about a 17-year-old boy in Missouri who shot himself in the head outside of his family’s home on December 21, 2016. After the suicide, reports began to surface that the boy had been ruthlessly bullied both at his high school and while working at a local Dairy Queen. In response to these reports, the county coroner called an inquest. This is a relatively rare step, but an inquest is basically an inquiry that’s used to make factual determinations regarding certain incidents, including deaths.
There were basically two aspects of the alleged bullying that were examined during the inquest. Those types of bullying were school bullying and workplace bullying. This inquest included a six-person jury. The jury heard testimony and considered evidence. This jury took only about an hour before recommending criminal charges and making other statements with regards to the school district. The Columbia Daily Tribune reported on the story. Those who want to read it in its entirety can find it here. The inquest also led to some troubling findings on the part of the jury that led to the arrest of a female suspect.
The school district in which the boy attended high school was the focus of one part of the inquest. Witnesses testified that it was generally known that the boy had been bullied for years at school. A friend of his testified that he was bullied everywhere on school grounds. The specific types of bullying were all-too-common for those who deal with these matters. Students made fun of the boy for his looks, his weight, his speech impediment, how he walked and how he acted in general. To potentially make matters worse, the boy’s friend said that she reported the bullying once. She said that she did not report the bullying more often because she felt that nothing would happen in response.
This girl’s mother also testified at the inquest. She stated that her own son had been bullied at the school, including at least once by a teacher. The girl’s mother stated that she had met with administrators about the bullying. She further stated that doing so did not help the situation. A different mother stated that she had moved her son out of the school district entirely. She did so because the bullying was so intense and pervasive. This witness alleged that each time she went to the school to discuss the bullying problem, it only got worse.
In addition to the school bullying, the inquest delved into the alleged workplace bullying that the boy endured. Testimony included allegations that the boy’s manager at Dairy Queen demeaned him in several ways. Specific allegations included testimony that the manager:
Other news stories indicated that at times the workplace bullying would become so intense that the boy would run outside to cry. The manager also testified at the inquest. She stated that she did not believe that she was bullying him, that she never did anything to demean or embarrass him and that any insults directed at him were simply done in jest.
The inquest left no doubt as to how the jurors felt about the entire situation and what the cause of death was for the boy. The jurors came to the following conclusions:
The manager was arrested because of the jury’s final conclusion. Perhaps the only ‘positive’ aspect of the story, for complete lack of a better term, is that the coroner decided to call an inquest because he believes that bullying is becoming a public safety problem.
The consequences of bullying are real. Even if bullying hasn’t affected someone you know directly, it is a growing problem. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, approximately 4,400 young people in the United States commit suicide every year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people who have not reached adulthood. To date, we do not know specifically how many young people kill themselves because they are being bullied.
The consequences of bullying are tragic. In some cases they are permanent, as they are alleged to have been in this situation in Missouri. One of the links we posted above contains information regarding common warning signs of bullying. Anyone who wants to make a positive difference in order to help avoid some of the terrible consequences of bullying needs to familiarize themselves with these common warning signs. In addition, concerned adults who do not see action from school boards, employers or the like in response to bullying problems need to keep fighting. If you find yourself in this difficult situation where you do not think there is anyone out there to help, contact the children’s rights lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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