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14-Year Old Suicide Victim Was Receiving Death Threats For Being Gay

by David Badash on April 17, 2012

in Bigotry Watch,Civil Rights,Discrimination,News

Post image for 14-Year Old Suicide Victim Was Receiving Death Threats For Being Gay

Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr., the 14-year old who died by suicide this weekend after being mercilessly bullied by classmates, was receiving death threats on his cell phone and was the subject of a Facebook hate group. Weishuhn was just a freshman at South O’Brien High School, which serves three small towns in northwest Iowa, including Primghar, Kenneth’s hometown of 909 people. School officials apparently were aware of the bullying but did not notify Kenneth’s family.

“Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated,” Jeannie Chambers,  Kenneth’s mother, said he told her, KTIV reports:

Kenneth Weishuhn didn’t know either, until he told his friends last month that he was gay.

“People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him,” said his sister Kayla Weishuhn.

Teasing started in school, according Kayla, a sophomore.  She says it was the boys in her class, that bullied her brother over his sexuality.

A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything,” she said.

She says they took their teases online, to websites like Facebook, creating a hate group against gays and adding Kenneth’s friends as members.  However, it was only the beginning, family say he started receiving death threats from South O’Brien students on his phone.

“When I’d question him about the phone calls, like he just blew it off, so I just thought everything was ok,” said his mother.

According to Kenneth’s mother Jeannie, those South O’Brien boys were given a warning, but she was never contacted by the school.  She’s unsure whether she’ll press charges against the students she says drove her son to his death.

“I really don’t want to ruin somebody else’s life, or take someone else’s son or daughter from them.  But, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it to stop,” said Chambers.

To make someone feel so horrible about themselves, so miserable.  To make them hate themselves they way my brother must have,” said his sister.

There will be a vigil in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday April 24th at 7:00 PM.

The New Civil Rights Movement, which yesterday was the first to report Kenneth Weishuhn’s suicide, noted there is a Facebook group created in his memory. It now has over 1500 members, almost twice the number of people in Kenneth’s hometown.

One entry notes, “Its sad to see how people cannot just see past a persons identity and just see them as a human,” while another reads, “You took his happiness away from him..,” and another, “No one deserves to be bullied! My sympathies to the family and friends of Kenneth! And to the kids that bullied him hope you sleep okay knowing that you drove a young man to an early fate, you should be ashamed of yourself!”

Facebook page which appears to be that of the same Kenneth James Weishuhn lists his nickname as Rodney. The last entry was March 30.  A tribute video, below, was published to YouTube yesterday.

Pinterest page with Kenneth James Weishuhn’s name says, “ I love Louis Tomlinson, A lot.” One section, titled, “When I get married. (:” has several photos of same-sex couples. Another, titled, “Inspiration,” offers several “It gets better” images, and a quote from Glee star Chris Colfer:

There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s a lot wrong with the world you live in.

To which Weishuhn added, “I hope so.”

Another image reads, “Never be bullied into silence.”

There is a video created by Kenneth’s friends, which you can see at our original story.

Watch this news report from KTIV:

 

 

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{ 13 comments }

eroissyfr April 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

This is horrible BUT I do get tired of seeing all of the responsibility tilted toward the bulliers. The kids being bullied need to learn to stand up for themselves and SPEAK UP AND TAKE ACTION.

This kid chose to commit suicide. He has so many more options. Apparently his entire family knew this was going on and basically played Ostrich as did school officials. If his school or his family weren't taking action, there is the police, there is the state police, there is the ACLE, there are gay/lesbian organizations, the news media OR just standing up for himself.

Don't be a hater towards me. I am just stating the truth.

karvictho April 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I dare you to find Kenneth's home town on the map. Almost impossible, that's how small and dinky it is. Having said that it is easy to expect the parents to jump up and run to the nearest gay organization for help, but that usually isn't going to happen cause 1) either the parents don't know about them, 2) they don't really know how to handle being the parent of a gay teen who has just come out, and 3) they could be in denial — or lazy. What I do expect though is that there be some understanding that just from a developmental perspective, gay or not, people in their early teens are struggling with how to be mature. They start experimenting with how to be an adult. But they are still — at age 14 certainly — immature. This is why Kenneth couldn't withstand the onslaught. And, it is why at this age he deserved and should have had the intervention of adults.. his parent, and the school. Even if his parents couldn't figure everything out, the school had a duty to at least get in touch with the family and tell them death threats had been made against their child. And then there should have been a meeting with a mediator not attached to the school where the families and kids involved came together to discuss what was happening and the potential repercussions if it didn't stop. At another website someone claiming to have worked at this same school for a number of years 4 years ago says everyday kids are bullied there and the administration does little if anything about it. A anti bully counselor gave a speech at the school two weeks ago, but there was no followup afterwards.

Finally, how should kids being bullied learn to speak up and take action?

LadyVanSangue April 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

It is clear you have never been in this kind of a spot before. Being from that area and not being straight myself I know how unaccepting people can be there.The school councilors generally don't care, all the people they tell you are suppose to care and help you generally don't care. There are no gay/lesbian organizations there. There might have been one person but when you are in that situation you are scared, and don't want to tell anyone else beacause in your mind it is just adding another person to the list of people who won't accept you. My heart goes out to this family.

penguin426 April 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm

How long has it been since you were in school? Were you ever bullied? It's awful, and you just want it to STOP. Most kids are afraid that if they tell someone, nothing will get done about it anyway and word will get back to the kids and they'll taunt you even more. And in SUCH a small town, many of those options probably aren't even viable. The police? Most likely they're related/family friends with at least one of the bullies and will vouch that "He/she is a good kid, I know he/she isn't causing any serious harm. Kids will be kids." Gay/lesbian organizations? In a town of 909? Hardly. News media??? Would've gotten him seriously hurt if the story broke.

Who *I* personally think is responsible for the bullies is the PARENTS. What must they have been teaching these kids at home to make them think this was acceptable? Kids don't naturally HATE, they're taught this behavior and it's sick.

bgryphon April 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I am amazed at how many neocons say they want to eliminate public schools so parents can teach their children morals…. as if morals are only taught those few hours each weekday. The way parents (and other authority figures) behave day-to-day demonstrates clearly what is acceptable. What parents allow their children to see, read, hear has a major (although debatable as to the precise) impact on how those children grow up, how they relate to the world, what level of teasing rises to assault.

I was teased in school. It seems clear to me that what I (and others at that time) went through was nothing like the horrors that kids experience now.

Rsyk April 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

It's regional. Surprisingly, I've seen more situations like this rising out of northern states than anywhere else. I suppose it's because the LGBT community here in the south tends to cluster together, so even if things are bad it's misery shared. The bullying too, if you can call it that, isn't really organized. It's mostly limited to petty comments made by the few individuals who actually care enough to say something. And they can be easily ignored.

I think a large part of the problem, in areas where bullying like this is truly that bad, is that there are very few efforts that aren't looking in the long term. Organizations like GLSEN are trying to help, but it's mired in the desire to change the atmosphere those kids are in and make a public statement. While it's all well and good to try and change school programs and institutions to make them more friendly for these kids, it's not going to help them short term. Some effort needs to be spared to help those who're suffering now, and not just the ones who might suffer later.

bgryphon April 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Exactly- too many times programmes are designed for either short- or long-term goals. We need to deal with both the current crisis and the long-term environment.

tat0010 April 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm

So sad….. What a terrible lose of life.
penguin426 sorry but you are very wrong. Bullies make there on choices as we all do. Pointing fingers is NO answer.
Blaming parents is the way of this society.

Thomas Allen April 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I'm sure it's a tough thing to deal with right now, but I hope Kenneth's mom realizes that her son's death was the result of someone ele's behavior. Ignoring it will not solve the problem. Trayvon Martin's parents could have ignored the hate, but they fought with every ounce of strength they had and look what happened – justice. This smothering hate that continues to fester because someone chooses to be different has to stop.

Change_Now April 18, 2012 at 12:09 am

When will enough be enough? How many young adolescents must lose their lives due to bullying before this issue is addressed on a macro level. I commend the efforts made to inform young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered men and women that “It gets better,” but with suicide being the third largest cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24, we must come together and demand our elected officials pass anti-bullying bills. There is little we can do to address the viral effects of social networking websites, but through tough ramifications for those doing the bullying and the schools who let bullying take place, we can set a precedence which reflects low tolerance for bullying and gives dignity and worth back to the individuals who desperately need it the most.

Aceofspades87 April 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

I feel so bad for any kid that must go through bullying, but this blows my mind. I also feel terrible for his family. As a gay man, I can tell you that the mistake this kid made was coming out of the closet at 14 years old living in a small town of 900 people. The entire town marked this poor kid for life, not to mention he put his family in danger by opening his mouth. Sometimes gays must keep quiet in a society that truly hates us. It's sad but true.

Another mistake is the parents allowing a 14 year old on Facebook to begin with.

eroissyfr April 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

So just to respond to all of you, Yes I was bullied in school. However I was a pretty self sufficient kid. I have a long fuse but once you ding the bell one too many times, I push back and hard. My kids were taught how to deal with bullies by being raised with strength.

Bullying doesn't stop in school. Bullying, in many forms happens in all facets of life. You can either learn to ignore it, deal with or be bullied. Period.

My point is that the entire onus is on what to do about the bulliers..That is entirely the wrong focus. The focus should be on those being bullied (or who think they are because really the definition of BULLY has been greatly expanded to include someone that looks at you 'wrong', which really makes everyone a bully). If you want to stop bullying than you have to stop being bullied. It is really that simple. Children should be taught how to effectively deal with a bully. And when exactly did it become the schools sole responsibility to take care of bullys or generally a child's bad behavior? When did parents become such wimps? In my day, and I am not all that old, a parent called the other parent to discuss the behavior. If my kids did something, they were made to apologize and punished. The kids were made responsible for their behavior. Now it is everyone else's fault.

I agree with Aceofspades87 – This kid did make a mistake in coming out at his age and his location. Sad but true. I blame that on shows like Glee and let's all be out there cause really it is okay. It really isn't okay to 'come out'. And really why should anyone 'come out'? Your sexuality is your business. The media and TV puts huge pressure on these kids to come out because it all looks so nice and neat on TV.

And look how Glee handled a very long story line on Bullying..basically they didn't. The adults sure weren't doing anything for a very long time and then the bully turns out to be gay and everything is honky dory.

My other point was in this day and age of media bombardment about bullying and coming out and being gay etc etc etc…and the total connectivity of the majority of kids to social media, this kid was NOT isolated no matter the size of his town. So that argument (made by several) is spurious ( great word, that). It simple can't be used as an excuse unless you are Amish. And even that is questionable.

Society 'hates' a lot of things not just gays..And while it may be masked as hate, it is really just fear based on religious and political bigotry played out every single day in the media. Especially during this cycle of election frenzy.

i think it is terrible this kid made this choice and I really feel for his parents/siblings. And I feel pity for this town. Maybe his suicide will change things, but his living and doing something with his life would have done more.

Scott_Rose April 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm

You are one of those jerky bigots so ignorant, that your very ignorance keeps you from understanding how very ignorant you are. If I ever see you being assaulted on the street, instead of dialing 911 to get help for you, I'll shrug my shoulders, remember you said that crime victims have to stop the crime themselves, and then forget about you.

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