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Four student suicides connected to cyberbullying: who is to blame?

Our 9OYS investigation found page after page of Facebook posts aimed at one girl

Four student suicides connected to cyberbullying: who is to blame?

CREATED Feb 10, 2012

Notes by:  Forrest Carr, KGUN9 News Director

Our 9 On Your Side investigation into cyberbullying struck a chord with many viewers this week. The exclusive report uncovered a shocking fact not previously reported in local media: four students in Tucson have killed themselves this school year in incidents police say were connected to cyberbullying. KGUN 9 News relayed the story of one parent who'd asked us to look into bullying directed at her daughter and we indeed found page after page of Facebook postings targeting the girl. The child, parent, school principal and police did everything they could do within the confines of the law, but as of this publication have still not been able to put a final, complete stop to the bullying.

A related 9 On Your Side story from last month about a student whose parents withdrew her from school because of bullying was a top-commented story from that week, too.  The comments proved the point.  Many commenters continued the verbal attack on the student, posting "nastygrams" directed at the victim on KGUN9.com. KGUN9 removed those comments, banned the posters and closed the story to further commentary.

One common question in the viewer feedback is: when kids pick on one another, who is ultimately to blame? Most felt it's the job of parents, not police or educators, to monitor their children's online activities. One viewer felt there's more to it than just a parental failure to check up on and/or monitor this kind of unacceptable behavior, making the point that some parents become actively involved in their kids' cruelty. Still others felt there really is no problem at all, that life is cruel and that kids had best learn these coping skills now.

Here's a sample of what viewers had to say:

Elizabeth Rosas (via Facebook):  "So sad that children kill them selves."

Terra Shishido (via Facebook):  "I don't understand why these kids don't report it! I was always reporting harassment and bullying to my school officials."

Tiffany Holzer (in response to Terra):  "It's not like it was before. The kids that are bullying are not just bullying, they threaten these kids. They're scared.... If you're gunna put blame on a parent put it on the ones who raised a child to be so cruel."

Donna Tucker (via Facebook):  "School officials don't do anything to stop it! And if the child defends themself then they are the ones that are punished!"

Angy Anderson (via Facebook):  "It's not that easy, especially now a days. Not only are children afraid for more ridicule, but also their safety. There's very little kids won't do to get attention or get back at someone for getting them in trouble. It's heartbreaking. Another issue is child and parent relationships. For whatever reason, children feel uncomfortable to talk to their parents about problems they have with other students. As parents, I believe we need to open up lines of communication by opening up and sharing our experiences and how we handled it or could of handled it better. Once our children see that we have been through some of things they have been through, then maybe they could feel comfortable enough to open up with us. It is unfortunate, the things children find 'funny' now a days. Maybe if children understood at a younger age what is appropriate and what isn't, then that might reduce some bullying, or at least attention from it."

Nickole Rinde (via Facebook):  "Ya know,you gotta wonder, what were the parents doing? Blame is laid on EVERYONE else, but did they not notice changes in their children??  You can't tell me the kids were happy go lucky and the next day killed themselves??!  It's all very very sad - and yes, I have kids.  And before I'm attacked -- yes I WAS bullied!"

Dan Crescent (via Facebook):  "Parents too busy to teach their kids, but not too busy to have them."

Henry Graham (via Facebook):  "I sure don't understand cyber bullying.  Why not just stay off line all together if someone is driving you to that point? Why is the parent not involved more? Are they that oblivious to the facts surrounding their child's life? Look around, be nosy. That is what parents are for. That is keeping them safe just like they would with predators."

"Creeping Critter" (via KGUN9.com):  "Okay I'm glad that this article is addressing that parents are to blame. It isn't however addressing the entire problem. And yes it's NOT too late to do something about it. The problem is that both sides need to be addressed -- that is, the bullying kid's parents and the victim's parents. Parents these days don't seem to monitor ANYTHING! Don't let your kid get victimized! Teach them to report things! BE THERE FOR THEM!"

Christina Hamill (mother of child featured in KGUN9 story, via Facebook):  "First of all my daughter felt that she had to make that video to try and show her bullies that she is not afraid of them, and posted it to her [Facebook] wall because the bullying is still happening to let them know that she can fight and she will stand up for her self.... My daughter is a good kid and I don't feel that she did anything wrong.  Do you have a child that has been bullied?  Do you know what that does to a child?  Didn't think so. The whole reason I did the video on KGUN9 in the first place was not just for my child but to help the parents and kids that are being bullied to know that there is help out there and they do have a voice."

"xazothia" (via KGUN9.com):  "My niece was being bullied (offline) once, and when her sister stood up to the bully, the bully's parent came around the next day and threatened my nieces and brother-in-law!! Some people actually think this is okay!"

TaitAZ (via KGUN9.com):  "Parents need to prepare their kids. Not everyone will like you and not every comment is going to make you feel good. A negative comment towards you doesn't mean that you re being bullied, just not liked."

Aileen Brewer (via Facebook):  "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

Aileen, if only that statement were true. 

By the way, we conducted this investigation because Christina contacted us and asked us to so.  We do take requests at 9 On Your Side -- "You Ask, We Investigate." The best way to pitch a story idea to us is to email the idea to news@kgun9.com. Or, you can call our assignment desk at 520-290-7700.  Also, reporters Valerie Cavazos and Stephani Ruiz are interested in more follow-ups to this investigation.  They can be emailed at these addresses: vcavazos@kgun9.com
sruiz@kgun9.com.

In the mean time, we invite you to add your voice to the conversation.  Please feel free to post your comments here, or on our Facebook page. 

A friendly reminder -- our terms of use prohibit, discourage and forbid any type of bullying whatsoever. This includes any and all forms of negativity, personal attacks, etc. This doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone else's post, it means please keep it civil and respectful at all times. Please direct your response to the statement you're questioning, not the person who posted it. 

Correction:  an earlier version of this this posted stated incorrectly that the four teen suicides reported by police were all in the Tucson Unified School District.   What police actually said was that the suicides were in Tucson; they did not specify which school district.  KGUN9 News regrets the error.