Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

How A Suicide And A Stun Gun Brought Bullying Back Into Indiana Headlines

Facebook / Stop Bullying! Inspired By Tori Swoape

Bloomington High School North sophomore Tori Swoape committed suicide this week, passing away just after 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. Rumors of bullying surround her death. As of Noon Thursday, a Facebook page in her memory had gathered more than 2,600 "Likes."

Principal Jeffry Henderson read the news “with a heavy heart” to Bloomington High School North students during their second period class Wednesday:

Sophomore Tori Swoape had committed suicide — and “rumors” were swirling she had been bullied in school, Henderson said.

“While no reports were ever made to any staff members that this was the case, I would like to reiterate that this is your school, and it’s only as good as you make it,” Henderson told students, according to an e-mail he sent to parents later. “We all have a responsibility to each other as a part of this community.”

Controversy surrounding the March release of the film “Bully” stirred up a national conversation about the psychological and emotional trauma some students face every day.

Now, Swoape’s death has put school bullying on the front pages in Indiana for the second day running.

We wrote yesterday about the expulsion of an Indianapolis teen who brought a stun gun to Arsenal Tech High School. Darnell “Dynasty” Young says he used it to protect himself from ridicule he faced from other students over his sexuality. (School administrators told the Indianapolis Star Young had trouble identifying those who were bullying him.)

Someone has started a Facebook group in Swoape’s name. As of noon Thursday, less than two days after its creation, the page had garnered more than 2,600 “likes.” Another group, whose creation date isn’t clear, has amassed more than 2,700 members.

“No one deserves to be bullied and always remember you are not alone,” one page’s “About” inscription reads.

From the Bloomington Herald-Times:

Monday evening, police interviewed Lana Swoape, who said her daughter “has just been depressed for some time.” Lana Swoape told police she felt the depression was over a breakup with her boyfriend, according to an initial police report.

Tori Swoape had not mentioned wanting to harm herself or committing suicide to her mother. In those initial police interviews and report, officers received “no indication from the family that she was being bullied,” Bloomington police Sgt. John Kovach said.

In a supplemental police report, Lana Swoape told detectives at Riley Hospital she had heard from several of her daughter’s friends throughout the day that she had been bullied at school. The mother told police she was going to try to find more information about that.

(The full story is behind a paywall.)

Should the rumors surrounding Swoape’s suicide pan out, her and Young’s respective cases certainly would serve as troubling examples of bullying.

But has school bullying become an epidemic?

That’s the question editor Nick Gillespie asks in a Wall Street Journal editorial. His conclusion? No. He acknowledges horrific instances in which bullying can hurt students emotionally and physically — and says he doesn’t wish to defend the bullies in those cases. But the numbers don’t tell the story, he argues, of a sharp increase in bullying.

“By most standards they are safer and better-behaved than they were when I was growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s. Infant and adolescent mortality, accidents, sex and drug use—all are down from their levels of a few decades ago,” he pens.

Do you agree with Gillespie? What do you make of the recent surge in media attention to bullying in American schools? How do you feel about the question of whether it’s an epidemic?

(h/t our good friends at StateImpact Florida)


  • Thesix8mc

    Six 8 gets to them early & prevents bullying a a very young age. Every school should have a Six 8 presentation.

  • Dlynn70

    I have found first hand that it doesn’t do any good to report bullying to the schools. My nephew has been bullied at his school & nothing has been done. My sister also reported bullying for a friend because the child wanted to remain anonymous & nothing was ever done. What happened to zero tolerance? I say it doesn’t really exist because when you report something like this nothing happens.

  • Raymond Torres

    this is a very sad story

  • Raymond Torres

    it is so sad what happened to this poor young lady i feel so bad for her family

  • Dehrl7

    No i do not agree with it not being more dangerous. The fact is that kids are hiding behind technology and detaching themselves from another human being. Leading them to say and do things that they would not ever do or say to another face to face.
    Plus being able to cyberbully was not something we ever went through. Spreading rumors, pictures, video’s out into space where it permantly stays. That in itself damages a person so imensley, leaving them to feel alone and helpless.
    I suggest Gillespie do some more reasarch on this subject including the findings of the latest bullycide victims being the tender age of 7.
    I know when I was 7, I did not know what bullying was. If anyone picked on me, i was able to defend myself without being suspended from school. Another fact Gillespie needs to look into.
    Victims are not aloud to retaliate or they will be suspended. I have even known of parents being acusaed of assault when standing up to their child’s bully and slapped with a no trespass order from their child’s school.
    The schools have policies because the have to.
    The school officials, do not know them or follow them. They themselves are even bigger bullies who abuse their power.

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