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.”
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.
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 reason.com 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)