Kenneth Weishuhn, a high school student from Paullina, Iowa, took his own life Saturday following a sustained campaign of anti-gay bullying from classmates, both at school and online. He also reportedly received death threats by phone.
Family and friends say the 14-year-old was happy. But, beneath that smile, there was a lot of pain.
“He says, ‘Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated,” said Jeannie Chambers.
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.
Parents in the district have said they are concerned that bullying has become a problem for the area and that while there are protocols in place to deal with bullying something has obviously not happened fast enough to help Kenneth.
These parents are urging district officials to be more proactive than reactive.
“Waking up yesterday morning and finding out that because a 14-year-old figured out who he was and people didn’t like it, that they started bullying him, it really makes me afraid for my daughter because I’ve always taught her to be an individual and that she can be anything she wants to be an whoever she wants to be,” said Nicole Bensley, parent of kindergartner.
“A policy’s only as good as the paper that it’s printed on. If you don’t read it and take action on it, it’s no use,” said Toni Wulf, parent of 7th grader.
The district points out that it has created a number of assemblies related to combating bullying and cyberbullying over the past few months, and has said it acts swiftly to investigate all cases of bullying that are brought to its attention.
Superintendent Dan Moore is quoted as saying that if an investigation finds that bullying was part of this case, it will be dealt with: “This is a smaller school, and it’s a family. It’s a darn good school, with great staff and great students, and we need to address if we have issues. We don’t ignore any issues. We address them all to the best we can.”
The sheriff’s office has opened an investigation into the case.
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