Sometimes, the horrible stories just don’t stop. In the wake of the LGBT bullying suicides earlier this fall, a 14-year-old girl in Detroit committed suicide after being taunted in school and on Twitter, and identified on local news. The charges against her 18-year-old perpetrator are now being dropped.
Last month, Samantha Kelly’s mother reported to the police that Joseph Tarnopolski had sex with her daughter; he was charged with third-degree sexual misconduct and released on bail, at which point he returned to the high school that he and Kelly both attended (Tarnopolski also lived extremely nearby). Tarnopolski then began venting his anger at Kelly over Twitter, first writing,
“All girls are, are liars and backstabbers! I hate you all. Way to ruin my life. Seriously, now this will be on my record for life!” A few days later, he tweeted, “I’m facing a sentance (sic) of prison time. Up to 4 years seeing as how I am 18 years of age now,” and then finally wrote, “You say I [expletive] your life up, but your the one who lies to everyone because your scared to get in trouble! You threw this upon me! Your idea.”
The local prosecutor’s office said that they didn’t realize that Kelly was being bullied until Kelly’s mother was interviewed on local TV. After the report aired, though, Kelly began to be taunted at school, until she committed suicide.
“This affects everyone; that’s something some people don’t seem to get,” Alicia Skillman, the director of Equality Michigan, said. “You can be an average, middle-of-the road youth, and you can be bullied about something. All it takes is for someone to have a certain perspective of you — someone can think you’re poor, or too elite, or gay — and you can get bullied for that. This is what happens, and children are killing themselves; they don’t realize that they can survive what’s happening to them.”
There has been an enormous amount of publicity about teen suicides because of bullying recently, which should result in more anti-bullying legislation, something that has been one of Equality Michigan’s priorities. But there’s another potential side to the coin – writing for Jezebel, Anna North pointed out,
“Is it possible that this is giving kids the idea to end their lives? It’s hard to know, but ignoring bullying doesn’t seem to be the answer either — rather, lawmakers, educators, and families need to take the increased visibility of the problem as an opportunity to start stamping it out.”The saddest part of the story, for me, is that the case isn’t going to trial – if Tarnopolski did assault Kelly, he’s going to get away with it. As the spokesman for the police department explained, “Without the victim, we’re unable to go forward with the case.”
Photo from Flickr.