Was 12-Year-Old Bailey O’Neill Bullied to Death?

12-year-old Bailey O’Neill died on Sunday in a medically-induced coma, the day after his birthday. He had suffered a concussion, a fractured nose and seizures after what his parents say was a bullying incident on the playground at his school in suburban Philadelphia.

On January 10, Bailey — an honor roll student who was on the student council — was in an incident at his school in Upper Darby Township, west of Philadelphia. As his father, Rob O’Neill, tells a local ABC News affiliate, Bailey was jumped on by two other students, one of whom hit him in the face three times:

“It was an altercation in the schoolyard where kid wanted to fight my son, and my son wanted to walk away. One boy pushed Bailey into the kid [who wanted to fight him]. That kid then hit him in the face, then he hit his head on the ground. One pushed him into the kid, then the other kid did the rest of the work.”

Afterwards, Bailey was given an ice pack and sent to back to class. The other two boys were briefly suspended. Bailey’s parents were not immediately notified of the incident by the school.

As Bailey told his mother, Jina Risoldi, the other boy, who was taller than him, had challenged him to a fight. “This is not a fight between two boys. My son didn’t fight back,” she emphasizes. Risoldi also says that Bailey had been “challenged” to a fight by the other boy earlier in the week, that school officials were “aware” the other boy had a “history of bullying other children” and that she “questions about whether the school did enough to prevent the encounter” between Bailey and the other boy.

In the days after the incident, Bailey started having headaches and felt ”tired and irritable,” says Rob O’Neill. A medical exam revealed that Bailey had a concussion. After a week and a half, he started having seizures and at great frequency, says his father. The previously healthy child contracted pneumonia, the family friend confirmed and needed a blood transfusion, after which doctors at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children put him in a medically induced coma. He died on March 3.

The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said it has opened an investigation and the Southeast Delco School District says it has been cooperating with this.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan says that an 11-year-old student is being investigated and that charges coud range from “simple assault — a low-grade misdemeanor offense commensurate with a schoolyard fight — to involuntary manslaughter.”

Bailey’s death allegedly as the result of bullying occurs after years of well-publicized campaigns to fight bullying in many school districts. Indeed, character education is highlighted as part of the supplementary curriculum on the Southeast Delco School District’s website. School administrators cite research suggesting that character education has not only helped to make “positive value lessons” part of the culture of a school, but to also enhances students’ performance.

Even as school districts make serious efforts to fight bullying, administrators must realize that these well-intentioned efforts do help, but they can’t sit back in their offices. As the officials in the Southeast Delco School District must be realizing, teaching “positive values” in the classroom and in assemblies must extend to the playground — must be applied and reinforced in students. The tragic death of Bailey O’Neill is all the more reason to redouble efforts not only to fight bullying, but to review and even revamp character education programs.


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Photo from Thinkstock


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

so very sad. middle school age is PLENTY old enough to know better, these boys need to be tried for the worst, manslaughter.

Kayleigh Harter
Kayleigh Harter4 years ago

I can't help but wonder if Bailey could have been saved if he'd gotten medical treatment right away instead of being sent back to class. Nobody considered that he might have a concussion, a subdural hematoma, or any other condition commonly associated with head injuries? Add the fact that the school didn't bother to report the incident to the boy's parents, and the whole thing screams cover-up. If charges are filed, I think the school should be included, for negligence at the very least.

Leona Davidson
Leona Davidson4 years ago

We need to teach our children to love and respect everyone instead of teaching them to judge others.We are responsible for how our children behave as a society.It begins at home and continues in school,church,sports,grandma and grandpa's house and so on.Something needs to change and sooner than later.Where we're the adults at while this beating happened?RIP Bailey!

Geynell Eskite
Geynell Eskite4 years ago

Hopefully the bullies will be taken to criminal court and tried for manslaughter. Their parents need to be charged as well. Something made these perpetrators feel the need to satisfy their own feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness by assaulting someone they perceived as weaker. Perhaps they chose an accomplished honor roll student as their victim because of embarrassment at their own intellectual inferiority. Whatever their twisted motivations were, all I can say is: Nice parenting, Mom and Dad. Congratulations. You've raised a murderer. You must be so proud.These little jack-asses and the demon pair who spawned them must be held accountable. Rest in Peace, Bailey.

g             d c.
g d c5 years ago

so sad...

Sapphira Alexan C.

Every day children suffer the devastating consequences that result from bullying in our schools. Bullying affects not only the children involved, but also has a negative impact on the entire school environment. Bystanders who witness bullying may either fear that they will be the next victims or deduce that this abusive behavior is tolerable. Thus, being a parent I've learned to be vigilant and more particular on the safety of my teens especially when it comes with bullying cases. Then I found this site that provides a protection for children from a safety mobile protection that can access family, friends and 911 in times of emergency. I just downloaded their application on their iPhone. Here’s where you can find it: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=skz.skz&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDEsInNrei5za3oiXQ..zz

David Johnson
David Johnson5 years ago

What the hell is wrong with us as a society? Bullying, mass murders by young adults, teen suicides...
I am so saddened and shocked...

june t.
reft h5 years ago

if it were adults involved, would it still be called bullying? Wouldn't it be assault? Manslaughter? Perhaps murder? 12 year olds know better. They are old enough to know about the consequences of their actions.

Annelies Haussler
liessi Haussler5 years ago

When did "assault and battery" become "bullying?"

Lori E.
Lori E5 years ago

These bullies need to be punished more harshly. I don't care if it they're 11 or 18. They know right from wrong and if they keep getting these light sentences, they're just going to grow up to be even worse bullies.