Bullying | Deaths | Education | Gay Youth | Tennessee

Phillip Parker, 14, Has Killed Himself

Picture 31Another one. From WSMV.com:

A Gordonsville boy's parents say bullying caused their son to take his own life.  Phillip Parker, 14, died this week. His parents said he was constantly bullied for being gay.

... "He was fun, he was energetic, he was happy," said Gena Parker, Phillip's mother.

To his many friends, Phillip was known as the boy who told everyone they're beautiful.

"He kept telling me he had a rock on his chest," said Ruby Harris, Phillip's grandmother. "He just wanted to take the rock off where he could breathe."

Phillip's family said they reported their concerns over their son's bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.

I don't know what to say, other than this: If your local schools' counselors don't distribute info on The Trevor Project, why not drop off some flyers?

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  1. Another sad story of a young life lost. Society continues to let hate fill the airwaves through politicians and intolerant, ignorant and hypocritical morons. I blame them. I also think the media needs to manage these stories better. The message young people in the US is being heard and this is how they are responding. The US is a sick society, the media presents it as "normal" and lives are being lost as a result. Just sad!

    Posted by: James N | Jan 22, 2012 11:51:38 AM

  2. this is so sad. yet another report of a horrible outcome from bullying.

    i keep wondering - why does this keep happening!? i realize suicides from bullying must have occurred frequently before, but now it seems every other day I am reading an article about a young boy or girl who decides to end the tremendous pain by resulting to suicide.

    I'm beginning to think the media and the amount of coverage has something to do with it. Kids will do as other kids do, right? Even if there are tons of intelligent and wise campaigns PLEADING kids to realize that it gets better..

    I'm wondering if it's because of the amount of media coverage that this keeps happening! It's a little bit of a catch 22. Report it and have the world see this ongoing epidemic, but which can possibly lead to many more suicides due to the fact that a young teenage mind may think it's "ok" to result to this option of suicide. Or dont report it, but then we would be acting as if we were blind to such a loss of beautiful souls...

    I pray confidence is taught throughout families and in schools. I pray for those families who have lost. And I pray for those families who are about to lose..

    Posted by: adam | Jan 22, 2012 11:56:03 AM

  3. I agree. and how many more useless tragedies before the politicians, school boards, religious organizations and parents wake up and enact and monitor/enforce laws against bullying.

    Posted by: tinhouston | Jan 22, 2012 11:58:09 AM

  4. If they can prove they told the school and that nothing happened, the schools screwed
    Parents need to document and have it signed every time they complain or bring a concern to the school. It helps in court
    Rest in peace little one

    Posted by: George M | Jan 22, 2012 12:05:52 PM

  5. I used to have a job in which I heard parents tell stories of school districts which did not address the bullying of their children, despite their attempts to get the schools to do so. I used to tell them about school districts which had to pay multi-million dollar settlements for not protecting students, and advised them to tell the districts about that and pursue legal options if needed. I would tell them that the districts had an obligation to provide a safe environment for their children. I also spoke with them about getting their children out of the schools that were doing nothing about the bullying.

    The reasons kids commit suicide are multiple and sometimes unknowable. But they have a right to be safe in their schools, and parents need to know about their options as they try to protect their children. And if schools and school districts will not respond to reports of bullying, they need to be held legally responsible.

    Posted by: john patrick | Jan 22, 2012 12:07:34 PM

  6. Absolutely tragic. Anyways, just figured I'd get the two usual comments in these kinds of posts on this blog on the table.

    1) To the "Werther Effect" people...yes, it's been proven, yes it's a valid point, but sometimes the way some of you approach that argument is as if these suicides shouldn't be reported on at all, which you know will never happen.

    2) To the "he was a spineless coward" crowd that occasionally shows up...I truly pity all of you and hope you find something resembling a soul in this lifetime.

    Well there...I think that's about it.

    Posted by: Leo | Jan 22, 2012 12:10:36 PM

  7. Since the schools will do nothing I'm beginning to wonder if it might be advisable for concerned parents to skip them altogether and go directly to the police and report these attacks as assaults.


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 22, 2012 12:20:27 PM

  8. "To his many friends, Phillip was known as the boy who told everyone they're beautiful."

    I'm not much of a crier but this has me in tears. :(

    Posted by: sparks | Jan 22, 2012 12:24:15 PM

  9. No Adam, it isn't new. The difference now is that with information so much more far reaching and seemingly constant, it's not just localized. Studies have shown that LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to commit or attempt to commit suicide as non LGBT youth for decades. To be certain, bullying is not the only reason for these suicides, but it more often than not is the catalyst. We cannot and must not stop shedding light on this tragedy. However, we as adults have a responsibility to do something to affect real change. Whether it is getting involved in our communities, churches, LGBT Youth programs, or not supporting candidates that set our progress back. "It gets better" only works when we do our part. It sadly will not be enough to reach some, too late to reach others, but it can and will get better with our contributions to our future, the youth. I'm committed, will you commit too?

    Posted by: Kenneth | Jan 22, 2012 12:35:06 PM

  10. This always hurts. I wish there were a way for us to hear about the kids who have thought about killing, but then don't. Too much loss.

    Posted by: Adam Sass | Jan 22, 2012 12:35:51 PM

  11. It is very hard to think about this. I can't fathom what the parents must be going through. They will go through the rest of their lives without him.

    I read about such a loss and insist that I pay closer attention to my own child. I admire my father-in-law because he loves his son and daughter the way we all should love our children. He dotes on them and treats our son and myself the very same way. When Greg and I married he was overjoyed because he now had a second son. He lives to make us happy and that's what parents should do. I am heartbroken when I hear a child has said good-bye.

    Yes, life is hard - not just for gay people but for many people - but giving up on it is not the answer. Life has so much more to give to all of us, including unabashed happiness.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Jan 22, 2012 12:39:58 PM

  12. Well then Leo - how many dead teenagers will take before we stop promoting them? We seem to averaging two a week if not more.
    We are part of the problem - As you say The Werther Effect has been proven.

    If we dig further we see that main stream news agencies don't report suicides unless (sadly) it cause a traffic delay. In in those cases they say a 'suicide' they don't "write Mrs. Ida Johnson jumped of a bridge because her husband left her, She had a lot of bills to pay and she felt the pressure was too great. Her neighbors said she was a nice old lady and here are some pictures of her in happier times".

    They don't report that because they know it will cause copy-cat suicides by other people who are feeling similar pressures and depressions. By glorifying and bringing attnetion to Mrs. Johnson they might prompt Mrs. Smith to decide to kill her self to get the same kind of love and recognition. Heck, Lady Gaga might even flash her picture on the jumbotron at a concert.

    As a teacher and an adviser I work with tean-age kids all the time. When they are despondent or depressed and come to me for help I never show them pictures of smile kids just like them who killed themselves.

    Sadly many young people don't seek out help from adult. They go to sites like this one.

    I am sorry if my posting about The Werther Effect irks anyone. But as you mentioned - yes it has been proven. It is not a theory. (Heck, watch the funny black comedy Heathers - remember the chubby girl who throws herself in front of the bus because she sees all the love the other suicides are getting).

    I will keep posting on sites like this about The Werther Effect because as a teacher I do not want another sad or lonely kid to be inspired by our grief. I want to prevent suicide not promote it. Part of the tragedy is how we are fueling this tragic phenomenon.

    Yes - it has been proven. So if we willfully do it away way - what are we actually doing?

    Posted by: David C. Jones | Jan 22, 2012 12:40:59 PM

  13. Leo, I do think it's important not to romanticize or heap posthumous accolades on those who have taken their lives- you don't want to give other gay (or straight) teens the idea that the way to finally be seen, heard, and appreciated is to follow their example.

    But at the same time it's also important to publicize these deaths since they're concrete examples of the real-world effect of homophobia. In Tennessee, where this death occurred, there is a bill before the state legislature to protect bullying if the bully claims it's based in religious belief!

    Here's a link to the change.org petition to TN lawmakers opposing this measure. They have to know that bullying, no matter the cause, is unacceptable, that hate in the name of religion is still hate. http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-tn-lawmakers-vote-no-on-the-license-to-bully-bill

    Posted by: Caliban | Jan 22, 2012 12:44:10 PM

  14. So sad... My thoughts are with Phillip's parents, family and friends.

    Stories like Phillip's make me think of how I survived school. I had many dark moments when I felt alone because bullying. I was lucky because at my darkest moments I always had at least one person who was there for me.

    Middle school was the worst, I avoided group activities and hated lunch. To the teachers who allowed me to eat lunch in their classroom and help with prep work thank you! Not having to face the humiliation at lunch was nice but the satisfaction of helping you and feeling appreciated gave me purpose during this time of my life.

    High school was better than I thought it would be. I made new friends and focused on my new found love of TV Productions. Also I was beginning to understand my own feelings and emotions.

    Yet things got better after coming out. It gave me the confidence to accept myself and say "so what" to those who referred to me as a fag or girl. Friends respected me for opening up and joked that I blew the doors off the closet. Things weren't perfect and the road was still rough, but it got better.

    To the kid who might be reading this, please don't think it won't get better. Life isn't easy and there are always challenges to over come. Stay strong, find something that you're good at (and enjoy) and immerse yourself in it. Like my partner of the last 12 years I didn't go to college. We both have successful careers and live out and proud in Washington, DC. It does get better!

    To the schools and parents please teach acceptance and tolerance. If you see a kid getting bullied help them and please speak to the bully about tolerance.

    Posted by: Sean Wieland | Jan 22, 2012 12:44:45 PM

  15. I was extremely lucky. I went to the High School of Music and Art in New York City (aka. "Communist Martyrs High") Class of 1964. You may not believe this but there were a number of OPENLY GAY kids at that school at that time. I remember two senior boys who at school assembly would sit apart from their classes in the back of the auditorium in order to make out -- in full view of everyone else. As you can imagine in such an atmospehre coming out was no problem for me. But again I was EXTREMELY lucky.

    Times have changed and the closet is collapsing in this culture -- but the hatred persists. We must find more ways to support these kids.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 22, 2012 12:51:12 PM

  16. I said this regarding to the story involving the tragic suicides of the two teens in California and the same applies here.

    The OVERWHELMING majority of these suicides are happening in the same areas----rural, conservative, religious, etc. The problem isn't the IGB project or Trevor project not working, or being available to these kids. The problem is not even a copycat effect.

    No. The problem is that the communities that these children are coming out in are incredibly hostile towards the idea of homosexuality, let alone someone being openly gay. More and more teens are coming out, which is a good thing, but they're not well-adjusted enough to handle the potential downfalls of coming out and don't have the support system to keep them strong and positive. That is the problem, along with the fact that the schools in these communities are doing LITTLE TO NOTHING to prevent the abuse that these LGBTQ teens are facing within the hallways and classrooms. Often times the school boards/faculty are abusive towards gay kids themselves. The parents/friends in these situations, albeit their minds are in the right place, generally don't know what to do nor how to understand the struggles of being openly gay in a hostile environment and what they can do to help their gay loved ones.

    It's just an extremely destructive cycle, and these children feel hopeless and in despair. That is why they commit suicide. They feel alone in a dark world where their entire lives are under a microscope and are condemned solely for who they are.

    How do we change this? We as a community have to do our part to make sure kids in ALL communities and ESPECIALLY kids in vulnerable situations hear our voice and understand they do have people out there who know what they're going through, support them, and will be there for them. More than anything that means the gay people in these communities have to come out of the closet and do their part to protect these youth from the abuse they receive in school. These kids need some sort of safe place where they can let loose and be themselves. A gay community center of some sort, or an afterschool program for LGBTQ teens, and of course there needs to be gay-straight alliances in these schools.

    At the end of the day, these suicides NEED to be discussed because they are obviously a symptom of an extensive problem that will be swept under the rug and ignored otherwise.

    Posted by: Francis | Jan 22, 2012 1:26:04 PM

  17. sue, Sue, SUE!

    mcdonald's coffee would still be served
    boiling if not for their loss of money.

    Posted by: normadesmond | Jan 22, 2012 1:52:52 PM

  18. What is the proof that this kid was aware of all of these other kids who committed suicide? Absolutely, knowing about suicides increases the likelihood of committing suicide. The copycat effect does happen. If this kid was aware of the other kids like him who gave up, this could have been a contributing factor. But it could be that he was unaware of the "epidemic" - or just what may be the current, more frequent reporting of these suicides. Being a kid, he may not have been into reading Towlroad, or Huffpost Gay Voices or whatever.

    I have a vague memory of the title of a book or article from decades ago, something like, "I thought people like that killed themselves." I believe ithe title referred to the ignorant, hateful attitude of straight people towards gay people. In less sophisticated areas of this country (and world), that attitude is alive and well. The thought-children of Anita Bryant are all around us, spewing their ignorance and intolerance. Those of us who give ourselves credit for being more sophisticated and civilized are very aware of this, even if we live in tolerant, enlightened, and accepting environments. Imagine living in a place with this attitude as common, with no power to change things, no experience that things get better, and thus no hope.

    Social conservatives are battling to preserve and defend the right to their ignorance and bigotry. They are vocal and active. We may comfort ourselves by saying that they are ultimately on the losing side of the battle. In the meantime, the tragic collateral damage of our young people killing themselves continues. While this may be nothing new, and may seem more common just because it is finally getting national attention, each death is a tragedy and a travesty. We need our leaders to step up, and speak out, with words and actions. Imagine if the government defended anti-discrimination, bullying, and hate crime laws with the same efforts seen towards racial injustice in the 60's. Attitude follows behavior. Bigots haven't gone away, but our attitudes have changed enormously since the 60's because we insisted on a change in behavior. A loud, unequivocating NO to those who claim that discriminating against gay people is a religious right might be a start.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 22, 2012 2:03:27 PM

  19. What Francis said.

    We can wring our hands about The Werther Effect or we can try to get this country to realize that HUNDREDS of children commit suicide every year just because they can't stand the homophobia around them, in their schools, in their churches, in their families.

    There is no "epidemic" of suicide among gay kids, there's just some light being shown on something that is usually hidden.

    Posted by: BobN | Jan 22, 2012 2:07:18 PM

  20. What I do not understand in all these suicides where parents talk about the incessant bullying is WHY they do not pull their kids out of school and teach them at home?

    Posted by: Ricco | Jan 22, 2012 2:25:51 PM

  21. And once again there is a conscious effort to avoid naming the bullies. As with all of the many cases of bullycide, the family and friends of the deceased fail to name the killers and the press makes no effort to identify them. Instead we have the use of the passive voice and a vague reference to other "students" who drove this kid to suicide. Just as happened with Billy Lucas, Asher Brown and all the others. Thus, these unnamed "students" can go about their lives without a care in the world.

    I've had it. As far as I am concerned, if you don't name the killers, you are an accomplice.

    Towleroad, since you make money off of posting these stories, why don't you make an effort to pick up the phone and see if you can't find out who did this. It is called reporting.

    Posted by: James | Jan 22, 2012 2:31:30 PM

  22. Just utterly sad.

    Posted by: Bobby | Jan 22, 2012 2:37:13 PM

  23. It's an unfortunate loss. I don't know what happens, but only gay boys seem to get picked on by bullies these days. Surely, girls might get picked on because of their weight or looks, but I still haven't heard of some girl taking her own life because she was bullied. Thank goodness.

    Posted by: stranded | Jan 22, 2012 2:40:35 PM

  24. STRANDED - thanks for supporting my point (above) about awareness, or lack thereof re: suicides.. There have been several highly-publicized reports in the past few years of teenage girls committing suicide because of bullying. But despite wide exposure in the mainstream media, you were still unaware. Not every gay kid can be presumed to be aware of the "epidemic" of gay teen suicides.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 22, 2012 2:52:18 PM

  25. I'm getting really tired of reading about gay teenagers who feel the need to kill themselves. By that, I don't mean to say I don't empathize with the gay teens -- I do. I'm just so tired we're still living in a social environment where gay teens feel pushed to that point.

    Posted by: William | Jan 22, 2012 3:24:36 PM

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