Channing Smith, a student at Coffee County High School in Manchester, Tennessee, took his own life last week shortly after explicit, intimate messages to another boy which outed him as gay or bisexual, were spread by classmates on Instagram and Snapchat.
Said Smith’s brother Joshua to FOX17: “They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother. Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughing stock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn’t face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself.”
Buzzfeed News adds: “Channing allegedly got into an argument with another teenager who is close friends with the boy whom he had messaged with. According to Keylee Duty, a junior at the school, the girl was mad that she didn’t know about the sexting and posted the screenshots to be vindictive. [She was just doing it to be mean,’ said Keylee, who started a group called Justice for Channing and helped organize a memorial for her classmate. Hailey Meister, who said she had been dating Channing for about a month before he killed himself, told BuzzFeed News the messages were old and posted only ‘to humiliate him.'”
Duty also told Buzzfeed News that Channing was bullied before the social media attack because he “talked in a girly voice and walked with sass.”
According to FOX17, Coffee County’s lead investigator wants the kids charged criminally but District Attorney Craig Northcott said it would take at least 30 days to decide.
Northcott released a statement: “I, like the rest of the community, am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith. I express my heartfelt condolences to his family. My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death. Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution. However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed. When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision. Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing. I would ask for the everyone to extend their prayers for the family and to respect their privacy as this process moves forward.”
On Friday, students held a demonstration because school officials have done nothing to mark Channing’s suicide.
Said Joshua Smith to Buzzfeed News: “They haven’t made any mention about him or his death on their website, on Facebook, anywhere. They haven’t offered counseling to the kids or gathered them to talk about anti-bullying.”
If you are thinking about suicide or are feeling alone and need someone to talk to, please call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 for immediate help. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Also, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous, 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.