Bethany Thompson is an 11 year old girl with a big heart and a slightly tilted smile. Now, some might call her cute, some might call her brave, some might not even notice, but a select few did. Like leeches on fresh blood they attacked her insecurities about her smile relentlessly.
Her crooked smile was not something she chose. It was not there out of a lack of confidence or anything she could overcome. You see, Bethany was a cancer survivor. At three years old she fought and beat a brain tumor. Unfortunately as with many things in life, beating cancer came with a price. It caused nerve damage that left her with that special smile.
Though Bethany continually notified the school of the bullying, nothing seemed to happen. When asked about the reports, the school officials claimed they were “investigating the situation.” But really, what is there to investigate? When someone says “X person is bullying me” shouldn’t the protocol be to question that person and get the story? How does this process take any length of time?
Though her mother knew of the bullying and also made the school aware, she too, couldn’t seem to get anywhere. The bullies kept bullying and Bethany had to endure. As recently as two days before that tragic Wednesday, her mother again called the school to see what the progress was, but without avail.
On the morning of that horrific Wednesday, a day her family will never forget, Bethany was still fighting to make a difference in her life as well as others in similar situations including situations where the school is aware of a problem but is doing nothing to fix it. Bethany along with friends designed and made anti-bullying posters for the school with messages like “Buddies, Not Bullies.” The school would not approve the posters and she was not allowed to put them up.
Perhaps it was the culmination of years of torment for her bullies, maybe it was the hopeless feeling that nothing will ever change, maybe it was something else, but no matter what it was – this day was different.
Bethany told her friends she was going to take her own life. Before her friends could get in touch with Bethany’s family she had made her way home, found one of the two firearms in the house and while her step-dad slept in another room, she shot herself.
It seems like there is list a mile long of things that could have been done better in Bethany’s case. Any of them might have prevented her from taking her own life. From the school to the bullies. Her parents, friends, and guidance counselors alike could have all played a different role. Not all are at fault but perhaps they were not educated enough in spotting the signs of her struggle. For example, if the school had taken action sooner, maybe teachers or administrators there could have prevented the bullying. If the bullies knew the true damage they were causing, maybe they would have stopped.
If the guidance counselors knew why the bullies were doing what they were doing they could have done more to stop them. They could have done more to help Bethany cope.
If her parents and friends knew how badly she needed help they could have stepped in and supported her.
These are the words of advice Bethany’s mother gives to other parents who have kids facing similar issues. Call the school and get them to take action.