David and Tina Long know all too well the indescribable pain that bullying inflicts on victims, families and friends. On October 17th, 2009 their son Tyler Long died by suicide after being severely bullied at school for several years. Tyler had aspergers, a high functioning from of autism that often times makes social situations difficult for the individual. "They would take his things from him, spit in his food, call him 'gay, fa**ot'," said David Long. "One day to the next, it was continuous harassment from the other kids in the classroom." The Longs have dedicated themselves to stopping bullying in our schools. They have appeared on Ellen and ABC News and Tyler's story was featured in the award winning documentary Bully. This Spirit Day we remember Tyler Long and the countless youth who have been pushed too far. Tina Long penned a guest post for us discussing what Spirit Day means to her and her family, and will be a part of Thursday's Google+ hangout on bullying.
When I was contacted that GLAAD was hosting a Spirit Day on October 17th, I almost lost it. This is the day that our son, Tyler, took his life. It will be four years today. To honor Tyler and all of those who have lost their lives to bullying is healing. GLAAD is taking a step in the right direction. We will proudly wear purple to support GLAAD's efforts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT youth) especially need our support. We ask that individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple, which symbolizes 'spirit' on the rainbow flag in support of anti-bullying.
Since we lost Tyler to peer abuse driven suicide, we have vowed to never let his voice fall silent. We have learned along the way that there are many more youth out there who also need us to be their voice and being a part of the film Bully has given us a platform to combat this epidemic. We still receive countless emails, posts, etc. from parents and children who need help and protection. As adults, we must create an environment where all of our children feel safe. We aren’t there yet. Not even close.
Since a federal judge ruled that bullying was the cause of Tyler's suicide, we must join together for a common goal of protecting our children. We have started a non-profit called Everything Starts With 1. It's an advocacy organization for all children and parents worldwide to eliminate bullying. We know that all children have the right to participate in an educational environment free from bullying, discrimination and harassment.
On our webpage, we have created a “Your Voice: Parent Guide” for parents who need help with a bullying situation. We also have the Everything Starts with 1 project (club) that any organization can adopt to get kids, parents, teachers, and the community involved with the cause.
Our non-profit focuses on solutions. After all, we know the issue. One solution we have found that is working is TIPS (www.tipsprevent.com). TIPS is a program that is aimed at providing tools to PREVENT a crisis. Reporting is truly anonymous and “real-time”. Would Tyler still be here if TIPS had been implemented in his school?
David and I both work full-time. However, we dedicate almost every waking minute to this cause. Tyler deserves that from us. Our children who are suffering daily deserve that. As David says Bully: Everything starts with 1 and builds up. If we can increase in numbers, then we have an army and can defeat anything. No parent should feel the horrific heartache that we have endured. No child should feel that no one is listening. Let’s come together to change the climate of our society.
Please take a moment to complete a short survey found on our webpage. If you click on the button ESW1 survey…. You can choose Parent Survey or Teacher Survey. This information is instrumental in helping us create a Tyler’s law to protect our children against bullying.
Our family, David, Tina, Troy, and Teryn thank all of you for the support. Together, we can make a difference. Our kids are crying out for help. We must answer those cries.
David and Tina Long