On Sunday, April 22, readers of Iowa's Sioux City Journal were greeted with a powerful anti-bullying image above the fold of the newspaper's front page (pictured). The image depicts a bullied child, huddled in a ball. To the left of the child are shadow figures, presumably the perpetrators of bullying; to the right, an arm outstretched, representing the much-needed response of a caring community. For the residents of Sioux City, Iowa, the image of the bullied child most likely evokes Kenneth Weishuhn, the 14-year-old South O'Brien High School student who died by suicide last week. After coming out to his friends as gay, Kenneth was repeatedly bullied based on his sexual orientation.
For those of us outside Sioux City, the images are symbolic of an epidemic for which an even greater community response continues to be desperately needed. Kenneth was unique, but unfortunately the tragic and senseless way in which his life ended is much too common.
A front page op-ed, (entitled "We must stop bullying. It starts here. And it starts now."), written on behalf of the paper's editoral board, accompanied the image above. In boldly noting that the community has only itself to blame for the fact that Kenneth, and so many others, are no longer alive, the piece doesn't make any attempts to skirt a serious issue. As far is Kenneth is concerned, the warning signs were everywhere, according to the piece - in other communities where bullying may have contributed in any way to the untimely deaths of young people who had their whole lives ahead of them.
Though acknowledging that Kenneth's probably wasn't the first life lost to bullying in Sioux City, the piece encouragingly notes that the community - in Sioux City and beyond - can work to make sure that his is the last. To help with that, the paper's editorial board highly recommends that everyone go see the film "Bully," a documentary that depicts the bullying of an East Middle School student. ("Bully" was largely filmed in Sioux City.) GLAAD has been working closely with Harvey Weinstein, the film's producer, to make sure that "Bully" is seen by the widest audience possible. After initially being released theatrically as an unrated film, the Motion Picture Association of America recently changed the rating to PG-13, which will allow children under 17 to buy a ticket without parental permission and for the documentary to be screened in schools as an educational tool.
We commend you to read this piece and share it with others, particularly those who aren't yet fully aware of just how serious the bullying problem is.
GLAAD thanks the editorial board of the Sioux City Journal for prioritizing this important piece, and we are hopeful that more newspapers will follow their example.