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Gay Iowa Teen's Suicide Spurs Cyberbullying Discussion; Iowa City Vigil Planned for Friday

The suicide of a Primghar teen who'd been bullied after he said he was gay has elevated public discussion of the problem of cyber-bullying.

The suicide of a 14-year-old Primghar boy who endured weeks of bullying in school and on the Internet after he told his classmates he was gay has elevated public discussion of cyber-bullying.

The boy, Kenneth James Weishuhn, reportedly hanged himself in his family's garage last weekend.

A candle light vigil for Weishuhn and to bring awareness to similar acts of bullying has been planned for tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. on the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Details about the event can be found here. Here is the description from the event:

The GLBTAU, Studio13 and other community leaders in the LGBT Community will be hosting a candlelight vigil to bring awareness to the recent teen suicide in Iowa. Kenneth Weishuhn was a gay teen who took his own life due to bullying last weekend. The media is not paying attention to this issue and nothing is being done about. We will gather on the Pentacrest around 7:45pm on Friday to bring attention and pay tribute to Kenneth. Please bring your own candles, lighters, signs and rainbow flags. Invite everyone you can. Kenneth deserves to be heard.

Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson has been following the story, and has a report from the community.

Weishuhn, who before he came out had been a popular teen at South O'Brien Community School in Paullina, was taunted in the hallways, was vilified on Facebook and received threatening messages on his cell phone, said his family.

His school's administrators confirmed one incident, but said they weren't aware the bullying continued and Weishuhn never filed complaints. School Superintendent Dan Moore told Munson, "The biggest battle we fight is with cyber-bullying." 

What can/should schools do to combat cyber-bullying?

Weishuhn's death comes at a time when the documentary "Bully" is showing in Iowa theaters. The film tells several stories of bullying victims, including a 12-year-old boy who lived in Sioux City at the time the movie was filmed. 

You can read a compilations of videos and reactions to Weishuhn's death here.

William Pontarelli April 21, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Bullying is horrible and nothing new. It happened in our family with serious emotional consequences before this extensive use of "social media". Facebook etc. seems to have magnify the problem. But the solution remains the same, kindness and tolerance toward others.

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