SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 88
The Bullycide of
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Daniel Scruggs died by his own hand at the age of 12.
|It is amazing the number of people and the amount of resources that have become involved in his death compared to the involvement while Daniel was still with us.|
Daniel was small framed. He had a measured IQ of 139. He was not performing well academically. He had poor personal hygiene. His father left the home with no further contact when Daniel was 3 months old. His male role model, a grandfather, passed away the previous year as did his grandmother. His mother worked two jobs to provide a home for Daniel and his 18 year old sister. Daniel was isolated and picked on every day at school. He slept in a closet with kitchen knives and a spear for protection. He soiled his pants in an effort to be sent home by the school. After the Christmas break, Daniel’s sister went to closet to get him up for school. She found him dead, hanging by a tie. Daniel had decided this was better than going back to the place of torment, the public school.
Who should have seen this coming and done something to prevent such a tragic death? In an ironic twist, Daniel’s mother was investigated, arrested, tried and convicted for contributing to his death by neglect. It is amazing the number of people and the amount of resources that have become involved in his death compared to the involvement while Daniel was still with us. It also makes one wonder if the Mother is guilty for not acting, then what about the school with counselors, teachers and administrators. What about the Social Worker who was assigned to Daniel’s case by the State. What about the Probation Officer assigned to Daniel by the Juvenile Court. What about the Truancy Officer assigned to Daniel by the school. A single mother who worked two jobs to provide for Daniel has been sentenced to five years probation with no responsibility assigned to the group of “professionals” who were assigned to Daniel by various state agencies.
Judy Scruggs was not the best parent in the USA. Her home not likely to ever appear in any magazine. Her actions or lack of action probably had some contributing factors to Daniel’s decision to avoid the bullying the only way he knew how. But if this is true, then all the other people who touched Daniel’s life must have contributed to his decision as well. It is a matter of simple logic. Logic also suggests that a Mother who provided for him, worked two jobs for him and showed him the only love and acceptance he received probably is not the one and only person to be singled out for responsibility in his death. When the next round of appeals and lawsuits settles in the dust, one would suspect that a judge or jury would take a simple approach to assessing proximate cause for Daniel’s death. That is,
- Daniel died by his own hand.
- His final decision was based on avoiding the bullying that accompanied going to school.
- Staying away from school would have prolonged his life, but the law required him to go.
- Stopping the bullying at school would have prolonged his life, and the law requires school to stop the bullying.
Recent history of lawsuits resulting from uncontrolled bullying within a school have gone in favor of the plaintiffs. Most are settled out of court as a way to hold the settlements down and to keep certain aspects of the proceedings private. Even if the school prevails, it will cost them to defend this case. It has obviously cost Daniel’s mother more than can be calculated.
The larger issue should be what are we all going to change about how we interact with young people to prevent this tragedy from being repeated.
Suicide claims more lives under the age of 25 than any other form of death except automobile accidents.
There is a tendency to brush this aside because these deaths were the conscious decision of the ones who died. But we must ask ourselves how they arrived at such a decision and what role did we play in their decision making process. Although many miles away from this event and never having met any of the people mentioned, this author still ponders whether there was anything else that could have been done to prevent this death. Would one more training on suicide prevention or bullying prevention have gotten the needed resources to that one person who could have intervened. You see, in most cases of suicide there was not a single event or single person who forced the decision. However, in many cases of those who thought about suicide but changed their minds, they report that a single person reached out at the right moment with the right words or actions that turned the tide. We will never know if there was such a person at Daniel’s school. Perhaps a teacher, coach, janitor or bus driver who could have placed a hand on his shoulder, looked past the dirty smelly clothes and told Daniel he was OK. Perhaps there is a Daniel in your school, church, club or neighborhood and perhaps you are that one person who can connect with him or her and turn the tide that is carrying them to destruction. Never look for confirmation. Do not expect positive feedback.
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