2 suicides raise worries about anti-bullying videos in schools

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SPARKS, Nev. -- Two students from separate schools committed suicide within days of each other this month -- which is National Bullying Prevention Month -- and both boys apparently had been bullied. Now, parents are asking questions not just about bullying but about anti-bullying videos, which both schools aired shortly before the incidents.

Brad Lewis' son Jordan, 15, a sophomore at Carterville High School in Carterville, Ill., killed himself Oct. 17 by shooting himself in the chest.

Jordan left an affectionate, apologetic note that, according to Mr. Lewis, concluded with: "Bullying has caused me to do this. Those of you know who you are."

Mr. Lewis criticized investigators for not pursuing the bullies more aggressively, but he also turned some of his questions toward his son's school, which showed an anti-bullying video to students the day before Jordan killed himself.

"All I know is they were discussing the bullying, and showing kids bullying, and at the end of the show they showed pictures of kids that took their lives," he said. "When a child or a person is at the end of their rope, and they don't think there's anywhere to go, and they don't think anyone's doing anything about it, and they see something on video, and they relate.

"You're dealing with kids. Kids don't look at the long-term situation -- they look at the short term, they look at the pain they feel now, how can they end that pain."

Carterville Unified School District superintendent Bob Prusator said he didn't know which program had been shown, but he thought it was one that many schools across the U.S. use. He said the schools' anti-bullying efforts would continue to be evaluated.

"It's part of the ongoing challenges of public school systems," Mr. Prusator said. "I think every school district in America would agree, the issue of how we keep kids safe in all aspects ... there's a lot of different levels. We feel a lot of pressure to keep our kids safe, and so we're always evaluating things, but we also need feedback from people. ... Particularly on social media stuff, we just don't know what kids are experiencing."

Mr. Prusator said school officials had never received reports of Jordan being bullied at school. He said local law officers were still investigating.

Last week in Sparks, Nev., 12-year-old Jose Reyes brought a gun to school, shot two classmates and killed a teacher before killing himself.

Those who knew Jose said sometimes he would cry and say people were calling him names. One witness to the shootings recalled Jose saying, "You guys ruined my life, so I'm going to ruin yours."

On Oct. 11, the documentary "Bully" reportedly was shown to all Sparks Middle School students during sixth-period classes. The film, students said, depicted stories in which bullying drove one student to commit suicide by hanging and another to bring a gun on a school bus.

Some students and parents say the parallels are disturbing.

"I don't understand why that would be shown in the schools," said Veronica Rudd, whose daughters are in seventh and eighth grades at Sparks Middle School. "They are trying to be very proactive [about bullying], but I don't know if it's coming across to the kids that way. Because at this age, children can be influenced by many things."


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