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The Hope Witsell Tragedy – A Mother Steps Up to Stop Cell Phone Bullying

hope witsell

Hope Witsell

Kids have been bullied since the start of time, but today’s kids are facing a whole new kind of bullying that includes cell phones, texting, and social networks.  The ease of communication brought about by the rise of technology is bringing about a brand new breed of bully – the cyber bully - when will it all stop?

In the past few weeks we’ve had to pay a lot of attention to bullying and the horrific reactions it can have on those on the receiving end.   Tyler Clementi, Ty Smalley, Jesse Logan, and Hope Whitsell – names that should live forever in our consciousness as reminders to be proactive in responding to both the bullied and the bullies.  

For their part CNN is featuring a week-long focus on bullies and what we can do to solve to problem.  Today’s story featured the tragic story of Hope Witsell and the cyber bullying she received courtesy of a cell phone.

What is Hope’s mom, Donna Witsell, doing to stop schoolyard bullying?

The Hope Witsell tragedy is troubling at its core – mostly because it all started with a simple cell phone picture and ultimately ended with her decision to commit suicide at the age of 13.   Things turned sour for the middle schooler after Hope decided to send  a ‘sext’ to her then boyfriend.  As these things happen, the photo ended up in the hands of someone it wasn’t intended for and was distributed across the city.     For Hope, the bullying started verbal and quickly ramped up to physical attacks.

“She was afraid to walk alone, she was afraid someone would do something to her, like verbally attack her, so she would always have someone with her,” her friendLexi Leber says. “We had to make like a wall, we had people surrounding her, and she had to be in the middle because people would come by and try to hit her and push her into a locker or something.”

Summer vacation allowed for brief respite from the bullying, but when classes resumed in the fall things grew much worse.  A ‘Hope Hater’ page popped up on Facebook and the name calling began to be too much for the middle schooler.  On September 12, 2009, the eighth grade made the tragic decision to end the bullying by hanging herself from her canopy bed.

Today Hope’s mom, Donna Witsell has started a group called Hope’s Warriors that works to combat bullying and save other moms from feeling the horrendous pain that she feels at the loss of her daughter.

Donna Witsell says: “It happened to my daughter, it can happen to yours too. No one is untouchable. No one is untouchable.”

Parents can help stop schoolyard bullying by taking a proactive roll in their kids lives – both online and offline.  Teach your kids to always be kind and understanding to others, it will be a lesson they will value throughout their lives.

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