In a tragic example of how dangerous bullying can be, 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana from Tacoma, Washington, has died after committing suicide by jumping off a highway overpass on Friday, May 29.
The speculated cause of her suicide?
A public shaming video that her father, Jeff, had reportedly filmed and uploaded to YouTube. In it, the girl is shown with all her hair cut off — her dad explaining that he cut it off to punish her for “getting messed up.” The video was posted just days before her death.
The News Tribune, a local newspaper, reported that the girl exited a vehicle on the bridge before jumping. She was taken to a hospital, where she later passed away. Her family and friends expressed grief and outrage over her passing and extra counselors were on hand at the girl’s school to help her fellow students cope.
Although the original shaming video has been pulled down, one of the young girl’s friends was able to save it by filming the video.
To warn you, while it doesn’t contain any violence or verbal abuse, the video is difficult to watch given what we now know of the girl’s death. In it, Izabel looks so beaten down emotionally, it’s heartbreaking. Her words barely come out in a whisper as the camera pans over to her pile of dark hair, heaped and discarded on the floor.
I can’t think of a single person I know who would think that it’s a good idea to chop off their kid’s hair as “punishment.” There’s probably a lot more to this story and more that went on behind closed doors to make her decide to end her own life.
Jezebel uncovered a social media post from the teen that suggested bullying at school may have also been an ongoing source of tension in her life. Izabel shared a video to her Google+ wall, captioning it:
“I feel hated most of the time im in school i feel looked down on and i get judged alot…. But what keeps me going is people like kian who have gone through the same thing as me… In a school with so many people its weird to say “i feel alone” but the truth is that you really do feel alone. So thanks for everything kian….”
It’s hard to think that in this situation, an already bullied teen may have been pushed over the emotional and physical brink by her own father. As parents, we want so badly to teach our children the difference between right and wrong and yet, looking at all the ways that we can fail, from the Duggars to a father who must be mourning tonight, it’s easy to see how much we can hurt the very people we are meant to protect. Maybe, as parents, we fear not being able to reach our children in a vastly changing world of technology? Maybe some parents think that “online shaming” is meeting their children at their level, so to speak?
But as Babble blogger and mom of three Monica Bielanko points out, public shaming is not discipline. Public shaming takes the emphasis off of correcting a child’s behavior or guiding them or even letting them have a natural consequence to their actions and twists it around. Public shaming, some argue, is actually just a form of abuse.
“There are those who believe that public shaming is an acceptable form of parenting,” wrote blogger Jack Cameron in response to Izabel’s death. “As this incident clearly shows, it’s not … Public shaming is a form of abuse. There are those who will say that it teaches a lesson. So does punching someone in the face. That doesn’t make it okay to do to your children.”
Other parents have fought back against the apparent trend of public shaming, like the father who staged taking clippers to his son to mimic the hair-cutting punishment — only to give his boy a big hug instead. “There is no way in the world I would ever embarrass my son like that,” the father, John Greshamsays in the video. “It doesn’t take all of that.”
No, it certainly does not.
A Facebook page dedicated to the teen, Justice for Izabel, has been set up to honor the teen and raise awareness against public shaming.More On