A candlelight vigil is planned for 13-year-old Dustin Hammonds at Jeffords Park tonight at 7 p.m. Dustin died yesterday from injuries sustained last Tuesday during an attempted suicide. According to family members, Hammonds was the victim of bullying at the local elementary school he attended. The Worth County Board of Education released a press release on Friday stating:
The Worth County School System is aware of a recent incident involving a middle school student and of accusations in the community that bullying has played a role in an unfortunate tragedy. The Worth County School System takes such accusations seriously, and immediately began investigating the veracity of those accusations. We share the concerns of our community, and have invited the Sylvester Police Department to assist with the investigation. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment on specifics at this time. Our foremost concern is with the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff.
It’s important for everyone in the community to be educated on bullying. Recognizing the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking can help identify the root of the problem.
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry, frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness, changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch. Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares, declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school, sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations, feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem, self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide are other signs of a child being bullied.
Signs a child is bullying others is even harder to see. Kids may be bullying others if they get into physical or verbal fights, have friends who bully others, are increasingly aggressive, get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently, have unexplained extra money or new belongings, blame others for their problems, don’t accept responsibility for their actions, or are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity.
Parents and guardians often want to know why children do not ask for help.
Kids don’t tell adults for many reasons. Bullying can make a child feel helpless. They may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale or fear backlash from the kid who bullied them. Bullying can be a humiliating experience and kids may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak. Kids who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand. They may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect kids from bullying, and kids can fear losing this support.
If you have reason to believe someone you know is being bullied or is bullying, it is extremely important to contact your local law enforcement officials and/or school administrators.