If We Learn Anything From This Teen’s Suicide, It Should Be That We Need A Real Solution To Bullying
That girl in this picture is Jasmine Sanchez. She was 13-years-old, and now she’s dead. She committed suicide when she stood in front of a train in south Austin six days ago and wouldn’t move when the engineer sounded his horn. It was her second attempt to kill herself.
There really isn’t any need to speculate why Jasmine committed suicide, because she made a video a full six months prior detailing why she wanted to die. According to My Fox Austin, the video opens with the line:
“My name is Jasmine and this is my suicide story.”
In her video, she talks about her depression and suicidal thoughts with a clarity that you don’t expect from someone so young. She says, “I know that by hurting myself, I’m just hurting other people, it’s just really hard.”
What she talks about at length in her video is the ruthless bullying she experienced at school and, her family and a close friend, Luke Fisher, believe that it was this bullying that made her want to take her life.
In her own words on her video, Jasmine describes the bullying:
“Like being called ugly or fat or a bitch…I’ve been called all that and so much more,” she goes on to say,“I was pushed into lockers. I would be tripped in the hallway. And once or twice, I got pushed down the stairs…I couldn’t take it anymore…I really couldn’t.”
There are so many cliches that come to mind here. Certainly, Jasmine was too young to die. Yes, it is definitely heartbreaking. No, there’s no excuse for how kids treated her. But the cliche I hate most of all is the one we hear every time a young kid takes their life, and we hear it again in Jasmine’s case.
“We do not tolerate bullying.” That’s Alex Sanchez, representing Austin ISD.
I am very sorry to say that every time I hear “bully-free zone” and “zero-tolerance,” I wince a little. Obviously, the bullying continued in Jasmine’s case. Six months after she posted her video, she killed herself, and Luke says that the bullies haven’t even stopped now:
“It’s still kind of sickens me because people, there’s still some people who continue to bully her even after she’s gone.”
As in, her tormentors are still going strong now that she is dead. Less than a week after her death, actually. So how, exactly, is that “no tolerance”?
There is a lot of sudden scrutiny on bullying, which I consider to be a good thing. But I still don’t think we’re seeing a whole lot of action. People deride bullying initiatives as a sign of the times–a generation of perpetual victims. Obviously, that’s ignorant. Bullying isn’t new at all. Someone I love took their life when we were both 11, so no, this isn’t a new phenomenon.
The problem, I think, is that these zero tolerance policies are the wrong way to go about it. They clearly aren’t effective, and when they are enacted, it’s usually to prevent litigation or taken to absurd ends.
I don’t pretend to know what the answer is, but I know that whatever we’re doing now isn’t working, if kids like Jasmine continue to suffer and take their own lives. I do know that saying “We don’t tolerate bullying” when one of your students is dead as a direct result of it is grossly insincere and practically farcical. Obviously, the bullying was tolerated, until Jasmine couldn’t tolerate it anymore.
Jasmine’s family has set up a fundraising account for her funeral expenses, and her funeral will take place on May 9th.