Sunday, August 14, 2016

Too Close to Home

Daniel Fitzpatrick

Cute kid, right?  Looks like a boy you'd love to have in your class.  Looks happy, wouldn't you say? Yes well, looks are deceiving.  He killed himself August 11th.  Hung himself from a belt in the attic. His sister found him.  Because he was being bullied.

I have huge issues with the bullying push going on today.  I think all of the attention is doing more harm than good.  Reporting on stories of kids killing themselves, gives other kids ideas.  Well he or she couldn't take it anymore and neither can I.  Also I think they bullying message is being misrepresented.  What bullying is and what it isn't.  You did something embarrassing in class, you farted, your pants ripped, you busted your butt while giving a presentation, and everyone made fun of you for a few days or a week isn't bullying. But a lot of kids seem to think it is.  I can't tell you how many kids come up to me and say, "So and so is bullying me."  And when I look into it, so and so is being mean today.  Just today.  Of course, I address it but I have to explain that's not bullying.

Bullying is when you have no respite from the torment. Day in, day out you are the relentless target of someone whose sole purpose is to make your life a living hell. This could be going on for a few days, weeks, months, whatever.  This is way harder to address.  My kids know I have no tolerance for any kind of mean behavior.  That is laid out on the line for them on Day 1.  They are told that the behavior will not be tolerated, and if it really is bullying, I will personally call the cops (bullying incidents are mandated police reporting in NY) and make sure the matter is dealt with.

Does this help at all?  I like to think so, but does it?

I've read the suicide letter.  His parents posted in on Facebook. He names the teachers who did nothing, and the one teacher who tried to help.  I don't ever want to see my name in this context.  So am I doing enough?  What can I do differently?  How can I make this never happen to any of my students?  I don't know the answers.  Be available?  I like to think I am.  Be tough?  I know I am.  But does it help at all?  

Why did this case make me write this post?  There are cases like this everyday.  Why this one?  I know his parents.  I grew up with them.  I hung out with them.  No, we never got along.  There was one memorable bar fight started because of an incident concerning the three of us.  But I know them, and even if we never got along, this is something so horrific that I wish I could say something to make them feel better, less horrified, less devastated. What can I say?  What can I do?  I wish I knew. I wish I could spare all other parents this pain. All I can do know is trust that what I'm doing is helping, look out for the signs of bullying, and intervene when I think there's an issue.  Bullying will never end.  Kids will never stop, that's what some kids do.  No, I'm not being pessimistic, I'm being realistic.  Being realistic is the best way I know how to deal with this problem.  I hope it helps. 

Daniel Fitzpatrick GoFundMe

His older sister set up a GoFundMe page.  They met their original goal of getting enough money to bury him. With the extra money, they want to set up a foundation to help other kids.  If you're interested, please click on the link above.  Thank You.


  1. I read an article about this yesterday. I was devastated. I talked about it a while with my family... Trying to figure out why things like this are happening more and more. Why it seems like kids are bullying more. Personally? I think kids were always mean. And I think kids were always bullied. The difference is- back in the day kids went home and got a break from the torment. Today? It doesn't end. With social media kids can torture other kids at all hours. And it doesn't even matter if the tormented kid isn't on social media- that doesn't stop the others from sending out messages of hate to HUGE groups of people (whereas in the past it was contained to a group of kids snickering and taunting on the playground). I think more needs to be done- I don't think it's enough for us to try and stop bullying. Because you know what? Bullies will be bullies. Some kids will always be mean- like many adults are (have you ever read the comments on news articles?) I think we need to put more effort into teaching kids how to be assertive and how to cope with people who are cruel. That's just my two cents. Thanks for posting this- I've been thinking a lot about it!

    Real Life in First Grade

  2. I agree. The Internet can be so awesome and so terrible. Time would be better spent teaching kids to assertive but it's hard if that isn't your natural personality. Hopefully, this is the last post like this I'll ever need to,write.

  3. Thanks for writing this blog post Amanda. I think the title of your post is very apt. Gosh. I agree with you that there IS a difference between bullying and one situation of someone being mean. I think we need to teach children resilience - the ability to be confident in themselves. Of course we should deal with the bullying too, but a strong sense of self can help too.

    1. Thank you for the validation that making kids stand up,for themselves is a better way to handle bullying. Only people who are with kids understand this. Maybe we can help a few kids through this.

  4. Wow! What a powerful and emotional post that raises a number of valid concerns. Thanks for posting!

  5. Hi XClass,

    I enjoyed reading your article, although so sadly true! I was thinking of some ways a teacher might help his or her students with bullying issues. It is a real big problem! Just because a school has a sign that reads, "No bully zone" doesn't mean that bullying doesn't happen there.
    A teacher can try to use Emotional Intelligence (EI) techniques in the classroom. This method may deter many kinds of bullying and helps learners to see themselves from a different angle (see my article about EI in my blog below).

    Maybe with a great administrator's attention, professional development classes in EI could help to curtail bullying in schools!

    Yes, it is a cruel world at times. But, learners need the support of adults and some training in order to (a) stand up for themselves appropriately (b) gain awareness of other's emotions, and (c) understand themselves.


  6. I will definitely check out your post and talk to my AP. Anything that helps is worth doing! Thanks so much.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. One of my biggest peeves is just as you addressed in this post. I hate it when a little rude behavior is called bullying. Kids (and lets face it, adults) have done this forever and will do this forever. It's human nature, sadly. When a person feels that someone is constantly bugging them and torturing them to the point that they feel unsafe to go somewhere, that's what bullying is.

    I don't want to sound insensitive to the whole situation, but I feel like people use the "bullying" term to just get attention. It's WAAYYYY overused and it's losing it's value (not the correct word, but you know what I mean) of what it truly is and how horrible it can be.

    1. I was a little worried writing this because I know the backlash that could result, but I always say what I think. And it's good to know other people are on the same page as me. Bullying is bad but make sure it's bullying.