So far the only news report comes from The Daily Item, a local Pennsylvania newspaper, and we’ve learned our lesson about picking up poorly sourced news reports about bullying suicides, and rarely do we pray we’re actually being hoaxed, but the sad news of 14-year-old high schooler Brandon Bitner killing himself is impossible to ignore. (Update: After some initial caution, we’ve confirmed Bitner’s death is most definitely not a ruse.)
Bitner reportedly ran in front of a tractor truck to kill himself around 3am Friday morning, leaving behind a suicide note. The ninth-grader at Midd-West High School in Middleberg had, days before, attended an anti-bullying school assembly. Superintendent Wesley Knapp says there’s never been a reported incident of bullying at the school — a statistic that shows Midd-West is not, in fact, a place of 100% sunshine and smiles, but a place with a flawed system to combat bullying: Students say Brandon was indeed subjected to anti-gay torment.
For now, Knapp is telling parents, “I would encourage parents to talk with their school-age children regarding this tragedy, and encourage their children to seek help when they feel frustrated, depressed, and encourage them to reach out to other students who seem lonely or hurting. … It is a blow to any school to lose a student, but suicide makes the pain of the loss even greater than it would normally be, and school personnel are doing everything they can do to help students through the pain, and more importantly try to ensure that students receive help and attention before they feel they need to take drastic measures to end their life.”
A hastily assembled memorial page at BrandonBitner.com — a domain registered Nov. 6, the day after his death — says the funeral will be Wednesday.
(The Daily Item, which this blogger has never heard of before, claims to have a history dating back to the 1930s.)