Ronin Shimizu

The demise of the twelve-year-old cheerleader was ruled a suicide, but in reality he was bullied to death

Ronin ShimizuThere has been a lot of media attention lately over race and justice, especially the lack of justice. Politics, accusations, pain, grief, and anger have all been flaring and hijacking media airtime and print, nearly putting the U.S. back into an historical playback loop. There has been ample time given to the very important issues raised by the recent lives lost, and there will be much more, so I’ll leave it to others to do so.

With this post, I have to ask you to stop and focus on another recent innocent life lost, one which I feel is just as important, and one that involves death in a different way. It didn’t get the amount of airtime or print that I think it deserves. This death was a suicide, but may as well have been a murder (at least, I truly believe so,) and is a death that many ordinary citizens are guilty of instigating and condoning.

His name was Ronin Shimizu. He was only 12 years old, and his life ended tragically and abruptly. He was simply trying to enjoy his life doing something he loved to do. Cheerleading. Yes, he liked to be out there on the field with others on the Vista Junior Eagles Cheer Team; dancing, smiling and cheering on the school’s athletes.

Some students at Folsom Middle School thought this was somehow a “gay” thing, and the bullying was relentless. His parents cared and did something about it. They talked to the school officials on multiple occasions. The bullying continued, and the complaints continued. Ronin’s parents finally took him out of school to homeschool him, because they were unable to get the help and support that was needed from the school.

The school district admits they received a number of complaints, (yeah, for several years!) and claimed they followed “protocol”. What the hell was their “protocol?” Daniel Thigpen (watch what he has to say) of the Folsom Cordova School District was reported as saying that the incidents were being “handled.”

Handled? Sure, as soon as they heard about Ronin’s suicide, the Principal immediately sent out a letter to all the parents of students offering grief counseling, while reassuring them they would continue their “work to maintain a safe, caring and positive school environment free from bullying and harassment.” Sounds like a crock to me. If they were really “working” at it all along, the bullying would not have continued, if it would have even existed at all.

I don’t blame the students who actually bullied Ronin. They are children, just like Ronin was. I blame their parents for not teaching them right from wrong behavior. I blame the school, for their inadequate “handling” of a serious situation, on multiple occasions. I blame people like Arizona’s Pastor Steven Anderson (who wants all gays killed,) and Michelle Duggar (who instigates lies and hatred in the name of her beliefs.) I blame other religious, right-wing holier-than-thou leaders who have forgotten there is supposed to be a separation between church and state in this country, forcing their archaic, bigoted thinking into mass media, and affecting the polls in their favor. It is these people that I say instigated a death, and they should all be held responsible.

Ronin Shimizu isn’t the first, nor sadly, will he be the last young person to end their life because of an ignorant and discriminating society.

Last year, sixteen year old Iowa student AJ Betts, Jr. ended his life because of the intense harassment he received over him being gay. The year before that, 14-year old Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. took his life after receiving death threats on his cell phone because he had come out as gay earlier that year. Nicola Ann Raphael was only 15 years old in 2001 when she took her own life in Glasgow. She was harassed simply because she was Goth, and she wore all black. Amanda Todd of Vancouver, Canada shared her story of being cyber-bullied on YouTube, and was asking for help. A month later, police found she had committed suicide at her home.

Ronin ShimizuSuicides as a result of bullying are not just a U.S. problem. It is a problem everywhere, and has been happening for far too long. Youth suicides, however, don’t get all the media attention they deserve. I could go on with story after story which many of you have probably not seen or heard of, because of this failure of mass media to hold importance to the severity of bullying and the loss of our youth.

We’ve all seen the television commercials and print advertising about bullying, but have you ever stopped to really think about the statistics? Because these numbers, these facts, are children’s lives. They aren’t just numbers! These are innocent kids, doing nothing but trying to live their lives the best they knew how, and because of bullying, they felt there was no other way to escape the hell they were going through other than to end their life.

One in three kids report being bullied during the school year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Other studies have shown that 41% of students reported being victims of physical bullying, and 45% reported being victims of psychological bullying. Looking at a comprehensive report on discrimination of transgender people, 41% reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population, and 51% were harassed/bullied in school.

How can we stop bullying? What can we all do to help prevent the tragic loss of our children?

The U.S. Federal Government has some suggestions, you can read about them, and share this page with your friends. Perhaps if the Folsom Cordova School District had read through this very informative website and followed some of its suggestions, Ronin would still be alive and enjoying cheering on his school team with his friends.

Some of you have heard about The Trevor Project. This organization offers accredited, life-saving, life-affirming programs to LGBTQ youth, including a national 24/7 suicide prevention hotline. If you care about our youth, why not get involved with one or more of their programs?

Lessor known is the Ian Benson Project. Ian Benson, an affirmed male, took his own life at 16 years old because of his struggles as a transgender youth. Donations to this project help support TransYouth Family Allies in their educational work to stop discrimination and raise awareness at institutions throughout the U.S., including using national TV and radio to spread their important message.

Whatever you can do to help prevent the loss of another young life, then please, do it! Teach your children to respect all individuals, and that bullying is cruel. Educators, pay attention when you become aware of a student being bullied, and actually DO something about it, don’t just “handle” it by setting it aside on the “To do” pile. Lawmakers and politicians, get off your butts and fight to declare bullying illegal, then begin enforcing strict penalties for offenders.

Stop letting our children end their lives because we as adults are too weak and too inept to hear their pain.

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Michael Eric Brown is a 50-something year old husband, “dad” to two dogs, extensive road traveler, travel blog owner, online Psychology and Sociology student, non-profit executive director, and a writer whose passion is covering various social and cultural issues (i.e. inequalities.)

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s not funny because it could easily be prevented with better understanding between all people. Sadly a lot of this hate and bigotry comes directly from right wing nut job fundamentalist teachings. Have you seen what’s in those books?
    I am atheist and fully support the constitution’s guarantee of separation of church and I believe that is where a lot of this bullying behavior begins. If your religion promotes hate and bigotry, then it’s not much of a religion to start with. But then again, if you read the bible or koran in depth, you’ll find this type of behavior (and worse) all throughout.
    That is why I am convinced that religion is nothing more than a man made tool used to promote the agenda of those that do hate and want to control anyone that does not meet their narrow minded view of what we as people are and what we (should by their definition) do.
    I believe that the world would be a lot better off if man had never created a fake, unseen, supposedly all knowing ghost of a character and it is up to modern man to identify that religion is the single biggest problem in the world today.
    This behavior would have no roots without the teachings that are modern day religion. If you think logically about it, it is pure delusion and insane behavior to still base modern civilization of the so called “facts” of the bible and koran, which were written when we thought that the world was flat, the sun revolved around it and no one used toilet paper.

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