Did Online Bullying Push Gay Teen to Suicide?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 23, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A gay Iowa teenager's suicide was preceded by bullying at school, the teen's mom claims -- including a cruel Facebook page allegedly created solely to harass the boy.

Kenneth Weishuhn Jr., 14, of Primghar, Iowa, told family and friends he was gay about a month ago. The teenager received a barrage of hate for coming out: Classmates heckled him with anti-gay slurs, left death threats on his cell phone's voicemail, and spewed hateful comments via social media, the Sioux City Journal reports.

"When I talked to him, he blew it off like it wasn't a big deal," Weishuhn's mother told the Journal. But the 9th grader took his own life last weekend, and now law enforcement is stepping in.

The local sheriff's office is investigating Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.'s suicide. Officers are looking at the gay teenager's cell phone messages and his online activity, the Journal reports.

The online investigation may include a Facebook "fan page" that allegedly encouraged hate against gays. Whoever started the page sent invites to all of Weishuhn's friends, his sister told the Journal.

Teachers and school administrators were aware that Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. was a victim of anti-gay bullying at school. Staff stepped up hallway patrols and held an anti-bullying assembly, but the harassment didn't stop, Weishuhn's sister said.

Weishuhn's mother said she'll defer to sheriff's investigators about possible criminal charges in connection with her son's death.

Relatives may also be considering a civil lawsuit against Weishuhn's alleged bullies, or even his school. Similar lawsuits in other bullying cases have alleged negligence by a school, for failing to adequately address bullying.

In this case, however, "I feel the school did address the issue ... when it came to their attention," the school's superintendent told the Journal.

Kenneth Weishuhn's mother said at the very least, she hopes her son's suicide "touches [the bullies'] heart[s] for them to never, ever want to bully somebody again." Meantime, someone has started another Facebook page, in Weishuhn's memory.

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