The Bullycide of Brandon Swartwood
Bullies Who Kill
By his mother, Cathy Swartwood
Mitchell - Director, Bully Police-Oklahoma
have tried to write this message for three days and have not been able
to complete it-- maybe today. I have a lot to say and this is a very painful
and emotional subject for me. While my heart goes out to the victims of
these school shootings--my life has been devastated by a different type
of crime that is happening in our schools.
rarely labeled as such, "Bullying" is a crime. This "other" crime of "Bullying,"
injures, maims, destroys and kills-- as effectively as a gun. Until a proactive
approach is taken with the crime of "Bullying," a reactive approach to
the crime of school shootings is futile.
is a crime in which the perpetrators are rarely punished and the victims
rarely receive justice. This crime is usually repetitive-- a victim is
injured and traumatized over and over. Yet, "Bullying" is rarely acknowledged
as a crime. When "Bullying" claims yet another victim, few notice and few
care. Oftentimes, the victims themselves are blamed by being told
that they must be doing something to "deserve" it.
victims are isolated and usually suffer in silence. The media doesn't
broadcast the injuries or deaths of these silenced victims. Our Great
Nation doesn't share in their pain or extend sympathies to the survivors.
Communities aren't outraged by these senseless, (and equally) devastating
crimes being committed in our schools. The only outrage in our nation,
in our communities, is when the psychiatric injuries caused by the "Bullying"
are externalized, and we have another school shooting.
the adult world, we have laws against "Bullying" crimes. We do not tolerate
these crimes in "our" workplace. Yet, our children are told they must tolerate
this in "their" workplace-- our public schools. Society, in general,
has the mindset that it is "all right" or "a rite of passage" for "Bullies"
to deliberately and systematically destroy their victims-- our children.
Why, but why, would anyone ask our children to endure more than we as adults
could anyone expect our children to make it through humiliation, torment,
isolation, assaults or a brutal beating unscathed? We shouldn't.
And they don't.
adult world these offenses and crimes have names. Society uses different
terms for these offenses and crimes when our children are the victims.
I must pose the question to law enforcement, to school administrators and
to our society-- At what age does teasing become harassment, taunting become
tormenting, following-stalking, punching-assaulting, or a fight become
a battery or a beating?
as this mindset prevails, our most vulnerable will continue to be our least
protected. Oh, some kids will survive the "Bullies" just like some
adults survive being victimized. However, in both instances, the
injuries and the recovery depends largely on the number, frequency, severity
and duration of the crime or crimes.
will leave school to escape the victimization. They might only be deprived
of their education-- a small price to pay to escape the torment and humiliation.
Some children will leave their hometowns to get away from the harassment
and torture. Some children will turn to substance abuse and self-medicate
in an attempt to escape their pain and suffering. Some will lose
all self-confidence and always believe that there must be something wrong
with them-- that they did deserve it like everyone said. (If not,
why would those in a position to help-- to save them from a living hell--
have condoned these crimes against them?) Some children will leave
this world to escape their living hell on this earth-- as their pain is
with them wherever they go.
children will learn to accept the physical and/or psychological injuries
inflicted upon them-- "just for fun." They will go to the doctors and take
their medications and accept the fact that life isn't fair. They won't
question "the system" or why they were not allowed to get a public education
"just because" someone didn't like the way they dressed, or perhaps the
way they looked. Or maybe it was the music they listened to, or the vehicle
they drove. Could have been that they were really intelligent or perhaps
that they really struggled to learn. Or maybe the "Bullies" used even better
excuses like they thought they were a Christian or they thought they were
a Satanist, they thought they were gay or they thought they were straight,
they thought they were rich or they thought they were poor, etc., etc.,
rate, surely, we shouldn't think that these victims would have a problem
with some "Bullies" setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner--
thus depriving their victims of their education, their health and their
happiness. Surely, we should expect the victims to be okay-- to come
through this uninjured and unscathed?
we don't acknowledge "Bullying" as a "real" crime, we dismiss the very
real injuries that are inflicted upon it's victims. Although the the psychological
injuries and the extent can be varied, they are real injuries. Sometimes,
the symptoms are internalized and sometimes they are externalized-- sometimes
both. In either case "Bullying" kills. In both cases children
speak from experience. My beloved son, Brandon, was a victim of "Bullies."
developed PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Depression,
after being harassed, tormented, isolated, assaulted and brutally beaten
in our public school system. When we took out a protective order
against one of the "Bullies," he, the bully, decided to send a friend into
the principal's office to claim that Brandon had made a bomb threat. It
was absurd, along with the way that the school handled the allegation.
The damage done to Brandon over this incident alone, was beyond measure--
victimize the victim.
principal later told me that he was convinced that Brandon had not made
the bomb threat. Unfortunately, the damage to Brandon could not be undone.
Brandon had to live with the stigma of the would-be-bomber. This is just
one of the incidents. There were many.
12/16/00 Brandon put a loaded gun to his head, pulled the trigger and ended
his pain. Some of the "Bullies" have said, (through their crocodile
tears), that they didn't realize what they were doing-- that they were,
"just having fun."
years that I watched my son die a slow and painful death. Those years that
I saw the sparkling light of joy, love, and hope in his big, beautiful,
brown eyes-- slowly replaced with the darkness of pain, devastation, and
hopelessness. The night that Brandon stood by me and told me that he felt
"dead inside"-- then the morning, three weeks later, that I stood over
his dead body, knowing, that despite all my efforts to save my beloved
son, the "Bullies" job had been too well done. Their mission had been accomplished.
Suffice to say that through all this, Brandon and all of us who love him
were not having fun. Where was any justice for Brandon? Where is justice
for us? Our light, our hope, our joy has been replaced with darkness, hopelessness,
and an unrelenting sorrow. We feel "dead inside."
tragic as all of these deaths are, the greater tragedy is if society doesn't
stop to look at the reasons, and pause for a moment to see "all the victims."
and her son Brandon
true love, my four-wheeler.
of course, put God and my family first."
Loving Memory of Brandon Chris Swartwood
came from the darkness
thieves in the night
robbed us of our treasure
they stole your precious life
arsenal of viciousness
deep within their hearts
by day, bit by bit
took your life apart
were you to defend yourself
take back the life they stole
you possessed no weapons
the repository of your soul
they took your joy, your peace of mind
all your precious things
wonder if these thieves did know
give you angel wings
you rest in peace, and may others see
all your loved ones know
they stole from all - when they robbed this earth
your kind and gentle soul
Politics of "Bullycide"
Suicide caused from
By Cathy Swartwood (Dec
Politics in our small town reared
its ugly head when I tried to run a memoriam on the second anniversary
of Brandon’s death. Our local paper, refused to print a paid
memoriam “intact” so I put it in the Tulsa World. The publisher,
read the poem and asked me what happened to Brandon. I told him the “history”
and he asked me to write a letter to the editor, so I did. Obviously, someone
got to him. He didn't run the memoriam, nor did he “bother” to inform
me that he had changed his mind - until December 29th. The
peom is above and below is the letter to the editor and his “notification”
to me. I have been effectively silenced again. Locally, the “Bullycide”
of Brandon remains a well kept secret.
Note: The Publisher and the
Editor told me that they were trying to fill space and needed news and
articles - thus the length of the following letter that I submitted.
: Mon, 30 Dec 2002
the poem "To Brandon" on December the 12th so it would run on or near the
anniversary of his death on December 16th. While I was in your office (on
the 12th), you and Mrs. XXX both read it and both told me that you
would run it. There was no mention of taking it under "consideration."
the letter to the editor, I only submitted that at your request.
Whether or not you ran that, was of no significance to me.
when you did not run the memoriam and did not notify me--you deprived me
of the opportunity to place a timely memoriam in another publication.
And that, Mr. XXX, is of great significance to me.
that I haven't gotten back to you sooner. This time of the year is usually
busy and I find that I run out of time to do all things.
careful consideration, I find that we are unable to run your items.
We offer our condolences to you.
is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come"
16, 2000 my son, Brandon, died by “Bullycide.” After numerous assaults,
including a severe beating in the school cafeteria, Brandon developed Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a real injury, with devastating symptoms.
Among the list of symptoms are: self-medicating, severe depression and
suicide. We provided Brandon with the medical help that he needed. In addition,
we pursued - the most important thing to Brandon - justice. It was a futile
went unpunished. The (deliberate) indifference of some administrators,
in our school system, remained a well kept secret. Last year, I even tried
to run a paid memoriam, telling how Brandon lived and why he died. The
publisher of the other paper stonewalled me by refusing to print it without
major editing that distorted the facts. He insisted on replacing “forced
to” with “chose to” In my book there is 180 degrees between the meaning
of forced and chose. I told them that Brandon chose to leave school about
like I chose to drop the ad. Brandon had been a silenced victim, and now,
if others had their way - he was going to be a silenced statistic.
I was running on empty and feeling defeated. But I was more determined
than ever to do something - anything that might make a difference for some
other kid being bullied. I contacted the Tulsa World and they ran the memoriam
in tact. I have since learned of school employees (from other towns) who
clipped that memoriam and vowed to do what they could to battle the epidemic
of bullying. I received calls, cards and letters from people I didn't
know - telling me how his memoriam had touched them.
I contacted Senator Rozell who had introduced an Anti-Bullying bill to
the Senate. I told him Brandon’s Story and he used it to gain support for
his bill. The Anti-Bullying bill passed last spring. Every school in the
state must now have policy in place to address “Bullying.” Numerous articles
appeared in papers, not just in Oklahoma but out of state as well. One
associated press writer reported, “And in December 2000, an 18-year old
Coweta student who committed suicide said he did it because of bullying,
according to the state Health Department.”
from NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw came to Coweta to get Brandon’s Story.
The segment aired, complete with pictures of Brandon, on the same day as
the ceremonies after the cleanup at the World Trade Center. I thought
it appropriate, that the story, about the thousands who died at the hands
of terrorists, aired on the same evening as the segment about my child
who died because he was terrorized.
it ironic that Brandon’s Story made the national news and yet never made
the local news?
Brandon's mother, Cathy Swartwood
Mitchell, is now serving as the Director of Bully Police Oklahoma,
(Bully Police USA), a watch-dog group that advocates for children who are
bullied and works with lawmakers to get anti bullying laws enacted.
What are the 17 Signs that
Your Child is Being Bullied?
So, your child IS being bullied…
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Q: Whose Problem is Bullying?
A: Bullying is an Adult Problem
Is YOUR child
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