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Kenneth Weishuhn

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Kenneth Weishuhn

Kenneth Weishuhn
Born Kenneth James "Rodney" Weishuhn Jr.
May 27, 1997
Died April 15, 2012(2012-04-15) (aged 14)
Paullina, Iowa
Cause of death Suicide by hanging
Resting place Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Primghar, Iowa
Nationality American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater South O'Brien High School
Known for Suicide
Parent(s) Kenneth J. Weishuhn Sr. and Jeannie Chambers (née Barrows)

Kenneth Weishuhn (May 27, 1997 – April 15, 2012) was a teenager who is known for his suicide as a result of bullying for being a gay youth.

History

Kenneth James "Rodney" Weishuhn Jr. attended South O'Brien High School as a freshman in Paullina, Iowa, along with his sister Kayla, a sophomore.[1] Weishuhn, then 14 years old, was bullied in person, death threats were sent to his mobile phone, and he was the subject of a Facebook hate group. He was targeted for being gay, having come out one month before his suicide, Weishuhn told his mother, Jeannie Chambers, "Mom, you don't know how it feels to be hated." The bullying was characterized as "aggressive",[2] "merciless"[3] and "overwhelming".[4] In response to the bullying, Weishuhn took his own life in April 2012.[5] He hanged himself in the family's garage and was discovered in the early morning hours on April 15, 2012 by stepfather Kenny Chambers. Kayla stated "The sound of his scream traumatized me for the longest time."[6][7]

A vigil was held at the Cedar Rapids 1st Avenue Bridge on April 24, 2012. A Facebook group dedicated to Weishuhn's memory gained about 1500 followers within the week of his suicide, which is double the amount of people in his home town.[8] Funeral services were held at Grace Lutheran Church in Primghar and burial at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Primghar.[2]

Effects, aftermath

National attention

Weishuhn's suicide prompted nationwide coverage of bullying and its effect on LGBT youth. Coverage of the suicide and the bullying that prompted it appeared in the Huffington Post,[5] the Washington Post,[9] Queerty,[10] Fox News,[11] the Sioux City Journal,[2] Daily Kos[12] and many other outlets.

USA Today questioned if bullies should be treated as criminals in reference to Weishuhn and his suicide and announced "Tragic suicides such as K.J.'s have galvanized educators into a zero-tolerance stance on bullying, and a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Education shows that state lawmakers nationwide are increasingly willing to criminalize bullying behavior, even as experts wonder whether doing so will have the intended effect: to curb the behavior and improve the learning atmosphere."[13]

The Des Moines Register wrote "Kenneth Weishuhn’s name has been invoked far and wide in the struggle to stem bullying and advance gay rights" and reported on singer Madonna flashing Weishuhn’s photo on stage in the middle of her European concert tour.[7]

Weishuhn's mother has said she was unsure if she wants to pursue charges against the school or the bullies. She stated "I really don’t want to ruin somebody else’s life, or take someone else’s son or daughter from them. But, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it to stop."[10] Later in 2012, prosecutors could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for specific criminal acts. As laws in Iowa do not cover bullying, O'Brien County Sheriff Michael Anderson said he agreed with the decision not to file charges.[14]

Family troubles

Weishuhn's suicide was hard on the family, with sister Kayla stating she was "traumatized" by events and still had to attend school with the bullies through the remainder of her high school years.[7]

Mother Jeannie Chambers spent 6.5 years in a federal penitentiary for manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine. After the prison sentence, Chambers was to be on supervised release for the next 8 years.

Stepfather Kenny Chambers previously was battling testicular cancer, but as of late 2013 he was in remission. Kenny served 60 months for the same methamphetamine charge, as compared to Jeannie's 90 months. Both entered their plea agreements in February 2005 and had served time and been released by Weishuhn's suicide.[15]

See also

References

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