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Equality Forum recalls Brandon Bitner, 14, who killed himself by running in front of tractor-trailer

News release from Equality Forum:

508 Brandon Bitner was buried on Wednesday, November 10.  The 14-year-old high school freshman from rural Middleburg, Pennsylvania committed suicide by running into the path of a tractor trailer. He left a note that he wanted to draw attention to bullying.

Brandon was a talented musician, who aspired to be a classical violinist. According to the note, he was tired of being called “faggot” and “sissy.”  

According to his mother, Tammy Simpson, “He was the most wonderful child anyone could ask for.”

“We need to stop the carnage of gay teen suicides,” said Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum, a national LGBT civil rights organization headquartered in Philadelphia.

In October 2010, Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, brought national attention to the epidemic of gay teen suicides that resulted from bullying.  It is estimated that about 500 gay teens each year or 40 gay teens per month take their lives as a result of homophobia.

“In most public, middle and high schools, homophobic taunts are hurled without any disciplinary action,” stated Lazin.  “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can really harm you.”

Currently, there are two bills in Congress, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.  “Preventing bullying is a non-partisan issue,” said Lazin.  “Congress needs to unanimously pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act to make resoundingly clear that our nation demands safe schools for all children.”

Equality Forum produced the documentary film “JIM IN BOLD” (www.jiminbold.com) about the impact of homophobia on gay youth. The film centers on James Wheeler, a 19-year-old talented youth who committed suicide.  Jim was surrounded in his high school’s locker room and urinated on. There was no disciplinary action. The award-winning film has been screened at over 50 film festivals and at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association.


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Lame. The news needs to stop reporting on these teen suicides, especially gay students' suicides. If news of Clementi's selfish and cowardly final act hadn't been plastered all over the news, Bitner wouldn't have had the desire to commit suicide in order to make a statement to "draw attention to bullying". I also find it disturbing that the media acts as if these gay teens' lives are more valuable than those of straight teens who kill themselves. Girls have to put up with these kinds of things from teenage boys all the time whilst the media turns a blind eye, but when a submissive gay boy kills himself due to bullying, the news acts like it's a new phenomena. In actuality, it's just a double-standard rather than a new phenomena. Publicize THAT, Miami Herald.

Steve, you're lame. Tyler Clementi's suicide did not put the idea of committing suicide in the heads of other gay teens; it just drew attention to something that has been going on for years. Neither I nor any teen girl I knew were ever ostracized like this in high school.

I for one am glad that these suicides are being reported. It is telling people that bullying has gotten out of hand--not that it was ever a "good" thing to do. People forget that Eric Harris and Dylan Clebold were bullied for years before they shot up their high school. Bullying has such detrimental effects on the population in general. Studies have shown that victims of bullying often seek solace in alcohol, drugs, or suicide. It is time to stop letting bullies get of scott free. Bullies need to be punished for their actions.

Steve - Perhaps you should put yourself in the shoes of the parents or siblings of teens who have recently taken their life. Clearly, you are part of the problem as to why this keeps happening.

Forget who's “lame” for a moment and consider this: Why wasn't this boy's mother keeping a watch on him? Instead of introducing bills to Congress, somebody needs to punish parents like Tammy Simpson who can't keep track of their own (barely) pubescent children. Irresponsible parents need to be held accountable. At the very least, Tammy Simpson was negligent, because she knew Brandon was bullied and therefore did not try to intervene and prevent the foreseeable risk of her son running off and committing suicide. Tammy Simpson knew about the bullying prior to Brandon's suicide note. Legally, nothing can (or should) be done to any kids who may have made distasteful comments towards Brandon. Being her child, his mother was supposed to protect him. If Brandon was “the most wonderful child anyone could ask for”, why wasn't Tammy Simpson always watching out for Brandon? And don't anyone try to say that parents cannot possibly keep track of their children 24/7, because that's just not true. If you think that a parent cannot keep track of their children 24/7, then your child could easily befall the same tragic fate as Brandon. Be responsible and keep tabs on your kids, plain and simple -- that is the way to prevent teen suicide.

Steve started this conversation on an insensitive note, but documented evidence informs us that the way suicide is covered can contribute to suicide contagion.


@Antônio, it's really tempting in hindsight to say suicide can be prevented easily by changing one thing that would have blocked the suicide victim's access to their method. After losing my partner to suicide, though, and getting to know others who lost loved ones also, I can tell you it's never so simple.

I don't have any easy answers, but I'm concerned about how bullying is being linked to suicide as a direct and unitary cause. I fleshed my concerns out in a piece yesterday at http://atb.opho.org if anybody is interested in discussing further.

Let's find Steve and beat the damn piss out of him

Brandon was a friend of mine, and an all around great kid. This article is partially incorrect though, because he WAS NOT GAY! He was just softspoken and did not dress like everyone else, and because of this, some of my ignorant fellow classmates would call him gay and say hurtful things to him. I would appreciate if the bashing of his family would stop, it is very distastful and rude. This has been a very hard time for all of those who were close to him, and people need to show some respect.

Please keep Brandon's friends and family in your prayers.

Partially incorrect? Looks like 100% incorrect to me. This publication (miamiherald.typepad.com) is clearly trying to draw parallels between Tyler Clementi and Brandon Bitner when we now know (from Tyler's friend) that there were none. Apparently, Brandon wasn't gay, and yet the author of the above article depicts Brandon as being like Tyler Clementi (violin and all). LGBT groups like Equality Forum need to back off... a straight teen who struggled to assert himself doesn't need "support" from a gay group when it propagates the myth he was gay.

Bitner didn't fit the pervasive image of masculinity - which is mostly created by industry trying to sell cars, gory movies, football tickets, beer, meat, tools, body wash, and other supposedly "manly" articles - so he was used to satisfy someone's sadistic urges and apparently could not handle it. And contrary to popular belief not everyone is capable of handling it, especially introverts. In much the same way as the stereotypical "dumb loudmouth jock" cannot handle factoring polynomials or figuring out the stoichiometric ratio of a chemical reaction.

As far as sexual orientation is concerned, at 14 it is difficult to draw any kind of conclusion as it is likely that the person themselves even knows for sure. I have no doubt, however, that a kid in Bitner's shoes (especially in Central PA like most rural areas) would have been called into question for "liking dudes" quite often, even at 14 when most kids have no idea what that really means and they just repeat what they hear at home from parents and older sublings.


There is NO reason to be bashing Brandon's mother. That poor woman had to burry her son! HER SON! Maybe if you were in her shoes you would understand.

Bradon deserved much more. He shouldn't have been treated the way he was treated! What those other kids did was wrong and hurtfully. The teachers in his school should have seen all the signs of him being bullyed. He was a great kid he was also loving...Brandon you will be dearly misssed! <3 :(

When was his mother bashed? Someone just asked why his mother wasn't keeping an eye on Brandon if he meant so much to her. His fate was a shame, though. He had a pretty smile. What his suicide came down to was his own impulsiveness. The way he died was especially awful. I agree he deserved much more, but the problem was that Brandon didn't think he deserved more. Maybe if Linda would've reminded him, he wouldn't have done such a thing.

As adults the schools and the parents have responsibilities to assure this does not happen if they know it is happening, but sometimes children are afraid to tell their parents or teachers. The negative issue here is that the law has become so strict on how you can and can't punish juveniles, issues like this are getting out of hand because it is now easier to turn the other cheek when you see bullying happen to a child at school than to actually take action and put a stop to it. Teachers and School officials are afraid to punish because they don't want a law suit. As for not broadcasting this on the news, It has to be broad casted, it is a problem the public needs to know this happening so they can't protect their children through awareness. This boys parents now have to live with the loss of their child which has got to be the most terrible thing in the world to have to live with. This legislation does need to go into effect and needs to happen soon. This country is supposed to be based on equality, so no stone should be left unturned.

wow! talk about not having respect for the dead. even if this kid was or was not gay the general idea is to stop bullying no matter if ur bi, gay, or straight. Blaming his mother isn't right have your parents known where YOU are at every second of the day??.. yea thought so.

Brandon committed suicide and is now a martyr whose suicide makes his death "worth something". Lovely. An ambiguously gay teen who is now the LGBT equivalent of a mujahideen soldier. Read on:


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