Coweta student, Triston Stephens, committed suicide at a Coweta Public School on February 4. Just 15 years old, Stephens attended school in a relatively quiet community outside of Tulsa. It’s the sort of suburban town people move to when they want to get away from the problems of the inner city. Maybe that’s why parents, students, faculty and the community as a whole seemed so shocked when they heard that a boy at the school ended his life with a gun in the school bathroom.
According to the News on 6, Stephens was a strange boy who did not fit in well with his classmates. He was reportedly made fun of and bullied at school because he wasn’t like everyone else.
I know a little about that. I wrote an article last year about a boy I went to school with many years ago. He, too, was different from the other kids and was bullied all the time. People knew what was going on. The teachers knew. But nothing was done to stop it.
Years later, when that small town Oklahoma boy was grown, he went on a nationwide killing spree. He was arrested, tried and convicted. Eventually he was put to death as mandated by his sentence.
I was left with feelings of regret. Feelings that I should have done more to help the boy when it might have made a difference. Feelings that I might have saved a life if only I’d tried. Feelings that many in Coweta Public Schools are probably feeling this week as they think about Triston Stephens.
The situation could have been so much worse. Stephens could have killed other kids, too, before taking his own life. But even the loss of one is bad enough.
People may never know what made him do it. Chances are it was an accumulation of events rather than just one final straw. Of course, that means there were lots and lots of chances for someone to make a difference in his life. That’s the lesson we need to take away from this event.
Look around at the kids you know. Are they happy? Are they suffering? Are you in a position to help? Talk to your own kids about how important it is to be a friend, or at least to not join in the bullying when it happens. For your own kids’ sake, don’t let them be left feeling helpless and guilty if someone they know decides to take their own life or the lives of others. Help them to know what to do when they see a classmate in trouble, even if all they can do is tell one teacher after another until one of them steps up and takes action.