Suicide of Kenneth Weishuhn
Kenneth James "Rodney" Weishuhn Jr.
May 27, 1997
Sheldon, Iowa, U.S.
|Died||April 14, 2012 (aged 14)|
Primghar, Iowa, U.S.
|Cause of death||Suicide by hanging|
|Resting place||Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Primghar, Iowa, U.S.|
|Alma mater||South O'Brien High School|
|Parent(s)||Kenneth J. Weishuhn Sr.|
Jeannie Chambers (née Barrows)
Kenneth James "Rodney" Weishuhn Jr. attended South O'Brien High School as a freshman in Paullina, Iowa, along with his sister Kayla, a sophomore. 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. The bullying was characterized as "aggressive", "merciless" and "overwhelming". In response to the bullying, Weishuhn took his own life in April 2012. He hanged himself in the family's garage and was discovered in the early morning hours on April 15, 2012 by stepfather Kenny Chambers.
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 number of people in his home town. Funeral services were held at Grace Lutheran Church in Primghar and burial was at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Primghar.
Effects and aftermath
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, the Washington Post, Queerty, Fox News, the Sioux City Journal, Daily Kos 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."
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.
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." 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.
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.
- Johnson, Kristen (16 April 2012). "Family: Bullies pushed NW Iowa teen to take own life". KTIV. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Horlyk, Earl. "Sister: Bullying led Primghar teen to suicide". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Swartley, Kristen. "Anti-Bullying Vigil Held in Cedar Falls In Response to Gay Iowa Teen's Suicide". Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Hector, Marypat. "Bullied To DEATH!". Global Grind. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Kenneth Weishuhn, Gay Iowa Teen, Commits Suicide After Allegedly Receiving Death Threats". Huffington Post. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Munson: Year after bullied teen's death, family has seen his story spread". Desmoines Register. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Munson, Kyle. "Munson: Year after bullied teen's death, family has seen his story spread". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Badash, David. "14-Year Old Suicide Victim Was Receiving Death Threats For Being Gay". The New Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- D'Arcy, Janice. "Sioux City Journal editorial shines a light on bullying same weekend "Bully" comes out". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Mulvihill, Evan (18 April 2012). "Heartbreaking Details Emerge In Suicide Of Out Iowa Teen Kenneth Weishuhn". Queerty. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Iowa mom blames gay teen son's suicide on bullying". Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- JustLeft@DailyKos. "I am so ashamed". Daily Kos. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Toppo, Greg. "Should bullies be treated as criminals?". USA Today. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "UPDATE: No criminal charges in death of bullied Iowa teen". WCF Courier. Retrieved 21 March 2014.