Mourning GHT family says bullying is everywhere

Juli and David Kline of Grand Haven Township were at their son's visitation last spring when they discovered that the 17-year-old had been bullied in school.
Kyle Moroney
Nov 30, 2011

 

“It’s awful to hear that someone would pick on your kid,” Juli said, choking back tears. “We didn’t know he had been bullied until the visitation and kids came up to us and told us.”

David said Tuesday that he vividly remembers April 27. That was the day he came home shortly after Zachary got home from school, and David found his son slumped on his bedroom floor after he had shot himself.

“I was in shock,” David said. “I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t swallow. … It was not real.”

During Zach’s visitation, several of his Grand Haven High School classmates told the Klines that their son was being bullied. The news came as a shock to his parents, as they were unaware of the bullying before their son’s death.

“I know they have it everywhere,” Juli said. “I think it’s time we realize we don’t live in this nice little community — that it doesn’t happen here.”

Bullying has become a growing concern throughout the country. With the evolution of technology, cyber-bullying has progressed to being one of the most common forms of bullying, in addition to verbal remarks that may be equally as damaging.

A controversial anti-bullying measure could be signed into state law this week. Gov. Rick Snyder is likely to sign the bill that will require Michigan schools to adopt anti-bullying policies, his administration said Tuesday, just after the state Senate approved a new version without a clause that critics said would have allowed religious-based verbal harassment.

Having the measure become law would cap a roughly decade-long effort by supporters of the proposal.

The Senate approved the bill 35-2 Tuesday. The House had already passed it, meaning it heads to Snyder’s desk. The Republican governor advocated for the law and is expected to sign it, pending a final review.

“The governor believes bullying at any time, under any circumstances, is wrong —period,” his spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in a statement.

Public schools will have six months from the new law’s effective date to adopt anti-bullying policies.

The bill does not include disputed language from a previous Senate version, which Democrats had said offered a blueprint for getting away with bullying in schools.

That bill had said it “does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” of a student or school employee. That wording was dropped from the final version after the House wouldn’t agree to it.

Michigan is one of only a few states without a state law requiring anti-bullying policies in schools.

Some lawmakers say the bill isn’t detailed or tough enough to be effective. They want tougher reporting requirements, more protections against cyber-bullying and more detailed lists of reasons why students can’t be bullied — such as sexual orientation, race and weight.

Kevin Epling — whose 14-year-old son, Matt, killed himself after a hazing incident in 2002 — said the measure isn’t perfect, but it is still an important step to crack down on bullying and harassment in schools. The bill will be named “Matt’s Safe School Law.”

“It sends a message across the state that bullying is not to be tolerated in any form,” Epling said Tuesday.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools and Spring Lake Public Schools have already established anti-bullying policies in place for their districts.

Students and staff at Grand Haven High School generated their own anti-bullying campaign earlier this year, acknowledging they will not tolerate bullying in their school.

“I think the new legislation (reiterates) the policies and procedures we already have in place in Grand Haven,” Superintendent Keith Konarska said Tuesday after learning of the bill’s approval in the Senate. “I think it has the potential to create an increased awareness on bullying across our state and that is certainly a good thing.”

The 2010 Grand Haven High School yearbook was dedicated to Zach, who would have been a senior this year.

The Klines said they hope the anti-bullying law is a “good first step” to stomp out bullying in schools.

“What really is going to make a difference is when other kids step up to the plate and help stop bullying,” Juli said. “I think these kids need a safe place to go to and feel comfortable in reporting bullying.”

Since Zach’s death, the Klines have received more than 50 letters from classmates who have nothing but kind words to say about their son.

One student who was having a difficult time dealing with his grandmother’s health issues recalls Zach’s willingness to console him — someone he did not know — in the school hallway. During their conversation, Zach told the teen he had been bullied “a lot,” the unnamed student wrote in his letter to the Klines.

“I’ve always wondered — how could anybody bully someone who is this nice to a total stranger?” the student wrote. “He has changed my life for the better and I’ll always remember him as such. He was a gift to us all.”

The Klines said their son had taken several honors and Advanced Placement classes, and he enjoyed reading and would spend hours in bookstores. He shelved a collection of nearly 200 books in his bedroom — many in rare or first editions.

Zach was part of a group called Think Tank that met after school to discuss various topics, such as religion and politics. The Klines said he also spent a lot of time with his family, including his 15-year-old sister, Christie; and trips to the flea market with his grandmother, Sally. Zach enjoyed fishing and camping trips at various state parks, and visiting family cottages in Pentwater and Greenville, his parents said.

“He was very caring,” Juli said. “Family meant everything to him.”

“He was very affectionate — loved to give hugs,” David added. “He always had a smile and was upbeat.”

Since their son’s death, the Klines have become involved in a suicide prevention awareness group, and said they hope to spread the message that bullying is not to be tolerated.

“Just be careful what you say and when you do,” Juli said. “I don’t think anyone deserves to be tolerated that way — bullied.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Online:
To view House Bill 4163, visit www.legislature.mi.gov

Comments

ghmomma

Hate and intolerance are learned in the home from parents who hate and are intolerant. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. You've taught your children that they are better than most people because they are white, christian, wealthy, from a 'traditional family', not gay, not weak, not small, not disabled, not different, and PRIVILEGED. SHAME ON YOU!!! Not only have you taught your children to hate, you have denied them the opportunity to meet some wonderful, loving, and caring people. You have limited them in the very worst way to a narrow and shallow life. You have also given them the false impression that they can treat people 'not like them' anyway they see fit. Bullies are murderers by proxy. Parents you ARE responsible for how your children treat other children.......and pretty much YOU are the only one that thinks you are better than the rest of us......because the rest of us know YOU are JUST LIKE US. Teach your children well.........

agree2dissagree

Hate and intolerance are learned from your peers not necessarily your parents, you sound like you have a grudge with someone? The people you are around all day and the people you talk to, text, Facebook and twitter and God only knows what else are the real problem! Do you see any Parents running around with "Don't Be a Zebra" t-shirts on?? Come on! We who are "good" parents teach our young well, (i.e. the golden rule). Where is the blame on Hollywood and the crap they see on T.V.? Where is the blame on video games? These were a few kids bullying Zach,and it breaks my heart and I can't get over this and it should be punished!! But who do you punish ghmomma? Why do you "" traditional family?? What if it was your child, should you go to jail because you're white, christian, wealthy..and by the way...you sound a little intolerant to everyone! I guess I would like to know who you are talking too? You are taking away the fact that this boy, Zach, this loving young boy, had no one to talk to about what was going on in his life? He was normal, not gay, not weak, not small, not disabled? Wasn't there just one person...one teacher who he could talk to, to confide with, to bare his soul before he did the unthinkable???? Who is "the rest of us?" Before you blame everyone else for hate and intolerance, take a good look in the mirror...you might not recognize the person looking back at you!!!

dyankee

First of all, you cannot regulate bullying and if Govt. Snyder signs HB4163 then, he will get this issue wrong. He will be no different than any other politician in attempting to add another layer of Govt. control over it's citizens. Secondly, what a pathetic journalistic job Kyle Moroney has done in carting this family infront of a camera with a picture of this family's lost loved one and manipulate them under a bullying slogan.(its even more disturbing to see a family allow such nonesense to become apart of their child's legacy.) The first sentence of this story says it all when finding out for the first time at their child's visitation, that he was bullied! Then run with it as the only reason! What?? This immediately tells me that bullying had very little to do with their son's suicide and this is being conveniently used to ignore the real reason for this young man's troubles. I'm sick of society constantly being blamed for everything and then suggest that we need to regulate it. When I hear about any suicide, my first question is what type of prescription drugs was this perons taking? I will suggest that nearly 70% of kids in our schools today are taking some kind of prescription meds.(at some point) A.D.D this A.D.H.D that...hypertension this insomnia that, it goes on and on and on! Most parents are glueless as to short term and long term side effects of these medications. You can't watch TV for 10 minutes without being brainwashed about some type of disorder you have. Its breath taking that no regulations are suggested with RX companies/Doctors ramming these meds. down our throats, but blaming every other kid(YOUR kid) in school is just fine....talk about bullying. NO one wants to beat up this family as they have been through the unthinkable, but when I see this type of media manipulation going on (with a family's blessing), it would be irresponsible for society not to ask about what else may have been going on here. All due respect to the Klines.

momofmany

agree2dissagree-I agree with everything you said in reply to ghmomma. Your thoughts were exactly mine and I had to wait several hours before I could respond back. agree2dissagree is also correct that it was a few kids bullying Zach. I know this as I attended visitation with my child who was a friend of Zach's. My child was stunned beyond belief as Zach hid from his friends that he was being bullied. ghmomma-you really need to come into the real world and like agree2dissagree said, look in the mirror. SHAME ON YOU!! You are way off base. dyankee-you are way off base here. I can also tell you that I disagree with the facts written in this article as they are NOT what was said at the funeral home. Comments stated by a family member was that the family was aware of the bullying but the school teachers, school administrators and friend were not! Comments were that they feared further bullying if the bullies were confronted and knowledge was brought to attention. His friends walked up to his parents (my child included) to let his parents know they were his friend and how much they had enjoyed him. I don't know any who were not in extreme shock to know of him being bullied. My child has been through such total shock to know a friend of theirs was bullied to the point that they took their own life and had no idea it was going on. In my opinion and having been through grief myself, it's possible that his parents may be in denial this first year because the article is NOT what was said at the funeral home and by family members. I was stunned to read it knowing I had been present; it didn't make any sense. I dealt with kids who needed and wanted answers because they couldn't understand why. My child is part of the "Don't Be a Zebra" group who plan to do all they can to educate the younger children in the school district. They have started at the Middle schools and the elementary schools will be next to educate kids in the hopes that the bullying can be stopped at all levels. Zach's death hurt so many of these kids deeply who knew him and they don't want to see another child take their life. I admire these kids for taking action and in an appropriate way. To the teachers who are mentoring these students, I applaud you! Job well done. It shows parents out in our community, ghmomma, who are well brought up, well raised and want to make a difference in our community and I am very proud of them

ghmomma

Kids learn to hate at home. If your children are being influenced by hollywood, television or video games, YOU'RE NOT DOING YOUR JOB. Your job is to monitor what they are watching, reading, and doing on the computer. If your child is overweight, it is your fault. It is a parents job to teach their children healthy eating habits. It is a parents job to get their kids out and exercise. Too many parents blame the media, television, the school system for failing their kids. If your child is a bully you need to look at your own behavior. Children need to be taught tollerence, respect for others, love and kindness. Parents are the single most important influence in a childs life. You can try to place the blame wherever you want. It comes down to what kind of parent you are. I see you really do know who you are.

momofmany

ghmomma in some cases maybe bullying is taught and allowed at home. It is NOT allowed in our home or taught in our home and what they watch, read, eat, sleep and breath IS monitored in our home. We are also not wealthy, far from it. My children have been taught to treat others how THEY want to be treated and respecting people regardless of their race, economic status, religion, etc, etc. My children have been brought up surrounded by different nationalities, religions, etc. My children aren't overweight.Some of my children have experienced actual tested, documented learning disabilities. Not all have outgrown those disabilities, which had absolutely nothing to do with watching tv, music, computer, etc. etc.
Their Dad and I have both experienced bullying growing up. All but one of my children have experienced bullying. The one who is part of the anti-bullying group through the high school has/is being bullied right now. The child applies what is learned from us and what is learned through the group to HANDLE the situation appropriately. The child knows there is an open communication in our household which is why the situations are discussed and if needed, intervention through proper authorities takes place. And, if you knew my child, you would know that the child has a very kind heart, helps others, would give the shirt off their back for others and just and outstanding human being! Biased? Maybe but I know my child. What happened to Zach, affected my child deeply, like I mentioned before and part of why they are in the "Don't Be a Zebra" group. My child wants to make a difference so that young kids growing up to day, don't experience what they have been through or have the tools needed to prevent tragedies from happening.
I think it's time to agree to disagree because no matter what is said, you only see one side of the picture:yours.

momofmany

One last thought, ghmomma: if there is bullying, not appropriate supervision at home, don't you think what these kids and mentors are doing, helping educate to stop bullying, giving kids the tools to help stop bullying through the schools, with kids who have experienced it and experienced educators is a good thing?

ghmomma

Yes, trying to stop the bullies and help the victims is a good thing. I never said it wasn't. If more parents stepped up and taught their children respect for other human beings we wouldn't have a problem. If you are who I think you are, I know you spend an incredible amount of time with your kids and you care about how they treat others.......There are alot of parents out there that could learn alot from your example.

ghmomma

Your children are good decient human beings. That is because you did your job as a parent and taught them well. Which is exactly what I am saying. There are parents out there who use television, video games, computers, the school system as babysitters when they should be teaching and talking to their children, as you do. I'm not saying parents like you are the problem. The kind of parenting you practice is the solution.

newsblogger

Your statements speak volumes on the kind of person you really are GHmomma. One in particular stands out..If You say "if your child is overweight, it is your fault." Is it? Is it a parents fault if a child is born with a medical condition that does not allow them to be thin? There are several conditions that cause this. You paint such a broad stroke with your statements. I hope your children are never on the receiving end of your judgmental thought process, but fear the nuts won't be falling far from the tree. You should really apologize to those you have directly offended. That is what an adult would do.

ghmomma

If you have a child with a medical condition it is your responsibility to get treatment for them, work with them with diet and exersize and see that they stay healthy. There are treatments. No one should ever pass judgement on a child. If a child is a bully they learned it from someone and they deserve sympathy.

newsblogger

As someone with a thyroid condition.. I can attest to the FACT you can eat all the right foods and exercise to the point of exhaustion, take your medicine on schedule and still not lose weight. (There are also many other documented conditions that cause overweight children) Not everything is so cut and dry as you seem to think. Again, your comments speak volumes, and you should just remain silent to prevent further humiliating yourself with your lack of medical knowledge.

ghmomma

As a person who had my thyroid gland removed when I was in my late 40's I can assure you that you CAN maintain a healthy BMI with medication and diet. It's alot of sacrifice and self disipline but it can be done.....if you haven't reached that realization you should be humiliated also. Your posts are just about as judgemental as mine, you are just more articulate than I am. Congratulations.

 

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