Here’s why you shouldn’t be a jerk

Autumn Page, Marketing Director

Channing Smith, a 16-year-old Manchester, Tennessee teenager, killed himself on Sept. 23, 2019. He attended Coffee County Central High School, and after getting into a disagreement with some classmates, they leaked Channing’s private Facebook conversations with a male classmate. 

Those conversations were “graphic texts and there was no room for Channing to be able to claim it was a misunderstanding,” his older brother, Joshua Smith, said in a CNN article

Channing never spoke about his sexuality publicly, according to BuzzFeed News. Classmates who allegedly wanted to embarrass him posted the conversations to social media, like Snapchat and Instagram, at around 10 p.m. on Sept. 22. 

Then, at around 4 a.m. Channing’s father saw the lights were on in Channing’s room. He went to check on him, and found his son’s body. 

Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughingstock and having to go to school Monday morning,” Joshua told WZTV.

All of this because of a disagreement. A 16-year-old took his life because he was outed when he wasn’t ready. 

And this wasn’t Channing’s first run-in with bullying, either. Another classmate named Keylee Duty told BuzzFeed News that fellow classmates often made fun of Channing and told him no one liked him because he sometimes “talked in a girly voice and walked with sass.”

This is the world we live in, where destroying people’s lives is funny. 

“My brother committed suicide because of the actions of two kids that he trusted that turned personal screenshot messages over to social media in a deliberate attempt to assassinate his character,” Joshua wrote on Facebook. “Nobody deserves to die as they are figuring their way through this complex journey called life.” 

Channing’s mother has spoken out about her son’s death.

“Just because you think it’s cute or funny to make somebody embarrassed or humiliate them, think again,” she said. “Because if somebody would have realized that, my son would not be dead.”

Channing’s family is demanding action, and for their son’s death to not be a waste. 

The fact that this is happening in 2019, where people tend to be accepted for who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation, is truly disgusting. No one should have to go through what Channing did. Not even that, no family should have to go through this. 

No mother or father should have to plan their son’s funeral. They’ll never see him graduate high school or go to college. Joshua should have never had to say goodbye to his little brother without knowing that it would be the last time. 

No one should have to hide their true self, whether it’s because of personal reasons or because they’re afraid of what people might say or do. 

This situation is awful, and it breaks my heart that kids, teenagers even, are going through this. It breaks my heart that people still struggle with self-acceptance because of others’ needs for validation or entertainment. Someone else’s self-acceptance journey shouldn’t be undermined for a laugh or for a viral post on social media.

Know that you’re not alone, and there’s always someone to turn to. 

If you or someone you know is struggling: 

  • The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender National Hotline: (888) 843-4564
  • The GLBT National Youth Talkline (serving youths through age 25): (800) 246-7743 
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386
  • Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741