Bullying has claimed another life.
Sixteen-year-old Channing Smith was an 11th grader at Coffee County High School in Manchester, Tennessee. According to his friends and family, Channing killed himself after discovering sexually explicit texts he exchanged with another boy had been posted on social media.
Channing had not come out as LGBTQ.
“He was a really, really sweet kid,” Channing’s classmate Faith Honea told TODAY. “He always tried his best to make people smile and he succeeded every time. He would bring in drinks and chocolate to one of his teachers and try to make her day better. He was just really nice.”
On September 22 at 4 o’clock in the morning, Channing’s father noticed his son’s bedroom light was still on. When he went to check on his son, he found his body.
Channing’s older brother, Joshua Smith, told BuzzFeed News Channing had exchanged “graphic texts” with another boy, who then shared the texts with a girl. The girl, intending to embarrass Channing, posted the texts for everyone to see. That’s when Channing’s classmates began cyberbullying him.
Just before his death, Channing posted a final message on Instagram saying he would be getting off social media because he couldn’t trust anyone.
“My brother committed suicide because of the actions of two kids he trusted that turned personal screenshot messages over to social media in a deliberate attempt to assassinate his character,” Joshua Smith wrote in a Facebook post. “Being gay shouldn’t be a death sentence.”
Joshua Smith told TODAY his family wants to forgive the kids who did this to Channing, but at the same time they feel the perpetrators should be held accountable. “We are looking for the local authorities to take some sort of action.”
According to The Trevor Project, LGB youth contemplate suicide at nearly three times the rate of heterosexual youth, and are nearly five times as likely to have attempted suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone right away. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.