msnbc   |  April 25, 2012

Newspaper makes editorial statement about bullying following gay teen’s suicide

MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts talks to Jeannie and Kayla Chambers about the death of their son and brother, 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Junior, who committed suicide after coming out, and how his death inspired a front page editorial in the Sioux City Journal.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> teen suicide in iowa inspired the sioux city journal newspaper to make a bold and full front page editorial statement against bullying headlined we must start bullying. it starts here, now. this all after 148-year-old kenneth took his life on april 15th . his family says the once popular teen was driven to his death by bullies only a few weeks after coming out at gay. joining me by squip is kenneth 's mom, janie chambers and his sister, kayla . i want to extend my condolences to both of you and your family for the loss of kenneth . i know you are here to talk about what he went through to honor his memory. janie, what kind of son, what kind of boy was kenneth ?

>> very, very giving, always happy. always give a lending hand. he had a lot of friends, and he was pretty unique. very unique.

>> i want to read part of the editorial of the sue city journal . it says in kenneth 's case, the warnings were everywhere. we saw it happen in other communities. now it has hit home. undoubtedly it wasn't the first life lost to bullying ear but we can strive to make it the last. kayla , how did things change for your brother, for kenneth and the way he was treat after coming out at gay.

>> he was really popular at first like he had a lot of friends. once he came out he was gay, a lot of people didn't like that, so they starred making fun of him for it. at the had some friends, his friends in history, if everyone loved him equally.

>> an has there been any follow-up for the groups of people who had been harassing your son through e-mails, through facebook, either by school or local police authorities?

>> actually, the local police authorities are investigating. they're checking his facebook, his phone, and any other sites that he was on.

>> kayla , correct me if i'm wrong, you're 16, correct?

>> yep.

>> explain to all of us because marriage equality is legal in iowa. there will have never been more public figures who are openly lgbt as role models and never nor allies condemning mehmet t hooem phobic behavior in our country. lou can we do better to teach compassion and respect? what are you seeing in your peer level that you could help us teach kids respect and compassion for each other?

>> it starts at home actually. it starts at home. i feel like when we will go to school, they like try to close it off a little bit. like i feel like they need to start at a younger age and teach children that it's wrong, you know, and i feel if they have consequences, they need to stick to the consequences.

>> jeannie, there's also in the paper it will says there'ses in new group called for our youth wilaims to prevent bullying from happening again, just like kayla says. do you think this does need to be at home, parents, your peers, people that are adults and that have young kids that need to be having these direct and important conversations at home around the kitchen table talking about respect, compassion, and tolerance for fellow human beings ?

>> yes, i do, and i think that also, that if a child keeps bullying another child over and over again, the parents should be responsible.

>> in the case of kenneth , how do you want to continue keeping his memory alive to make sure that there are other kids who are out there probably thousands, maybe even in the millions in this country, who may have similar situations like what kenneth went through? what's your message to them?

>> my mess and to them, it does get better. i mean, ending your own life, obviously, to me isn't the right choice. there's people out there that will help you. i know some kids, some of the ladies talked to me, young girls said they were scared when this he seen him getting bullied and wish they had said something. there's always somebody that will help you. there's a lot of people that have a lot of compassion. there's actually good people out in the world. you know? and i just want people -- i don't blame the bullies. i don't want, if there is something happening, i don't want their names to get out in public. i just would like for him to get in counseling or something. it's got stop. you can't just start bull uing a person.

>> how have kids been treating you since kenneth 's death, kayla ?

>> well, it's been all right. like really comforting and stuff but there's a lot of rumors going around about things, and a lot of people are hating on our school and stuff sending hate much text messages to the students and staff. it's kind of horrible.

>> again, yeenie and kayla , you have all of our condo lenses and support. we're sorry for your loss but appreciate you coming to join us today and trying to make a difference. thank you so much.

>> thank you.