In light of recent events in the community, I felt compelled to write about something everyone seemingly has an opinion about lately: bullying.

Today, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation released a statement, indicating that Central High School would be closed today due to complicated issues surrounding events that occured at the school earlier this week. The statement reads:

"Due to the amount of rumors and speculation on social media about potential threats as an outgrowth to the tragedy from earlier this week and the heightened sense of alarm, Central High School will be closed today, Friday, January 6. Please know school officials continue to work closely with EPD regarding this situation."

First and foremost, I’d like to start by saying that I am so sorry to the family who lost their precious boy, Roman Kellough, this week. As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain his mother, family, and friends must be feeling right now. I also encourage the community to rally around them, and support them in this time of devastation and need.

As a writer, I’m not exactly known in the Tri-state for writing about serious topics. I'm also not known for addressing issues of the community publicly, or even issuing my personal opinion on them. While I generally write about upbeat humorous topics, today I have important insight into a different aspect of life that I, and everyone, should take very seriously right now.

Bullying is alledgedly (according to multiple sources, including the young man’s mother and other family members) the main reason that lead to Roman ending his life earlier this week outside of Central High School. Many people seem to be missing the conversation that should be happening surrounding this issue, and are focused on other insignificant details instead. This conversation should be about the devastating effects of bullying on children and teens, and also about what we as a community can do to ensure we are supportive, compassionate, and commited to ending bullying and preventing tragedies like this from occuring.

Bullying is not just teasing; it can end with devastating consequences, as we have all witnessed this week. Despite common belief, bullies are not the only individuals that hold the weight of the consequences on their shoulders; the community bears a responsibility to commit to end bullying and harrassment. This includes people such as the members of the local government, school corporation, citizens, parents, and students themselves.

I might also gently remind people that this happened in OUR community. This didn’t happen in a city several hundred miles away. This happened right at our front doorsteps. This is impacting not only the people involved in the situation, but the entire community as a whole. Children are afraid to attend school, and parents are afraid to send their kids to school. Many people in Evansville have been vocal about this on social media. This is affecting all of us.

Stances that we do and do not take on these issues reflect upon us as a whole, not just as individuals. The issue of bullying leading to teen suicide deserves considerable attention and careful consideration now more than ever. As a community, we must commit to never allowing this type of tragedy to ever happen again. We must take actions to prevent bullying and to prevent teen suicides. If it takes a revamping of school policies, disciplinary action plans, counseling services, or even implementing mandatory anti-bully education, it’s worth doing to save a life.

A fifteen year old child lost his life to bullying and suicide. Despite the controversy of the situation, the fact still remains that he was, indeed, a child. Sickeningly, I’ve found that as I browse social media, awful posts pop into my newsfeeds about this tragedy. I’ve seen not only children that attend the school, but adults in our community posting harshly critical and downright appalling comments about this tragedy. Luckily, there have also been many people positing positive and uplifting things about Roman, and that makes all the difference.

Please understand that this is a call to action, a demand for change. Blame can always find its way around any sitiuation, but blame rarely yeilds positive results. The community, you and I, every one of us, are responsible for creating change, standing up, and using our voices to demand action be taken to prevent such tragedies as the loss of Roman Kellough's life. We should be coming together as a community, as people who care about others, to help support those who have lost their loved one. We should be raising this family up in compassion, not tearing them down with our unsolicited judgments.

Every person on this planet is uniquely different from one another. Just because these differences and eccentricities are unusual to some, does not mean that the person who possesses them is worthy of relentless ridicule. Not just harsh ridicule, but harassment. This young man had a life, just as significant as yours and mine. He was bright and ambitious. He had hopes and dreams, all cut short by the devastation of bullying.

I know my opinion won’t come without criticism, but I’m content with that. The bottom line here though, is that no one deserves to be made to feel so worthless, so unloved, so downtrodden, that they feel the need to end their own precious life. It’s tragic and horrific, and bullying should simply not be tolerated in our wonderful community. I know we are capable of better. I believe in what I stated previously, that we should be rallying behind this young man’s family and giving them our comfort, grace, and support. This young man’s life deserves to be acknowledged and lovingly remembered.

If you’d like to contribute to Roman's funeral costs, please donate to the official Go-Fund-Me page for covering the funeral costs of Roman Kellough. Additionally, if you suspect that someone may be struggling or contemplating suicide, please share the National Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number: 1–800–273–8255. Let them know that they are not alone. You never know whose life you might save.

Additonally, if you feel strongly about ending bullying and preventing suicides locally, you may contact the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and voice your suggestions to them on this issue. Talk with your teachers, parents, and your friends and make them aware of bullying going on around you. Parents, talk to your children about bullying and educate them on how to respond and how to report it. Report online harrassment and bullying on social media as well. Also be aware of, and report threats of harm or violence to the Evansville Police Department or your local law enforcement offices.

Remember that you can be the voice for people who can no longer speak for themselves.

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