14-Year-Old Boy Shoots Himself in Front of Classmates After Being Bullied

Heartbreaking 39

I cannot imagine the pain one mom is going through right now. Her 14-year-old son, David Phan, who is uniformly described as nice and respectful to everyone, shot himself in front of classmates and other parents, apparently due to bullying. Reports say he left his Salt Lake City, Utah, suburb high school yesterday with his mother after a trip to the principal's office. But a couple of hours later, he returned alone to a pedestrian bridge, where several students were leaving school with their parents. There, in front of everyone, he pulled out a gun, placed it to his head, and shot.

Apparently after leaving school with his mom, he was searched for weapons. Why? Had he expressed suicidal thoughts? And why was he in the principal's office? It could have had something to do with bullying. One classmate says Phan was "one of the sweetest guys I've ever known." He described how Phan once bought him a drink and never asked to be paid back. But despite this, he was routinely bullied "for no reason." "I don't think people realize how much words can hurt," said another student.

After leaving school with his mother, Phan then apparently returned home, where there was a gun in a locked box. Police believe this is the weapon he used to kill himself.

This story brings up so many awful questions and it's ones we've heard before. How was this teen able to access a gun? If it was really in a locked box, did he know how to unlock it? If so, why? I personally am against any kind of weapon in a house where there are children and it's because of reasons like this. Not to mention all of the accidental shootings.

And now we get to the bullying portion of this tragedy. Bullying has certainly become more of a known issue since the days when I was in school, and no one even talked about it and everyone suffered in silence. But it seems that parents are still not teaching their kids how WRONG this is. Not to blame it on parents, because obviously kids don't listen to everything they're told. But I also think that parents have an obligation to ask their kids if they are being bullied. Don't wait for them to come to you, because they may not. Ask them.

Solutions can include going to the school, and also talking to the parents of the teens doing the bullying. But we all know that might not work out. Some parents are in denial about their "little darlings." So it's time to talk with your kids about bullying -- about what it means and what it doesn't. Verbal bullying is something we all endure on occasion -- some much more than others. It's horrible and depressing, but it doesn't mean your life is over. High school ends. Life goes on.

There's no reason that bullying needs to decimate a child's self-esteem to the point of suicide. Enroll them in a self-defense and anti-bullying course. Children should be told that bullying is really a reflection of the bulliers' lack of self-esteem. That may or may not make them feel any better, but it's better than saying nothing.

My heart goes out to this mom who sounds like she had a good kid.

Do you talk about bullying with your kids?


Image via Gaulsstin/Flickr



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nonmember avatar Amy

I think parents need to change their thinking. Instead of thinking that it is just the bully that needs to change, we need to work with our own kids. They need to be taught from early on that their value and worth is NOT based on what others think of them. If they learn to love themselves and ultimately know the love God has for them, they will see themselves as in a beautiful light. They will be strong enough to stand up for what is right.

hello... hellokd87

I couldn't have worded it better, Amy. What kids seem to lack is the knowledge that "peer pressure" isn't the almighty judge that dictates your life. Especially between the middle school & high school years kids are too preoccupied with acceptance from other people. When I was a kid I HATED it when I was laughed at. Luckily I wasn't bullied, but I could only imagine how horrible it would've felt if I had. One person saying something negative and then the rest of the class laughing in response? TOTAL. NIGHTMARE. Like Amy said, kids need to understand that THEY are THEIR OWN person. What someone else thinks of them shouldn't matter. But that's not always the case. I would like to think we live in a world where God's love is enough to make up for bullying, but not everyone has that mindset.

nonmember avatar Nikki

Well said Amy!! Couldn't have said it better either.

nonmember avatar Guest

The school denies bullying but my little brother goes to that school and witnessed lots of bullying

nonmember avatar Barb

We need to teach respect for ourselves and others. But barring that we need to teach children to defend themselves vigilantly. I would much rather my sons beat the tar out of someone that bullied them. Enough

Sabrina ZLopez

Yes, parents should talk to kids and ask about bullying... I always talk to my kids and i am always in school and I see lots of bully, it's crazy! I am always on top of things and still my kid will come home sad because someone said something that hurt her feelings, bullying it's all over all grades and WORDS REALLY HURT KIDS!

Christi Tipton

800 people showed up for a candlelight vigil?  Where the heck were any of them when he was being bullied?  Like showing up now is going to fix it? Or maybe just try to ease their guilty minds.  As for your question about how a 14 yr old knows how to unlock a box...  seriously, he was 14.  They're capable of a lot at that age.  Too bad there weren't enough adults in his life to make him realize how much he was capable of, how much he had to look forward to.  The school, the counselors, his 'friends' - they all failed him because there were plenty of witnesses and no one did anything to stop it.

acrog... acrogodess

I talk to my children all the time about how they can come to me about anything, about what bullying can do to another child, that I never want them to be the bully, what to do if one if their friends is a bully, how to be a leader and a role model - not a follower. It seems to be working. They have excellent self esteem even though my son has been the victim of bullying. My daughter has lost some "friends" because she refused to bully others. They both come to me to discuss their problems and come up with feasible solutions. Communication is key.

Beverly Denny

 To make this boy take his own life....I would say he was either tired of this or maybe nobody believe him and he decided since his peers wanted him gone it would make sure they saw he was gone.  So sad that he was driven to this point that he felt the only way to end the pain was to end his life.  Yes it does sound like he was a good kid.  When parents find out their child is being bullied at school they need to step up and put a stop to it.......I did when I found out my daughter was being bullied and that was in the 70's.  I felt for this mother...she is blaming herself.

Telesha Childers

If he hadn't had access to a gun, he would have done it in another fasion. So let's not even go there.  Are we to hide all the bets and scarves and other things that kids hang themselves with everday? Maybe not even have them in our homes? Yes, that is a great idea. I am sure that will cut down on suicides.

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