​Boy Who Circulated Sexually Humiliating Video of Classmate Who Killed Himself Should Pay the Price

bathroom stallsI write this post knowing full well I'm going to take a lot of heat for it. That plenty of more forgiving folks are going to remind me that a child of 14 or 15 doesn't think about the consequences of his actions. That, in this technologically advanced age, it's impossible to predict how far a viral video will travel. That kids will be kids and kids will always make fun of other kids and parents need to just deal with it and teach their children to toughen up.

But those excuses are the reason why we continue to hear heartbreaking stories like this one. They are the reason why a 14-year-old boy named Matthew Burdette chose to kill himself rather than deal with the humiliation of being a laughing stock -- not just at his school, but at schools all over California -- after an embarrassing video of him that another classmate filmed in secret spread like wildfire.

There's one person to blame for this, and teen or not, he deserves to be punished to the full extent the law allows.


If you haven't heard of Matthew yet, he is probably going to sound like your typical good kid. He was a Boy Scout. He played water polo and was on the wrestling team at University City High School. His parents are so distraught they haven't been able to speak to members of the media, but Matthew's aunt, Laura Burdette Mechak, described him as "happy, popular, and active."

Two weeks before his family found him dead at their vacation home over the Thanksgiving holiday, a teacher kicked Matthew out of class for eating sunflower seeds but failed to tell him where to go. He reportedly wandered into the school bathroom. A classmate peered over the stall and saw Matthew touching himself. He allegedly filmed him masturbating and uploaded the footage to Snapchat, Vine, and other social media websites.

And from there, the video took off and was seen by nearly every teen in Matthew's hemisphere. The next few weeks were torture for Matthew, and other kids "made his life miserable," according to his family. And when his poor parents found his body, they also discovered a suicide note that explained he didn't want to kill himself, but that he had no friends.

Matthew's parents have filed a $1 million claim against the school district because they say they feel the school could have done more to protect their son. San Diego police told them the boy responsible for shooting the video and spreading it around confessed and has been arrested. We don't know anything about the charges that could be brought up against him, but we do know his mom and dad are not angry with the child but want to highlight the dangers of cyberbullying.

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I wonder if, when you go through something as devastating as losing a child, your empathy toward ALL children increases. As a parent who can only think of this scenario and feel great fear and anger, I want to know that the teen responsible for doing this spends time in juvenile detention. That he performs community service. That he is forced to travel to schools and speak on behalf of Matthew -- to confess what he did and what he has learned from his mistake.

Children do dumb stuff all of the time, we know this. But in order to prevent this from happening again -- in order to really get the message across that cyberbullying is a crime with severe consequences -- this teen shouldn't be let off the hook with little more than a slap on the wrist.

What do you think is an appropriate consequence for the teen who filmed Matthew and helped spread this humiliating video?


Image via Ruthanne Reid/Flickr

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