Posted by: Catherine Lugg | November 8, 2010

Anti-gay bullying claims another life

This time it’s Pennsylvania, my home state.

On Friday, November 5th, Brandon Bitner, aged 14, walked 13 miles from his home in Mount Pleasant Hills, PA to the intersection of Routes 15 and 11. At approximately 3 AM he threw himself in front of a tractor-trailer.

According to the local paper, The Daily Item:

His death came just days after an anti-bullying assembly at the high school, which, according to district Superintendent Wesley Knapp, was not held in response to any specific problems at the school, but because it is an issue Principal Cynthia Hutchinson has always felt strongly about.

After the assembly, according to student Briana Boyer in another letter to The Daily Item, “No one took it seriously, and joked around about it.”

Former Midd-West student Erin Barnett sent a letter as well, blaming the school, saying that when students report bullying, “Nothing is done.”

“Bullying should be addressed in every school, and should have a punishment,” Barnett said.

Brandon left a suicide note that detailed the chronic abuse he was experiencing at Midd West High School. Reportedly, in his suicide note Brandon discusses that he had been humiliated earlier in the week. That event was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Bitner’s suicide underscores the problem with “drive-by assemblies.” These gatherings can NOT change a school culture steeped in homophobic bullying. Cultural change MUST be lead by the adults in the building–from the principal to the teachers, to the coaches and advisers, to the janitorial and secretarial staffs. Students MUST know that homophobic bullying will NOT be tolerated. Otherwise, students will see half-hearted efforts for the symbolic window dressing that they are. And the abuse of queer kids will continue, and queer kids will continue to die.

HT: Kris Wells



  1. […] of now has come and gone. Sorry about that queer kids. You’re going to have to endure (or not) until a later […]

  2. […] that’s where my mind went when I read of the suicide of Brandon Bitner, aged all of 14. Bitner, who had been chronically bullied by his homophobic and heterosexist peers in his […]

  3. […] I first saw Brandon’s death posted at Thinking Queerly it literally took my breath away.  I didn’t think I could learn more […]

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