GLENOLDEN, Pennsylvania --- Just one day after his twelfth birthday, Bailey O’Neill’s family wrestled with a decision that no family ever wants to contemplate. They were asked whether the life-support machines that were keeping Bailey alive, should be removed.
Bailey was assaulted and beaten in a fight at school on January 10, 2013. His injuries included a concussion, and a broken nose, and a couple weeks after he was assaulted, he started to have inexplicable seizures. Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma, and believed he would get better.
Sadly, Bailey died last Sunday. The flags have been lowered to half-staff at Darby Township Elementary School, and there are grief counselors in the school to console the sixth grader’s classmates.
Bailey’s family claim that he was bullied at school, and that he was assaulted by two of his tormentors.
According to Philadelphia’s NBC10 reporter Karen Araiza:
Investigators are trying to determine if a 12-year-old boy who died on Sunday had been bullied at his school or if the punches he took in the schoolyard were an isolated incident.
District Attorney Jack Whelan said he expects to wrap up his investigation in two weeks’ time. One critical piece of evidence he’s waiting on will come from the Philadelphia medical examiner. O’Neill’s autopsy is being performed today.
Whelan wants to know if the injuries from the schoolyard fight ultimately led to the boy’s death.
“When I asked him if he thinks the student would be charged one way or another, he seemed to indicate that at the most, an appropriate charge may be simple assault,” NBC10's Harry Hairston said.I personally don’t think that charging an eleven or twelve year old with a crime, whether it’s simple assault or something else, is going to impact or combat bullying. The real question here is where were the adults when this fight occurred? What systems are in place at this school to combat bullying?
If two classmates ganged up on one classmate, it’s a bullying incident. When Bailey was beaten up, his injuries were a factor in his death. I’m not suggesting that Bailey’s bullies killed him, and bullying in itself doesn’t kill anyone, except maybe one’s spirit.
I’m sure that the students and staff at Darby Township Elementary School are painfully aware that fist fights and bullying can have serious repercussions. And in some cases bullying can be a factor that contributes to someone's death.
If that’s not reason enough to take action to combat bullying - what reason will?
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