Bullying gone too far

12:28 PM, May 23, 2007   |    comments
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Despite the changing season and warming temperatures, a part of the Trosvik home in Ham Lake is frozen. It's fixed on a date: February 8, 2006. Tom Trosvik's bedroom is as messy as the day he left it. His pajamas are still lying on the bed. His various engineering projects are still scattered throughout the room. All of these things say volumes about the 12-year-old boy's life. "He had a gentle spirit," Kathy Trosvik, his mother says about her son. But in January 2006, someone started chipping away at that spirit. Tom told his parents someone at his middle school was teasing him. So they told a teacher, and a few days later, Tom said things were getting better. "It appeared like everything was under control," his mom says. Then, on February 8, 2006, after riding the school bus home, Tom disappeared into the family's barn. "I found it uncharacteristic of him to go outside by himself," Fred Trosvik, Tom's father says. So he went looking for him. "I called his name and everything and no answer," he says. "And I thought this was really strange that he's not answering me. So I went up to the second floor of the barn, and then I found him." It was there that the little boy with the gentle spirit hanged himself. "It was a nightmare that changed our lives forever," Kathy says. Why, they thought, would a 12-year-old boy take his own life? They would later learn the bullying was worse than originally thought. "It was on the school bus that he actually was being picked on, and the kids were actually teasing him on how he could go out and kill himself in different ways," Kathy says. Inside Tom's Bible, his parents later found highlighted verses that hinted at the bullying. One verse came from Psalm 56: "My foes treat me harshly all the day. Yes, many are my attackers." "We're just constantly thinking about it," Fred says. "I go to sleep thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it. It consumes a good part of our daily life now." Tom's father built a memorial in the place where his son took his own life. He goes there occasionally to sit and meditate. He admits it's not always an easy place to visit. "It's kinda difficult because my life is with a fire rescue crew and we save people's lives all the time," he says. "And here, I couldn't even save my own son's life." While it's too late to save their son, it's not too late for their son to save others. With help from friends and family, the Trosviks formed a non-profit group called B.U.L.L.Y., which stands for Building Understanding, Love, and Learning for Youth. "Our mission at B.U.L.L.Y. is to raise awareness around the serious issue of bullying," one speaker told a group of 150 kids at Glen Cary Lutheran Church in Ham Lake. Kathy and Fred broke away from the kids and spent some time talking with the parents. "Our kids are experiencing much more than the bullying we experienced as children," she told the small group. "It's important that we step up our parenting to protect our kids." They know many parents may not realize their kids are getting bullied because most kids never report it. And with the growth of cyber bullying, kids are now bothering classmates quickly and anonymously by using cell phones and the internet. View Joe's story on the problem of cyber bullying. "Some examples include the sending of hate e-mail, the spreading of rumors," counseling professor Walter Roberts, Jr. told a legislative committee in March. The legislature is considering a bill that requires every school district to develop a cyber bullying policy. They're already required to have bullying policies. While many support the bill, there's plenty of debate on whether schools can do anything about bullying that comes from computers and cell phones that are off campus. "I struggle with trying to legislate something that is often times an off-school event or activity," one lawmaker said. KARE 11 spoke with one woman, who asked not to be identified because her daughter was cyber bullied so badly. "She became very depressed, her grades went from straight A's to complete F's," the mother says. She says the school wouldn't step in because the bullying started off school property. "It didn't happen there, so they wiped their hands pretty fast," she says. Linda Conley, lead counselor for Minneapolis Public Schools, says cyber bullying creates quite a dilemma for school districts. "Where's the line?" she asks. But Conley does think schools can play a role. "If it spills over into their behavior at school or their ability to attend school, or interferes with their learning, then we need to be involved," she says. Certainly, schools can try to prevent the problem and in Minneapolis, they're starting young. Anti-bullying artwork lines the halls of elementary schools, where they're focusing on bystanders, the kids who see bullying. "We've seen students say, 'Stop that, that's bullying,' in the hallway, on the way to their locker or coming out of the lunchroom," says Kate Casserly, who oversees the district's anti-bullying programs. Friends of Tom Trosvik certainly wish a bystander would've stepped in after Tom got off the school bus on February 8, 2006. Maybe kids can now learn from Tom's tragedy. Maybe that can be the legacy of a boy who dreamed of becoming a pilot, but touched the sky too soon. "We just need to get along," Kathy Trosvik says. "Yes, we need to get along," her husband echoes. "We need to teach our children to get along, too, and respect one another." The Trosviks say Tom's story has already saved at least five lives. In fact, after Tom committed suicide, four children from his middle school came forward to say they had considered killing themselves because of bullying. If you're interested in contacting the B.U.L.L.Y. organization, you can call 763-438-7859.

By Joe Fryer, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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