It never should have happened.
The death of a northwest Iowa teen was completely avoidable.
Students, family and those with broken hearts from around the area gathered Thursday morning to attended the funeral of a Kenneth James Weishuhn whose life ended tragically over the weekend in the garage of his home.
It was a tragedy which was completely avoidable.
All it would have taken is a little less hate.
Kenneth, was reportedly a popular 14-year-old, living in Primghar with his family, and attending South O'Brien High School. According to statements from those close to the situation, he was well-liked until ... until, he informed those around him that he was gay.
Then, apparently his life changed. The same young man who had grown up and shared all the things that friends in small towns do became a pariah to many. Why? Because he was different.
And while it may be considered brave to make such a personal announcement to those whom you considered friends, he wasn't emotionally mature enough to deal with the torment he would face over the matter.
In the end, the weeks of bullying at school, taunting on Facebook and threats proved too much for him to endure any longer. Imagine waking up every day knowing you're going to face a new barrage of hate.
Kenneth's story is sad, but it's one experienced on a daily basis by many people, young and old. Fat, skinny, small, big, gay, straight, race, smart, challenged, physically or mentally handicapped, too attractive, unattractive. The targets of bullies know no boundaries. If you're different, you're a target.
Every teen and pre-teen in northwest Iowa should have been at that funeral. Not because they knew the young man, but so they could grasp the horrific outcome associated with bullying - whether mental or physical.
Words can hurt. And enough words, apparently, can kill.
There are only a few ways these things turn out. One, is the route Kenneth took. It was more than he could handle any longer so he chose to escape the pain.
The second way, is for the victim to internalize it and live a miserable existence by stuffing it inside. A third way is to fight back, in which case they find themselves kicked out of school or in trouble with the law for defending themselves.
And the final way is what we've witnessed repeatedly in recent years where kids show up at school armed with intent.
All of these outcomes are bad.
The solution to this problem is very simple. Curb the bullying. Easier said than done I know.
But this example, the life cut short of Kenneth Weishuhn, should serve as a constant reminder to the consequences of bullying.
Schools are trying to do their part by instituting rules to deal with it under their roofs, but it is not the role of the school to monitor the Internet or child behavior outside of the classroom.
That responsibility falls on the peers and parents.
It's time for young people to take a stand against bullies. Rather than watching it go on, or sitting back and giggling under your breath, stand up and call it out for what it is. If increasing numbers stand up, the bullies will find the numbers turned against - and as many will learn, most bullies are cowards when the odds are against them.
Primarily though, accountability comes from home. Often times - though not always - little bullies are the result of bigger bullies. Hatred, racism and ignorance are traditionally born in the home. Kids aren't born with that kind of garbage in their soul, some authority figure almost always plants it.
If it sounds like I'm angry, it's because I am.
Hatred born of ignorance, spread through harmful and brutal language, resulted in the loss of a human life. For those of you who claim bullying isn't a really big issue, try telling that to the grieving family and friends of Kenneth Weishuhn.