A coroner’s jury ruled on Feb. 14 that a teenager’s suicide was caused by involuntary manslaughter.
The Howard County, Missouri jury determined that Kenneth Suttner, 17, killed himself due to bullying that he suffered at work and at school, reports the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Suttner shot himself in the head in on December 21 after writing several suicide notes to family and friends. Harley Branham, 21, a former manager at the Dairy Queen where Suttner worked, was charged by the jury with involuntary manslaughter in Suttner’s death.
According to some of Suttner’s former co-workers, Branham bullied him on the job, including forcing him to do chores such as cleaning the floor by hand while lying on his stomach.
The jury also determined that Dairy Queen was negligent in training its employees, and that the Glasgow School District was negligent in failing to prevent bullying.
In a statement, Dairy Queen said the store in question “is independently owned and operated by a franchisee.” reports the Daily Mail.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Suttner family,” the statement continued. “We are still in the process of gathering information but understand from the franchisee that the manager is no longer employed at this location.”
Regarding Suttner’s treatment at school, one friend testified he was picked on frequently. “A lot of people, kids, made fun of the way — basically everything about him,” the friend said, adding that school authorities never did anything about it.
Glasgow School District Superintendent Mike Reynolds testified that bullying is not a systemic problem at the school.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “it is not accurate and potentially dangerous to present bullying as the ’cause’ or ‘reason’ for a suicide, or to suggest that suicide is a natural response to bullying.”
The government agency goes on to explain:
“Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior.The vast majority of young people who are bullied do not become suicidal. Most young people who die by suicide have multiple risk factors.”