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Brandon Bitner: Anti-gay bullying leads to another tragic teen suicide

Monday, November 8, 2010
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Brandon BitnerFAMILY PHOTO

Brandon Bitner

MIDDLEBURG, Penn. — Anti-gay bullying has reportedly claimed another teen life.

Brandon Bitner, 14, of Mount Pleasant Mills, Penn., walked 13 miles from his home early Friday morning to a busy intersection and threw himself in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer after leaving a suicide note at his home, according to The Daily Item.

There seems to be little doubt in students’ minds why Brandon did what he did.

“It was because of bullying,” friend Takara Jo Folk wrote in a letter to The Daily Item.

“It was not about race, or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual preferences and the way he dressed. Which,” she said, “they wrongly accused him of.”

Brandon’s suicide note reportedly explained that he was constantly bullied at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, where he was a freshman.

Bullies allegedly called Brandon gay, girly, fag, and geek. He stated in the note that a humiliating event in school this past week was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Brandon was an accomplished violinist, having been a member of the Susquehanna Youth Orchestra in 2009.

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.”

Tammy Simpson, Brandon’s mother, said Brandon suffered verbal abuse from other students for years.

“They called him gay lots of times,” Simpson told WHTM-TV. “If the bullying would have been corrected, maybe it wouldn’t have got to this point. Maybe he wouldn’t have taken his life.”

School administrators said they weren’t aware of any problems.

“There were no incidents reported to us, nor seen by teachers, nor reported by students to any of us. So that part of it catches me by surprise,” said Knapp.

Friends of Brandon have set up a Facebook page, “RIP Brandon Bitner.”

A memorial website is here, and the Patriot-News has Brandon’s obituary here.

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