A grief-stricken mother mourns the loss of her son Monday, after the 17-year-old boy's suicide and the online bullying that ensued even after his death, the mother says.
Gregory Spring was nearing the end of his sophomore year at Allegany/Limestone High School in New York when he took his own life. Greg suffered from Tourette syndrome and callosum dysgenesis, two neurological disorders that, collectively, strip a person of his normal speech functions and ability to process information and emotion.
After nearly six years of bullying and tormenting, which started in the fourth grade for Greg, the soon-to-be junior thought it too much to bear. The tragedy's immense pain intensified when a message appeared online reading:
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHA HE DIED!!!!!! I HOPE HE IS IN HELLLLLLLL"
To make matters worse, this twisted message appeared in the message board of the funeral home where Greg's service took place. Greg's mother, Keri, believes it was a bully from school continuing the tirade even after death.
Keri reached out to her local news station, WIVB, to tell her son's story.
Greg loved playing soccer, hunting, and carving designs into wood, she told the station. "He was just a very compassionate, very loving, very emotional person that just wanted to be accepted."
"He was just distraught but never showed it to us," she added.
Following Greg's death, Keri said she has plans to ensure nothing like this happens again. For his part, Greg once stood up to the bully who had been tormenting him, physically picking him up and telling him, "Stop bullying, bullying isn't good. Bullying is only going to hurt people."
Keri's husband spoke with State Senator Kathy Gifford, she says, about whether issues of bullying need stricter laws so a collection of tiny, sub-offensive acts never culminates in a tragedy like this again.
According to WIVB, superintendent of the district Dr. Karen Geelan released the following statement regarding Spring's death:
"Any allegation of bullying is taken very seriously by the District, and we have a comprehensive anti-bullying policy, pursuant to which I conducted an investigation as soon as I was advised that bullying might have been involved in any way with Greg Spring's tragic death. I have conducted a thorough investigation and to the extent we can determine it, I have determined the young man was not bullied. Based on information received from the police, the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying."
Geelan added that the school has a bullying policy in place and programs to address bullying, including bully box locations in the school, online bully reporting, and regular intervention team meetings.
Gregory Spring's case is not the first instance where a child has been bullied even after committing suicide. In 2011, on the first day of a teen boy's wake, his school's dance was disrupted by the bullies chanting "You're better off dead" and "We're glad you're dead."
Fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer was bullied incessantly for being an active supporter of gay rights and motivating other students to "love themselves."
Jamey's father, Tim, offered advice to parents who may suspect their child is the victim of bullying, but, like Gregory Spring, doesn't show it.
"My message to the parents is, 'Badger your kids and make them talk,' or get them the help they need. There's lots and lots of other people that maybe they'll talk to. There's a lot of organizations out there that maybe they'll talk to, but get them to talk," he said.
"We tried to get Jamey to talk constantly but he just kept it in, he just put up a brave face," he added. "Just don't let it go. If you know they've been bullied in the past, keep on them, go to the school, do whatever you have to, to make sure they're getting the help they need."