*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
Channing Smith was a 16 year-old Junior at Coffee County High School and lived in Manchester, Tennessee.
On Sunday, September 22, Channing took his own life after being outed on social media by people he trusted. Channing confided in a few friends that he was bisexual, but had yet to come out to his family.
Screenshots of a text conversation Channing had with a friend were posted online by some of his classmates. According to his family, as a result of a disagreement with a friend, screenshots of Channing texting with another boy were forwarded by the friend in an act of revenge, then shared by others on social media publicly outing Channing.
While Channing had not been ready to come out, his brother Joshua Smith told The Daily Mail Channing's family "would have accepted him no matter what."
Channing's family says the cyberbullying that resulted from the texts being shared publicly lead to his death and they want something done about it. His family is urging District Attorney Craig Northcott to file charges against the teens involved in the cyber bullying.
Channing's mother Crystal Smith said to WKRN:
"I can't describe the pain. You can't understand it. How somebody could be that mean to somebody just for the fun of it? It doesn't make any sense."
Watch coverage here.
Vigil held in Coffee County for bullied teen who took his own life/youtu.be
District Attorney Craig Northcott released a statement in response to Channing's suicide:
"I, like the rest of the community, am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of the young life of Channing Smith. I express my heartfelt condolences to his family."
"My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death. Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution."
"However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff's Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed. When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff's Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision."
"Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing. I would ask for everyone to extend their prayers for the family and to respect their privacy as this process moves forward."
But people are questioning Northcott's commitment to justice. The DA drew criticism in the past for saying LGBTQ people should not receive protections against domestic violence as well as other anti-LGBTQ statements.
People online had no question about the evils of cyberbullying and bigotry.
Coming out is a process that each person deserves to make in their own way and according to their own timeline. Nothing can bring Channing Smith back or reverse what a friend did in a moment of anger. But hopefully people of all ages—especially young people—can learn something from this tragedy.
Rest in Power Channing Smith.
LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
- TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
- TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
- TrevorText — Text "START" to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
- TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
- Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel
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