Sixteen year old takes his own life

Hailey Almonte, Staff Reporter

On September 23, 2019, Channing Smith, a 16-year-old student at Coffee County Central High School in Manchester, Tennessee, took his own life due to his classmates posting his private text messages and calling him out on social media for being bisexual. He took his life the same day that he was outed by his classmates.  

Shortly before Channing Smith’s death, he had sent intimate text messages to another boy. The other boy who he had been messaging took screenshots of the private conversation and shared them with a female classmate. The female classmate then released the screenshots to social media. 

Once the private messages were released, Channing received backlash and was cyberbullied. 

As stated by a report last year from the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of teenagers claimed that they had been bullied or harassed online. Studies have also found that LGBT students are more likely to be bullied and experience depression than their straight peers.

“Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughing stock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn’t face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself,” Joshua Smith, Channing Smith’s brother, said. 

Joshua Smith said that his brother contacted the girl that allegedly posted the screenshots to tell her that he was going to kill himself and claims that the girl did not report this to anyone. It is unclear how Joshua Smith knew about his brother and the female student’s conversation about commiting suicide. 

Channing’s family is putting pressure on Coffee County District Attorney, Craig Northcott, to file charges against the teen’s bullies. The district attorney said that his office is still investigating the events leading up to Channing Smith’s death. 

Since the incident, students at the school have set up a Facebook group called “Justice for Channing.” In addition to creating the group, the students organized a rally where the attendees wore t-shirts with the slogan “Justice for Channing.” 

A few dozen gathered together on Sunday, September 29th, for a memorial service. The country singer Billy Ray Cyrus attended the memorial, performed “Amazing Grace,” and rode Channing’s motorcycle. 

The slogan “Justice for Channing” has become well known within the town in Manchester, Texas. Many individuals have addressed the unfortunate incident including actress Lili Reinhart, who had posted on Instagram about how the story broke her heart.