Family demand justice for teen boy who died by suicide after being ‘outed’ by cyberbullies
The family of a 16-year-old boy who took his own life after being outed online by a classmate is demanding justice for his death.
Channing Smith, from Manchester, Tennessee, had confided in a few friends that he was bisexual, but this was not widely known.
After a disagreement with a classmate, screenshots of sexually explicit messages between Smith and another boy were shared on Snapchat and Instagram.
On Sunday, September 22, Smith tragically shot himself.
His family is urging the District Attorney Craig Northcott to file charges against the teens involved, but were told he does not intend to move forward with prosecution.
Northcott previously faced scrutiny for saying he wouldn’t prosecute in cases of LGBT+ domestic violence because he doesn’t “recognise it as marriage.”
In a statement following Smith’s death, he said: “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.”
But Smith’s older brother, Joshua, is pressuring Northcott to take action against those responsible.
He told the Daily Mail: “We are trying to create a social media storm of exposure and awareness because we know, we want to put pressure on them to take action.
“From there we may file lawsuits civilly against whoever we can. We just want to further Channing’s cause moving forwards.”
Just because you think it’s cute or funny to make somebody embarrassed or humiliate them, think again.
He explained that the family aren’t looking to bring murder charges but they do want to see accountability for Channing’s death.
“On behalf of our family, we all agree that our first step is to find forgiveness in our hearts to the guys and girls who did this. [But] we want to see some action taken to show other kids that there are repercussions for their actions.
“We don’t think kids should be brought up on murder charges, but there is harassment and manslaughter, there are different levels that could happen.”
He described his brother as “the sweetest kid ever from birth,” and insisted the family would have accepted him no matter what as long as he was happy.
“He loved corvettes and motorcycles, he loved those things, he knew more about my car than I knew about my car,” he said. “He was so smart and intellectual.”
On Thursday friends and family gathered at a vigil to remember Channing’s life.
His mother told the crowd: “Just because you think it’s cute or funny to make somebody embarrassed or humiliate them, think again. Because if someone would have realised that, my son would not be dead.”
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for Tennesseans aged 10-24, according to The Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organisation aimed at preventing youth suicide through educational and awareness.
If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255 or speak. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.