Family of suicide victim speaks out against bullying

Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-03 13:48:23-05

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah - A viewing and funeral were held Sunday for a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide near Bennion Junior High School earlier this week after family and friends say he'd been bullied by classmates.

Bennion 9th grader David Phan stood on a walkway leading to the school at around 3 p.m. Thursday and shot himself in the head in front of parents and students who were walking home from school.

David had left school earlier in the day after a meeting with his principal and mother and Unified Police believe he returned to his home, picked up a pistol and returned to the school where he shot and killed himself.

On Sunday, David's cousin Thanh Tung Than Trong read a prepared statement describing the boy they say they lost as a result of bullying he'd endured at school. That statement, in part, read:

"David's home life was full of support and love. His parents are devastated to have lost their young son who rarely left their side.

"David was an outstanding son but he shielded from them the horror and negative experiences he was facing at Bennion Junior High. The last few days have been an absolute nightmare to learn that he was bullied at school where he was supposed to have been in a safe learning environment.

"It is time for us to turn the hate David endured by bullies into a learning experience that will strengthen a divided community. Let us not deny the numerous accounts that David was a victim of bullying at school.

"Allow his family and friends the ability to heal by taking accountability and moving towards conversations and practices to prevent other children from enduring this unbearable pain."

The family hopes to meet with school and district officials in the coming week. They say there are many questions they'd like answered; they want to sort out what happened that led to David's suicide.

"We would like to meet with school officials this week to address issues we have with conflicting statements released by the school district. We don't wish to relive this tragedy but we deserve honest answers so we can move forward and create effective solutions," Thanh Tung Than Trong said Saturday. "We demand to see than an anti-discrimination safe zone training be required for the administration and faculty and staff."

Ben Horsley, spokesperson for the Granite School District, says administrators hadn't received any recent reports of bullying from David.

"David had reported some bullying concerns several years ago when he was in the 7th grade to the administration. Since that time our counselors and staff have been making regular contact with him, and specifically inquiring with regards to bullying and unfortunately, he never reported any instances," Horsley said on Thursday.

They've set up an account at Wells Fargo Bank in David's name. Donations to that account will be used for anti-bullying education in hopes that something good comes from the tragedy.