An 11-year-old cancer survivor from Ohio fatally shot herself after undergoing "relentless" bullying for over a year, her family and officials said.
Bethany Thompson, a sixth-grader at Triad Middle School, killed herself on Oct. 19 after boys in the school mocked her “crooked smile” for more than a year, according to Time.
Bethany was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008, and survived after undergoing surgery and radiation treatments to remove the tumor the same year. Nerve damage from the operation affected her smile, which school bullies targeted to poke fun at her, reports Bethany's mother, Wendy Feucht.
“It wasn’t a huge issue, but she was very sensitive about it,” Feucht said. “She had been picked on it before.”
On the day she took her life, Bethany told her best friend on the school bus ride home that she “loved her and that she was her best friend forever, but that she was going to kill herself when she got home,” Dispatch reports.
Before her friend’s father could call Bethany’s parents, the girl had found a loaded gun on a shelf in the family’s home and shot herself in the head on the back porch. Bethany’s mother found her body, while her stepfather slept in a room next door.
“It was a complete shock,” Feucht said. “It’s sad and it’s awful that she felt nobody could help her.”
“People need to know that even the littlest things can break someone,” she added.
Chris Piper, the superintendent of Triad Local Schools, told CNN the school was aware of the bullying and took steps to separate Bethany from her tormentors in the past year. Piper alleged that instances of bullying stopped after the schedule changes, and added that the school district investigates every report of bullying.
However, Bethany and her friend reportedly asked to hang anti-bullying posters with slogans such as "Buddies, not bullies" on Bethany’s last day of school, and were told by administration that they could not be used.
“Something has to change,” Feucht told The Washington Post. “Something is broken in the system and there are lots of different ways that this could have been handled.”
A community fundraiser on Oct. 30 was organized to help cover funeral costs for Bethany, with the remaining funds going toward a scholarship in her name as well as anti-bullying awareness.
Bethany’s parents hope their daughter’s legacy can positively impact the lives of other children who are bullied, and raise awareness for their struggle.
"I am Bethany," Feucht told CNN. "Anyone who's been picked on, they've been Bethany."
"If this were the last life, that her death could stop it, she would be thrilled," Feucht said.