I don’t usually write about topics that are currently getting a lot of press or internet attention. I try to increase awareness about people or events that fewer people know about. But today, I’m going to talk about someone who is much in the news: Amanda Todd.
For those who haven’t heard, until last week Amanda was a 15-year-old girl who lived in British Columbia. In seventh grade she became involved in webcam chats, including one with a male who gave her compliments. Compliments make young girls feel wonderful, so when the on-line correspondent suggested that Amanda flash him, she cooperated.
I’m not privy to the technology, but the receiver must have captured the image of Amanda exposing herself. A year later, he threatened to spread a picture of her “boobs” everywhere on the Internet unless she “put on a show” for him. Amanda was shocked to learn that he knew her address, the names of her family and friends, her school, and other personal information. She had no idea how he acquired this information.
Apparently Amanda was wise enough not to comply with his obscene request, because a short time later, her “boobs” were, indeed, all over the Internet. That’s when the bullying by her peers began. I’m not going to go into detail about the bullying itself, but I urge you to watch the heartrending video Amanda made in September that explains what happened.
Sadly, last Wednesday, October 10th, Amanda committed suicide, apparently as a result of the torment she suffered because of one mistake she made as a seventh grader.
But even after the bullying and torment ended for Amanda, it did not end for her family. Hateful comments continued to be posted on line. According to the CBC News, “Images and comments making light of Todd’s death and suggesting she deserved to be bullied are flooding a Facebook memorial page dedicated [to] the teen — so many that Facebook can’t remove them fast enough.”
I cannot even begin to describe how sad this makes me.
So, that was the bad—and the ugly.
Now for the good.
Yes, young people can be cruel and heartless. But they can also be kind and thoughtful. Take the case of 18-year-old Ivan Mendoza, a young man who attends Crawford High School in San Diego, California. Crawford is a school in a lower-income neighborhood with an extremely diverse student body speaking dozens of languages. With its mix of cultures and races, it’s the kind of school that could easily acquire the wrong type of reputation.
But last weekend, Ivan was named his school’s homecoming king. No big deal, you think. Every school has a homecoming king, often a popular senior. But it is a big deal, because Ivan Mendoza stands 4 foot 5 inches tall, has a shock of orange hair on the top of his head—and has Down syndrome.
Ivan was nominated for king by the secretary of the Associated Student Body. And unlike the case of Whitney Kropp, the Michigan girl who was nominated for homecoming queen as a joke, when they heard Ivan was in the running, other boys who might easily have defeated him backed out.
“I’d be happier to see him win than I would be winning myself,” said Kassey Marcus, a basketball player.
“I just felt like it would be right for him to win,” said Yoel Turcios, a wide receiver on the football team. “He’s outgoing. He’s friendly. He deserves it.”(John Wilkens, San Diego Union-Tribune)
So last Friday, Ivan wore a tux, rode in a convertible, and was crowned King Ivan, proof that all young people are not as cruel as those who seemed to have driven Amanda Todd to her death.
Ivan is lucky. In almost any school, he could easily have become a tormented target. Instead, he has an entire school at his back.
You can view photos of Ivan at Homecoming in these photos from the Union Tribune. I found especially touching this photo showing an act of kindness from a handsome young classmate of Ivan’s in the days leading up to the celebration.
Amanda closed her video with the words, “I have nobody. I need someone.” I’m certain her parents were there for her, and her mother confirmed she had support from family and some school friends. But sometimes even a loving parent and a few friends can’t overcome the cruelty of those whose aim is to wound.
The man who disseminated the photo of Amanda Todd has not yet been identified. But to him and to those others who took the miracle of technology and turned it into a nightmare of torture for Amanda Todd and others like her, I say, “Shame on you!”
But to the students of Crawford High in San Diego, I say, “Well done! Well done!”