A Tennessee teenager has died by suicide after classmates outed him on social media.
Channing Smith’s family told TV station WTVF of Nashville that the 16-year-old Coffee County High School student, who died late Sunday night, had confided in a few friends that he was bisexual. But soon, screen shots of text messages were being shared online.
“That was my only brother and I loved him,” Joshua Smith told another Nashville station, WZTV.
Joshua said two teenagers, including a boy who got the text directly from Channing, posted images on Instagram and Snapchat Sunday evening, shortly before Channing’s death.
“They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” Smith said. “Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughingstock 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.”
Channing Smith called a girl sharing images on the phone and said he planned to kill himself, but she did nothing about it, according to local reports.
District Attorney Craig Northcott, who has voiced opposition to gay rights in the past and said gay people are not entitled to domestic violence protection, said he hasn’t decided if he will pursue criminal charges. The family told news outlets Northcott won’t take action on the cyberbullying.
Hundreds attended a vigil for Channing on Thursday in Manchester.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.