A Devastating Loss at Greenwich High School

Cyber-bullying impelled Greenwich High School sophomore, Bartlomiej “Bart” Palosz, to take his own life on Tuesday August 27th, his first day of school. The proximity of its latest victim forces Greenwich Academy to reexamine its technology use and how we treat others.

There were many signs that clearly indicated Bart’s disposition and plans to commit suicide. On social media site Google+, he posted a picture of himself with a knife, asking if anyone would miss him if he were to stab his eye “due to school caused insanity.” He later posted a goodbye note. Classmates acknowledged that he had been bullied often in school, but none stepped in to ease his suffering.

R.J. Palacio, author of best-selling novel Wonder, recently visited GA to speak about her book and her message: “Choose Kind.” What if a few people had decided to “choose kind” instead of further exacerbating Palosz’s loneliness? Would he still be with us today? Every comment we post on Facebook, every “like”, and every status we choose to ignore impacts someone else.

In response to this tragedy, GA has reached out to its own community—discouraging the use of social media sites that facilitate bullying, such as ask.FM. GA has also encouraged students to take advantage of GA’s strong support network. Dr. Lauren Winston, Ms. Beth Hartley, Mrs. Andree Palmgren, Mrs. Charlanne Zepf Bauerlein, and Ms. Gloria Fernàndez-Tearte, are key support members and counselors who ensure the safety, both physical and emotional, of students, parents, and faculty.

Head of School, Mrs. Molly King, indicated her desire to hold “absolute commitment to respecting and supporting the needs of every individual in our community”, as well as “generate trust and a sense of security that is real and right.”

The GA community and the community at large can only move forward from this tragedy, understand the implications of the choices they make, and try to make any environment they are a part of as secure as possible.