Guest Post from Tina Long
After her son Tyler’s peer abuse driven bullycide in 2009, Tina Long has worked along with her husband, David, to stop bullying and make schools accountable for our children’s safety. She has traveled the country to promote awareness of the severity and damage that bullying can cause. David and Tina have appeared on The Ellen Show, 20/20, Nightline, and many other programs. They both spoke at a caucus on bullying in Washington, D.C. Tina is currently working on the project Everything Starts with 1 along with Awareity and continues to be an anti-bullying advocate.
*I remember when I was a little girl, my mom left us with men who did bad things while she partied. She has been married approximately 9 times. I thought, I will always be there for my children…always. I will never do this to them. I refused to repeat her behavior.
*I remember when Tyler was born, I called my grandmother and told her he was the most beautiful baby ever. She told me that every mom thinks that. I said to her, “No, really, no baby is as beautiful as Tyler”.
*I remember Tyler not talking at the age of 3, not walking at almost 2. The pediatrician thought we were crazy parents and brushed off our concerns when we told her something wasn’t right. He only drank Gatorade and ate Burger King. He was totally fixed on Barney. We just KNEW we weren’t overacting, but the pediatrician assigned to us on base just ignored our concerns.
*I remember David retiring from the Army, even though he didn’t want to, so he could be home with Tyler who got upset each time David left.
*I remember going to nursing school so I could care for Troy’s congenital heart condition and learn about Tyler’s disability. The first psychologist we visited with Tyler when he was in the first grade diagnosed him with ADD, ADHD, ODD, and bipolar. I knew none of these diagnoses fit, but Asperger’s Disorder wasn’t well known at that time.
*I remember when Tyler was in the 6th grade, I asked teachers for help because Tyler was complaining of getting bullied. The teacher, Jenny Johnson, stated to me that she didn’t have to help Tyler because he wasn’t “diagnosed” with anything. Apparently, his diagnoses from years ago weren’t good enough. I took Tyler to an actual psychiatrist who diagnosed him correctly with Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental disorder (PDD NOS). After I brought her this diagnoses, I heard rumors that she was calling both of us “names” that I can’t repeat. I later received an email that confirmed the rumors.
*I remember meeting with principal Maria Bradley (middle school); we told her that Tyler was getting bullied and asked her for help. She responded to us that “Boys will be boys; Kids are cruel at this age.” A week later, Tyler was cornered in the boy’s bathroom at school. He fought back and they put HIM in school suspension for fighting. He would never fight back again for fear of getting in trouble.
*I remember Tyler asking me to “sue the school” because he was getting bullied and told me it was “against the law”. I agreed with him and called several attorneys. They all told me that we didn’t have enough money or power to sue a school. Turns out they were all correct since we gave up our right to go to the Supreme Court for fear of owing $30,000 to the school district.
*I remember the worst day of my life. I awakened to David screaming my name from the other side of the house. I will never forget running into Tyler’s room and seeing him hanging there. How do we bury our child? I remember, even with my training as a nurse, that he was gone, and I couldn’t save him.
*I remember seeing his cold, blue body laying on the slab in the funeral home. I was crying to him “Why didn’t you tell me more, I would have helped you”. But, of course, I had tried to help him; it wasn’t enough.
*I remember getting ready that morning for Tyler’s funeral thinking, “this isn’t happening”.
*I remember all of the kids coming forward after Tyler’s death telling us what happened to him at school.
*I remember finally finding an attorney who was willing to help us. He told us that our family will be tore apart by the school if we sue because the school will blame us as their defense. We both thought it was worth it for Tyler…we could not be anymore hurt than we are now.
*I remember sitting there listening to depositions from kids telling what Tyler endured on a daily basis. Why didn’t anyone tell us this before? Why was this tolerated?
*I remember the judge saying we couldn’t go to trial for Tyler, but the suicide was a result of the bullying at school, and the school was negligent. How is this possible in America?
*I remember talking to Rick Shaw from Awareity about his TIPS program (www.tipsprevent.com) and thinking that hope for our children does exist. This program could have saved Tyler’s life.
*I remember Tyler everyday. How kind and accepting he was. How he has taught us so much about the love of others.
*And lastly, I remember the hurt, horribly intense pain that I felt and still feel. It is so indescribable. Our family will never again be complete. Tyler, we miss you so very much.