Suicide of Chicago Teen: Because of Vaccine Rumor?

Suicide of Chicago Teen: Because of Vaccine Rumor?

Suicide of Chicago Teen: Because of Vaccine Rumor?

Nate Bronstein was a 15-year-old boy who attended an elite school in Chicago. But in January, cyberbullying drove him to commit suicide. Was it because of rumors that he had not been vaccinated for Covid?

 

Parents File Lawsuit Against the School

Nate’s parents, Rose and Robert Bronstein, filed suit on Monday against the Latin School, a $40,000 per year private school in Chicago’s exclusive Gold Coast neighborhood. Nate had hanged himself in the shower of the family’s home, one month after he had met with the school’s dean to report cyberbullying. He told the dean that he had received an obscene Snapchat message, as well as being “attacked, hazed, targeted and threatened with physical violence” in a text thread, according to his mother.

However, the dean did nothing after that December 13th meeting, according to the lawsuit. In the meantime, about 20 members of the school’s JV basketball team continued to torment Nate until he committed suicide.

This had been Nate’s first year at the Latin School; he had transferred there because he wanted to return to in-school classes. But he struggled to fit in, and as early as September, 2021, Nate began complaining to his parents about being bullied.

Nate’s parents also sought out Latin’s administrators, but said that the school didn’t respond. Moreover, they had no idea as to the extent of the cyberbullying until after Nate’s suicide.

As Rose Bronstein told CBS News in Chicago:

“Our son would still be alive today if Latin would have done their job and reported to us what had gone on within the school.”

 

Did Vaccine Rumors Lead to Suicide?

In one incident reported in the lawsuit, Nate had been talking to another student about the upcoming Homecoming Dance, but the student told Nate that he couldn’t join him or his friends. Then, just a few days after that, the same student began spreading rumors that Nate had not received Covid vaccinations.

Moreover, during the last time Nate had visited this student in his home, the mother told him that “it must suck to have to take a Covid test every week.” But when Nate told her that he had indeed been vaccinated, the mother responded, “Yeah, right.”

After rumors began about Nate’s vaccination status, other students began approaching Nate, asking him if his parents were “anti-vaxxers.” So the Bronsteins reached out to these parents in order to resolve the issue once and for all, yet the bullying became worse.

But other incidents besides the vaccine rumors also occurred. For example, the lawsuit alleges that Nate’s geometry teacher ridiculed him before the class. Nate had made comments about geometry proofs in class which the teacher didn’t like, and as a result, the teacher told the class that Nate was “going nowhere in life.”

And then there were the texts and Snapchat messages. One of them was a direct threat that encouraged Nate to kill himself.

Nate committed suicide on January 13, 2022. His parents had arranged to return him to his previous school on January 24. How incredibly sad.

 

Latin Ignored Anti-Bullying Laws

The state of Illinois beefed-up its anti-bullying laws in 2014, which Latin apparently ignored. As Rob Bronstein, Nate’s father, said:

“We’ve come to learn that the Illinois laws are maybe some of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the United States. But if schools don’t follow them, it doesn’t do anything. And that’s what’s so upsetting.”

Illinois requires that schools investigate and report incidents of bullying within 10 school days. Plus, parents of all parties must be notified as well, and the offending students are subject to discipline.

However, Latin is one of the most prestigious schools in Chicago. And, as such, its students come from some of the city’s wealthiest and most powerful families. In fact, at least three of Nate’s abusers were the sons of Latin’s board members — people with a vested interest in making sure that incidents involving a misfit kid disappear.

Plus, there is a Facebook page entitled “Survivors of Latin,” which shares experiences of bullying and abuse by students, parents, and faculty. These incidents go back years.

 

How Cyberbullying Can Lead to Suicide

It’s certainly true that bullies have existed ever since children have flocked together and social pecking orders have emerged. It’s a sad part of our human condition — along with our drive to be social, there’s also a need among some to dominate others, and enjoy the cruelty that goes with it.

We’ve snickered at teen movies where the geek with the nerd glasses gets pushed into a locker. But it’s viscerally satisfying to watch Ralphie Parker beat the crap out of the bully Scut Farkus in the classic film A Christmas Story. A lot of us knew what it was like to be Ralphie when we were kids.

suicide/bullying

Credit: rinkrover.ca.

But that was then. Victims of bullies could go home, knowing they would be safe from their tormentors. Not any more. The torment follows kids home through cell phones and social media. They get no rest. They open their cell phones in the morning or late at night before they go to sleep and learn how someone wants them to die. “Simple,” some might say. “Just turn off the damned phone. Better yet, don’t even get one. Problem solved.”

Eh, but it doesn’t. How can kids who have relied on Zoom and internet school for almost two years succeed without such connections? For that matter — how many of us can function in the work world without the ‘Net and its connections to our colleagues?

 

When Progressivism Supplants Traditional Ethics

The traditional Judeo-Christian ethics which have served our social order for generations is diminished. In its place is progressivism, which rejects religious ethics and makes man, rather than God, the center of life. So when humans become God, it follows that the strong dominate the weak, without any concern for the morality of destroying lives. The words of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” is rejected as too “Christian.”

When kids grow up in this sort of environment, it’s no wonder that bullies abound. Combine this lack of morals with the tech world, mix in fear and loathing of the unvaccinated, and you have a perfect storm. The strong kids gang together like feral dogs, gleefully hunting the weak for the sadistic pleasure of annihilating them. And then out-of-place kids like Nate Bronstein will all too often turn to suicide for relief.

 

Featured image: vectorjuice/cropped/freepik.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

15 Comments
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  • Hate_me says:

    I don’t have an easy answer to bullying other than learning how to survive it is among the most valuable lessons of public school.

    As soon as suicide enters the equation… I’m sorry, but I cannot accept punishing anyone else. To do so is to weaponize suicide.

    You speak traditional Judeo-Christian ethics, but where do they stand on suicide? They shun the act. Proper burial is even denied. I’ve fallen a long way from the church, but this is one point on which I believe it was absolutely correct.

    Harsh and uncompromising, but suicide has only risen in prevalence as society has approached it with gentler means.

    Contemplating suicide is human and understandable and should be treated with humanity and understanding. Committing suicide (for all but those rare cases of battlefield self-sacrifice) is a cowardly act and it should be public knowledge that any who would commit such will receive nothing more than the disgust due all cowards. Life is suffering, for all and often. Either make it better or prove you aren’t worthy of it, but cowards deserve no justice beyond that which they deliver unto themselves.

    My heart goes out to his parents and friends, though I expect they’d disagree with my words.

    • Kim Hirsch says:

      I used to believe the same things you cite here about suicide and the church, but I no longer do. That’s due to a podcast I heard a few years back after the suicide of Robin Williams (whom we originally thought had clinical depression, but we now know was suffering from Lewy-Body Dementia).

      The guest was a pastor of my Missouri Synod Lutheran Church body — LCMS, as you might know, is conservative and quite traditional. Officially and vocally pro-life, as a matter of fact. Yet this pastor suffers from depression. He also has contemplated suicide. He said that when someone is in that state, they’re not even dealing with reality. Your mind has broken away from the real world. Unless you have experienced it, you can’t possibly understand it.

      My church also states this in an FAQ at their website:

      The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod does not have an official position regarding the eternal state of individuals who have committed suicide, though theologians of the Synod have commented from time to time on pastoral questions that often arise in such cases.

      Since the spiritual condition of an individual upon death is known only to God, our theologians have proceeded cautiously in making judgments in this regard.

      The church also entrusts its pastors to make responsible decisions regarding funeral and burial services.

      As far as “weaponizing suicide” — that’s not the issue here. Rather it’s that a school failed to follow the laws of the state regarding abuse and bullying. Agree with the law or not, the school had an obligation to follow it to protect this boy.

      Let’s not heap “disgust due all cowards” upon a distressed boy who wasn’t even old enough to drive a car.

      • Hate_me says:

        While I won’t deny that it’s an incredibly nuanced topic, I cannot accept youth as an excuse for cowardice.

        The legal aspect is a different matter, and I hope it’s pursued in a manner that focuses on policies violation and doesn’t shift the blame for the suicide from the one who committed it to anyone else.

        I realize this sounds harsh, and suicidal emotions are entirely understandable. That very fine line between thought and action, however, should be a razor’s edge between sympathy and derision.

        • Kim Hirsch says:

          Just a question —- if a child commits suicide, when does the act not involve cowardice? Nate was 15. What if he was 12? Or 10? Or 8? And yes, young kids with mental illnesses do try to commit suicide. Are they cowards?

          Try a little compassion.

          • Hate_me says:

            No shortage of compassion. Especially, in cases like this, for potential future suicides and cultivating an idea that more feasibly deters them.

            There are usually many extenuating circumstances behind and unique to every individual suicide but, yes, they all ultimately are acts of cowardice (excepting cases of self-sacrifice, like diving on a grenade).

            Young children, at least those old enough to contemplate suicide, understand courage and cowardice well enough to act with such.

    • GWB says:

      A couple of items….
      If you believe that a person driven to suicide should not receive the sanction of the Church, then what about those who drove him to it? Should they not be punished worse than murderers? After all, they not only got someone to kill themselves, but in the process prevented them from reaching the bosom of Abraham or from Heaven. Is that not worse than murder?

      Also, it is true that for a long time the Roman Church treated suicides fairly harshly. They did a lot of things that were… un-gracious. While I don’t agree with the therapeutic approach to God and the Church, the problem with suicide is one of weakness, not cowardice. It is a weakness of understanding of the power of God. It is a weakness in the trust one should have of God.

      This is why I mentioned below not letting your kids build their esteem based on the opinions of a bunch of idiots immature people. Their self-esteem should come from the fact that 1) God created them and 2) God thought they were worth dying for to redeem them. And their strength needs to be in that incredible Creator and Redeemer God who is so much more powerful than all those jackals nipping at your heels.

      Do you put your salvation at risk with suicide? Yes. Not because you’re a coward (though, honestly, it is trying to simply run away from the problem), but because it raises the significant question from God of “Why didn’t you trust me?”

      (And yes, I’ve been there. All that above is drawn from not just theology but from personal experience. My Almighty Savior, Jesus, is the only reason I’m still here. Like the Israelites in the Red Sea, He has brought me through the deep waters on dry land. Hallelujah.)

      • Hate_me says:

        As I said, I’ve fallen a long way from the church. My issues with how suicide is treated and responded to have nothing to do with anything going on in the afterlife, that’s God’s preview; they have to do with ending one’s life on earth (fairly certain this was the intent of the early Church’s approach, as well).

        Evidence suggests a certain contagious effect in suicide, and publicly damning suicide for the cowardly act that it is is not just calling a spade a spade but hopefully a reason for the next potential victim-perpetrator to hesitate and think twice.

        Weakness, of course, is a part of it. Weakness and cowardice are inextricably tied together. Telling people it’s ok to be weak and ok to experience the negative emotions associated with suicide is true and human. Saying that it’s ok to accept that weakness and act on those emotions is not.

        As for those who “drove” that person to suicide, I take issue with your phrasing. Outside of extreme gaslighting or framing where the intent is the person’s death by apparent suicide, I cannot blame bullying or negligence for the victim’s own actions.

        That’s not to say that bullying or negligent party isn’t responsible for some kind of criminal act, just that the only person who commits suicide is the victim. Unless someone ties the noose or puts the plunger in their hand as a knowing accessory, whatever else their failings, they are not responsible for the suicide. The only acceptable argument can come from their own conscience.

        As far as how a suicide victim should be treated by the Vatican and its subsidiaries, it changed considerably in 1990 and the bylaws are established. That’s up to the Church. My concern is for future troubled souls in the mortal realm. If being denied a funeral or burial deters others from such an act, I support it.

  • Anna A says:

    Kim, the LCMS’s view of suicide is the same as what the Catholic Church now teaches.

    May God have mercy on the young man’s soul and on all who love him

  • Deborah B says:

    We cannot know what is in a person’s mind and heart no matter how well we might know them. Only God knows that and fortunately He is the judge. He is also a source of endless mercy.

  • GWB says:

    how many of us can function in the work world without the ‘Net and its connections to our colleagues?
    A lot more than think so. Honestly, while it is not the whole answer to bullying, it is a big part of it. DISCONNECT. Get your kids to DISCONNECT. Do it alongside teaching your kids to not base their self-worth on the opinions of a bunch of people whose brains aren’t grown. Those two things will better insulate them.

    The traditional Judeo-Christian ethics which have served our social order for generations is diminished. In its place is progressivism, which rejects religious ethics and makes man, rather than God, the center of life.
    This. Until the majority of the country returns to Christian morality, we won’t be able to restore our republic. (And, I don’t just mean restoring the rules, but returning to the idea of self-governance, that we bind ourselves to the morality, rather than following it because it’s imposed.)

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