Dairy Queen Manager Charged With Manslaughter for Bullying After Teen ‘s Suicide
A 21-year-old Missouri Dairy Queen Manager was charged with manslaughter after one of her employees committed suicide. The jury concluded that 17-year-old Kenneth Suttner took his life because he was bullied at work and school. In addition to the manslaughter charge, the jury charged Suttner’s school distric for negligence to stop the bullying and the Fayette Dairy Queen with negligence to properly train employees to deal with the issue of bullying, according to KTVI .
Following the suicide of 17-year old Kenneth Suttner, a local Missouri coroner called for a rare, public investigation in an effort to publicly acknowledge the problem of bullying. The investigation consisted of a six-member jury and was similar similar to a grand jury but public. The jury heard hours of testimony from 20 witnesses.
The jury recommended a charge against 21-year-old Dairy Queen manager, Harley Branham after witnesses claimed that she bullied Suttner on the job. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, witnesses testified that Branham made him lay on his stomach while cleaning the floor by hand, threw a cheeseburger at him for making it incorrectly, and often ridiculed him to the point where he would cry.
The jury charged Glasgow School District with negligence to stop the bullying. Glasgow School District released a statement stating that while they believe Suttner’s death was a “tragedy,” the jury has “badly misjudged.” The Missourian reports that Superintendent Mike Reynolds, Assistant Superintendent Sonya Fuemmeler, and two of Suttner’s teachers all testified that they had no record of Suttner being bullied. However, the sheriff’s deputy said that Suttner’s parents had complained about the bullying at a school board meeting.
This cases raises many questions about what constitutes as bullying, can a suicide solely be blamed on bullying, and what should the punishment be for bullying? Should the witnesses be held responsible for negligence since they did not stand up against or reporting the harassment? Should schools and businesses be held liable for negligence when they claim they were not aware of the problem?
According to the Center for Disease and Control, suicide is the second-leading cause of death from people ages 15-24. Suicides are tragic, but one would think that it would take more than being bullied for an individual to commit suicide. Raising children in a manner that fosters self-esteem and courage to stand up against the bullying of themselves or others and to report harassment will accomplish more to end bullying and suicides than giving the state authority to punish bullies based on heresay.
Though this woman may have played a part in the teen’s suicide, the courts actions could overthrow the basis of the first amendment. Criminalizing bullying criminalizes free speech. Bullying people with jail time for using rude language is tyranny, and tyranny exercised for the good of its victims is always oppressive.