State Watch

Brother criticizes district attorney’s and school’s response to LGBT teen’s death

ABC 13 WZZM

The older brother of a 16-year-old boy who killed himself after private messages were exposed on social media criticized the district attorney and the student’s school, saying they had not taken adequate action after the suicide. 

Channing Smith, a high school junior from Tennessee, killed himself last week after another student outed him as bisexual by posting Smith’s private messages with another boy, according to his family. 

{mosads}Josh Smith, Channing’s brother, told CNN on Sunday he is “beyond disappointed” with the school’s response. 

Josh Smith said the school took signs from students who organized a memorial service for Channing that read “Justice for Channing.” 

In a statement shared with CNN, Coffee County Schools Director Charles Lawson said “a legal investigation is being conducted that involves some of our students.”

Lawson said the district is not at liberty to make “any statements concerning the matter at this time” and said counseling was provided at the school for students and staff who were struggling. 

But Josh Smith doesn’t think the school is going far enough. He said he “absolutely” believes the question should be asked whether there are criminal or legal consequences for students involved. 

Josh Smith also accused Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott of not adequately investigating the teens who allegedly cyberbullied his brother before Channing’s suicide. 

“My dad and I had to press the issue and tell them to get a search warrant. They told us that they didn’t have the resources to get into the phones,” he told BuzzFeed News. {mosads}

Northcott defended the investigation in a statement, saying “any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate.” 

“My office has encouraged, cooperated in and supported the investigation into the events leading to this death. Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution,” Northcott said in the statement

“However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed. When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision,” the statement read.

Northcott previously came under fire for anti-LGBT comments, reportedly saying he did not recognize gay couples as entitled to protections against domestic assault charges, according to a video published by The Tennessee Holler. 

Josh Smith is urging young people to be more cautious and compassionate when using social media. 

“Especially in this incident, the social media — telephone, computer — is as lethal as any other weapon,” Smith told CNN. 

In a Facebook post, he told young people to use their platforms to love and help others. 

“Bullying another kid is never acceptable and if you are the one feeling down please know there’s always other options other than death,” he wrote. “Please reach out to someone for help. God knows I would’ve protected my brother from anything or anyone that came against him if I’d only known.”

People experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

Tags Bullying and suicide Channing Smith Josh Smith Tennessee

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