WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY - A solemn vigil was held Monday night for the young victims of bullying. The organizers say they took advantage of Martin Luther King's birthday to celebrate his mission of equality.
It's been just more than two months since Tammy Simpson's 14 year-old son Brandon Bitner committed suicide. He left a note to his family saying that saying bullying at Midd-West High School in Snyder County pushed him over the edge. His family wants to make sure his death wasn't in vain. So they came to the second annual Bullycide Awareness and Bully Prevention Candlelight Vigil held in Wilkes-Barre's Public Square.
"We definitely need to bring this to everybody's attention and address this," said Tammy Simpson.
"If you are afraid to get involved, that kid you see walking down the street might not be here tomorrow," said one speaker. Dozens of people turned out to remember the many kids who suffered so much from bullying that death seemed, to them, like the only way out. But one survivor of bullying traveled several hours to tell the crowd there is much more to life.
"It gets better and I say also try to create safe spaces in your schools," said Jordan Davis of Pittsburgh.
That is what Monica Thomas wants to make happen. They Plymouth woman is the founder of Parents Advocating for Safe Schools- or PASS. She organized the vigil.
"Since we've started planning this the hits to our website and the confidential reports are more and more," said Monica Thomas. She says despite that response, schools are not doing enough to acknowledge the problem.
"When we contacted a couple of the districts and we told them we had an organization willing to give them a free program, here's the contact info. They refused to act on it- that tells me right out they still don't want to admit the problem," said Thomas.
Simpson has been pressuring Midd-West School District to strengthen their bullying policy. She recently went before the school board with her concerns.
"I want it to be addressed. I want the school to do something about it. And until we know that happens, we're going to keep fighting," said Simpson.