On March 18, 2016, only eleven days into his training, Raheel Siddiqui was dead from injuries sustained following a 40 foot fall off of an outside stairwell balcony. Siddiqui’s death was ruled a suicide after a witness said that Siddiqui had became faint and then had thrown himself from the outdoor balcony ledge.
But, Siddiqui’s death has since sparked a major inquiry into a culture of hazing at Parris Island where ethnic and homophobic slurs are the norm and that likely contributed to Siddiqui’s death. An investigation has revealed that only one day after arriving at Parris Island, Siddiqui threatened to commit suicide. When evaluated by mental health professionals, Siddiqui reported that he felt his drill instructor was abusive. However, he withdrew his threat of suicide and was returned to training. Roughly a week later, Siddiqui complained of feeling ill and asked to be allowed to see a doctor. Instead, his drill instructor punished him with grueling on-the-spot physical training. When Siddiqui collapsed from fatigue saying that his throat hurt, his instructor slapped him several times (which is against Marine regulations) immediately before Siddiqui leapt to his death.
Siddiqui’s story is not the first to raise questions about the (mis)treatment of soldiers and cadets of colour in the US military.
Nearly a year after 13-year-old Emilie Olsen was found dead of an apparent suicide, her parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Fairfield County school district in Ohio alleging that the school didn’t do enough to stop the bullying that led to Emilie’s death.
Emilie, who was adopted at the age of 9 months from China, grew up in Ohio where she faced bullying to severe that she suffered chronic depression and anxiety. The bullying included name-calling, physical abuse, and at least one incident where a girl reportedly followed Emilie into a bathroom with a razor and told her to kill herself. In addition, school bullies engaged in cyber-bullying; they created a social media account that subjected Emilie to slut-shaming and homophobic slurs.
Model Chrissy Teigen (@chrissyteigen) is making headlines this week after she described on Twitter a random encounter she had with an anonymous racist in West Hollywood. Teigen — who is biracially Thai American — tweeted a description of the incident to her over 700,000 followers (after the jump) on April 16.
Phan is the latest in a long line of students who have died far too young and at their own hands due, at least in part, to a failure of our culture to deal with schoolyard bullying. This country is long overdue for a real, and not merely reactive, conversation about how to address bullies in our schools, and how to build resources that will help support the victims of bullying.
David Phan’s family is seeking to help build those resources. In David’s memory, the Phan family has established a public memorial fund and are urging the public to donate to the account; all proceeds will go to building anti-bullying educational resources. Here’s the statement the Phan family has released:
As a family, we had hoped for a private opportunity to mourn the passing of our darling sweet David. Unfortunately, in this time of unrelenting grief, we are forced to confront conflicting descriptions of what led to David’s tragic passing.
David was an adored son, beloved by his close-knit parents, older brother, and large extended family. David’s home life was full of support and unconditional love. His parents are devastated to have lost their young son, who rarely left their side. Many of his peers and members of the community have confirmed that David was an amazing student and extraordinary friend.
David was an outstanding son, but he shielded his parents from the horror and negative experiences he was facing at Bennion Jr. High. The last few days have been an absolute living nightmare to learn that he was bullied in school where he was supposed to be in a safe learning environment. It is time for us to turn the hate David endured by bullies into a learning experience that will strengthen a divided community. Let us not deny the numerous accounts that David was a victim of serious bullying at school. Allow his family and friends the ability to heal by us all taking accountability and moving towards conversations and practices that will enable us to prevent other children from enduring this unbearable pain.
We would like to meet with school administrators this week to address issues we have with conflicting statements released by the school and district. . We don’t wish to relive this tragedy, but we deserve honest answers so we can move forward to create effective solutions. We demand to see that an effective anti-discrimination safe zone training be required for administration, faculty and staff who will then be able to pass down and model this crucial knowledge to students and the entire community. We don’t want David’s life to be tarnished as a bullied kid who was pushed to the limit. David exuded love when his bullies showed nothing but ignorance and fear. He was raised with compassion and understanding with a goal to contribute to society. We miss his beautiful smile, his exceptional personality and his witty sense of humor.
We encourage David’s friends, peers and community members to come forward with information to their school administration in order to empower our youth and create safe places in our schools. Please report bullying when you see or hear it. The love that David taught us should leave a legacy where we unite in a common goal to eliminate bullying.
In lieu of flowers, an account has been set up at Wells Fargo under The Anti-Bullying Foundation in memory of David Phan. All donations will go towards anti-bullying education and outreach. All funeral expenses have been covered by David’s family.
Today we’re honoring David’s life and his parents miss him terribly. We ask the media to please respect the family’s privacy. We will not be answering any questions at this time. Thank you for respecting the family’s wishes.”
Phan family spokesperson
Act Now! Please donate to the account, set up through Wells Fargo. Donations may be made at any branch or online in reference to the account name (Anti-Bullying Foundation: In Memory of David Phan) or using this account number: 1015981093.