The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 13, 2012

Sign snub outrages suicide victim's mom

MIDDLEBURG — Memorial signs marking the two year anniversary of Midd-West High School student Brandon Bitner’s violent suicide were erected throughout the communities of Middleburg and Mount Pleasant Mills earlier this month.

One day later, the signs put up in front of the high school along Route 522 in Middleburg were taken down, said Brandon’s mother, Tammy Simpson.

Midd-West School District Superintendent Wesley Knapp said he was not aware that the posters removed from campus last week related to an event commemorating the student’s death. Knapp added that the district has cooperated with the efforts to acknowledge the effort and combat bullying.

“It’s getting tiresome,” he said of complaints from a few that the district is not doing enough to prevent bullying at school.

“We have been proactive, as I think we should be,” he said.

Simpson learned the signs were removed on Nov. 2, the night of the Brandon Bitner Memorial Concert to benefit the scholarship fund Simpson established to promote awareness about bullying and suicide prevention.

Simpson has become an antibullying activist and is advocating for legislation requiring school boards to adopt antiharassment and anti-bullying policies since her 14-year-old son killed himself by walking in front of a tractor-trailer on the heavily traveled Routes 11-15 near Liverpool on Nov. 5, 2010.

To mark the sad anniversary, friends and family of Brandon posted numerous signs that bore the youngster’s photo in several areas around the two Snyder County communities

“There were only positive messages on the signs,” Simpson said.

When she showed up for the benefit concert at the high school auditorium on the evening of Nov. 2, though, Simpson said she was upset to learn the district had removed the signs from in front of the building.

“Why didn’t they call us?” she said as she accused the district of trying to brush the bullying issue under the rug. “They’re afraid because it reminds parents of the issue and they don’t want people to question what they’re doing about it.”

Knapp said he had no idea what the signs were promoting or that they were connected with Brandon Bitner when they were taken down by school staff.

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