Do you think I’m pretty.
No one likes me.
I hate my life.
I wish I had a friend.
It was the mantra of fourteen-year-old Sherokee Harriman, who in September 2015 faced her alleged bullies in a small Tennessee public park and pulled out a concealed kitchen knife. She drove the knife into her stomach as the horrified teens watched.
Local media focused on sensationalism rather than truth. The word “bullicide” was used, meaning bullying drove Sherokee to kill herself.
The story of Sherokee’s death flew through social media, broadcast for all to see. Sherokee had shared her secrets online where privacy disappears with a slight movement of a computer mouse.
A product of a family doing their best with little resources, Sherokee was passed through the mental health system as far as it would take her, shuttled through an overworked and underfunded education system supervised by government agencies with no real answers. She was sent to “Stop Bullying” school programs unprepared to assist, exasperating the problems.
A community began to question the laws and definitions regarding “bullying.” Should schoolyard bullies be held legally responsible for causing a suicide? Can a rough family history guarantee a tragedy? And just what is bullying, anyway? Perhaps Sherokee’s death was an accident … perhaps there was a sinister truth that has yet to be told.
True crime author Judith A. Yates peels back the sensationalism and rumors, revealing the truth of what happened that day in Mankin Park, attempting to answer the question everyone was asking: did Sherokee Harriman kill herself because she was bullied? Exploring the truth about “bullicide” while telling Sherokee Harriman’s story, taking a look at the role of social media in our lives, and defining the myriad definitions of “bullying.” Revealing bullying does exists … it lives within the family dynamic, it exists in the mental health care system, walks the hallways of the educational system, and grows within all peer groups.
From The Book:
A furious Sherokee Harriman walked alone down Mankin Street. As she walked, she decided she would return to the park and teach her bullies a good lesson.
Sherokee punched numbers into her cell phone to call a friend, Abraham, who was her age. “Can you come to the park?” Sherokee asked Abe.
“I can’t,” he told her.
Sherokee told him there were some people in the park, and they were making fun of her.
Then a text message came across her cell phone from her mother, Heather Edwards. Earlier, from work, Heather had given Sherokee permission to leave the house and go to the park, but only if Sherokee would text her every five minutes to let her mom know she was safe. So at 12:09 p.m.1, not having received a note, a text message appeared:
Hey, are you alright?
Sherokee put Abe on hold to text back. She punched the keyboard of her cell phone:
It’s OK. I just don’t want anything to happen to you is all.
Sherokee often shared the ups and downs of her life with her mom, and now she confided in her:
I hate this
Heather paused long enough to text back and see what was wrong with her child:
You hate what
It was several minutes before Sherokee’s response appeared:
Seconds later, at 12:44 p.m., she texted Heather to let Heather know she was safe:
Sherokee was still on the phone with Abe, and they talked about the bullying kids. Sherokee was home and took a moment to rummage through the kitchen drawers.
Heather picked up her cell phone to see another text from Sherokee at 12:48 p.m.:
I’m going back to the park hopefully they r not there
Sherokee was back on the phone with Abe. “I’m here.”
Abe made a few comments, but there was no reply.
Sherokee was walking back to Mankin Park, her heart pounding. She touched the item hidden in her jacket. She was going to show them. She was going to scare them and scare them good, let them see what mean words and names can do to a person.
The next thing she said to Abe was, “I have a knife.”
From The Author:
This books looks at bullying in an entirely different light than we have previously studied. And it takes a hard look at the myth of “bullicide.” When I first read Sherokee Harriman’s story, I looked at her photograph and wondered, Why would this sweet, pretty, fourteen year old girl take her own life? And then I discovered kids taking their own lives at five, six years old. Right away bullying is being blamed. But is that fair?