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All Points West: Bullying death shocks family
April 15, 2016 Frank Marquez   

Read more by Frank Marquez
Coby Saucedo, my 12-year-old second cousin, took his own life on April 5, 2016. He was being bullied by classmates. A graveside service was held on Monday, April 11, 2016 at 2 p.m. at Cheyenne Memorial Gardens.

His obituary read: ďHe was active in school, football, basketball and track. He was an exceptional student, known for his kindness, compassion and sense of humor. Coby was very proud to have played the saxophone in band and also in the All City Band. Outside of school, his interests included camping, hunting, fishing and playing Xbox with friends.Ē

Without going into a lot of detail as to why he was bullied, and the confusion experienced by surviving family members which ensued in the form of questions as to how this could have happened, it leaves one to ponder the kind of burden Coby was carrying, if he felt this was something he could not share with someone who might have helped, much less someone who might have actively intervened.

I didnít know Coby, in fact, of all our Marquez-related family gatherings, I probably only had said hello to him, but I know his father A.J. Saucedo well. Though a few years younger, A.J. and I grew up together in west Nebraska. He served as an usher at our wedding in January. Heís a jovial sort who prompted me to laugh out loud several times during photo sessions before and after the ceremony. No doubt, Coby owned similar traits. My heart goes out to A.J., and extended family, who were as shocked as me, during this time sorrow.

My message is about awareness and bringing attention to a problem, which is bigger than most of us might think. According to stopbullyingnowfoundation.org, ďbullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone. Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide, (as Coby did). For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime.Ē

The foundationís website citing sources cops.usdoj.gov, keepschoolssafe.org and bullpolice.org said, 280,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month, and 77 percent of students are bullied mentally, verbally and physically. Cyber bullying statistics are rapidly approaching that number. One out of four students will be abused by another youth.

These are only a few of the many statistics.

As a former high school teacher, I can attest to some of what the bullying reports say, however, teachers are kept in the dark about what happens in the hallways, in alleyways near schools, or said in smartphone messages or any social media conduit. I stayed vigilant, but thatís all I could do.

I was bullied, here in Gering in the 1970s, and I can guarantee you no one knew. I was probably in third or fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary. Pinned by fear, I didnít think once about reporting it. I worried about further angering the bully, thinking about what lengths he would go to shut me up. And, who would believe me? Itís my word against the assailantís word. Most of the time, I was taunted and attacked in Legion Park. Thankfully, one day, there were witnesses. Older friends and neighbor kids happened to see me on the ground, being kicked. The older neighbor kids quickly intervened, all the while the bully denying what he had done, and what I reported about the long-term series of attacks.

Iím uncertain about what a school or police investigation might uncover about Cobyís death. I only hope that the parents who read this think about whether their own kids might be on either end of the bullying spectrum. As for school officials, there might be more ways to prompt kids who were like me, feeling pinned by fear, to come forward and talk about some of the real threats they encounter on a daily basis, as statistics report.

How do we make our kids feel safe about coming forward?

Whatever the answer, their lives depend on it.
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