Channing Smith, a 16-year-old junior at Coffee County Central High School in Tennessee, committed suicide after a classmate outed him as bisexual with messages on Instagram and Snapchat. According to reports, the classmate shared private, explicit messages from Smith revealing his sexuality on social media.
After realizing that the messages were made public, Smith was distraught.
“They did it to just completely humiliate and embarrass my brother,” his older brother Joshua Smith said. “Being in a small, rural town in the middle of Tennessee, you can imagine being the laughing stock and having to go to school Monday morning. He couldn’t face the humiliation that was waiting on him when he got to school on Monday, so he shot and killed himself.”
Smith had not come out to his family when the messages were made public.
Just prior to his death, Smith took to his own Instagram account to say that he would be taking a break from social media while mentioning broken trust.
A Coffee County high-schooler took his own life and the family says it's a result of cyberbullying. They say he was outed on social media by two other teens the same evening he shot himself. I'll have the details tonight on @FOXNashville at 9:00 pm. pic.twitter.com/rYeWufl0oG
— AJ Abell (Fox17) (@aj_abell) September 26, 2019
District Attorney Craig Northcott, who has been criticized in the past for saying the district would not prosecute same-sex domestic violence cases because he does not recognize gay marriage, said that it will take 30 days to determine whether the two students who outed Smith will be criminally charged.
“Ethically, I am prohibited from commenting on an open investigation or prosecution. However, procedurally, no charging decisions have been made by my office nor has the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department asked for a decision since the investigation has not been completed,” a statement read, via News Channel 5.
“When all relevant facts are available, my office will advise the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department on what charges, if any, we believe are appropriate to help guide it in that decision. Any report that my office has failed or refused to act is inaccurate and I wanted to clarify this for the sake of the Smith family as they do not need the added burden to the already incomprehensible pain that they are experiencing.”
Our deepest condolences go out to Channing’s family and friends during this incredibly difficult time.