I recently read an article about a young girl named Samantha Kelly, a freshman who attended a high school in Huron Township in Michigan. Samantha had accused a senior, Joseph Tarnopolski, at her school of rape and the consequences of the accusation resulted in Samantha taking her own life. She had been tormented by friends of Tarnopolski for weeks before taking her own life out of desperation.
Because Samantha chose to end her life, the charges of the alleged sexual assault were dropped against Joseph. Being a mother of four, I was overwhelmed with sadness over the loss of June Justice’s daughter and the lack of closure that she has experienced.
I was disturbed by numerous comments throughout the article.
1. Tarnopolski told the Detroit Free Press he was sorry to hear of the girl's death. He told Detroit station WJBK Samantha was "a friend" and felt "a little bit" responsible, but said others were behind any taunts.
Why would Tarnopolski feel responsible in anyway if their sexual contact had been mutual? And if Samantha was a friend, why did he allow his friends to harass her?
2. Principal Donovan Rowe said school officials investigated the alleged bullying and found nothing overt. Rowe said on occasion he walked behind Samantha as she went from class to class and witnessed no harassment.
I have experience with schools and bullying and have learned that schools have different standards for different students based on social or athletic status. Did Principal Rowe really believe that the students were going to harass Samantha in front of him?
3. "People wanted to beat her up — people who were friends of Joe," said Ayla Raines, who also attended Huron High School.
4. Another student, Calie Bouchard, said 14-year-old Samantha was confronted once in the lunch room by a group of girls who insisted she was lying.
5. "She told me she was being extremely bullied, and it was extremely stressful," said 16-year-old Devyn Waldecker, a neighbor in the Huron Estates mobile home park. "People bumped into her in the hallways at school. On two occasions after school, people tried to jump her."
Why can’t other people mind their own business? Unless those friends of Tarnopolski were in the room at the time of the sexual contact, whether it was consensual or not, they do not know the actual truth. We all have skeletons in our individual closets and hide things we are either ashamed of or embarrassed about.
6. Tarnopolski's attorney, Jacqueline George, called the case "a sad situation" for all involved. "I hope both families can heal," she said.
Tarnopolski’s attorney needs to make a jump into reality after the comment that Samantha’s death was a sad situation. A sad situation is a dog getting hit by a car in the street, a child losing a favorite toy, etc. Samantha’s death isn’t just a sad situation, it is a devastating and life altering situation. No one will ever know of the great contributions to our world Samantha could have made, or the tremendous achievements she could have accomplished. Her mother will never get to hug or kiss her daughter again or hold a child brought into this world by Samantha and experience the wonders of being a grandparent because of her precious daughter.
The insensitivity to personal grief, sorrow or pain that our society displays towards each other is downright appalling. Those students or people who stuck their nose where it didn’t belong should be answering for their actions and taking responsibility for having a hand in Samantha’s decision to leave this world. There were other ways to show their support for Tarnopolski without mentally, emotionally or physically abusing Samantha.
All of our lives are fragile and precious beyond comprehension. The impact each and every one of us have on those we come across throughout our lives can be astronomical in proportions. Every life is valuable and contributes to the world in its own unique way and can never be replaced once it has left our world.
From one mother to another, I want to say to June Justice how deeply sorry I am for her loss. To those who had a hand in Samantha’s choice to end her life, Karma will come back to you someday.