Family remembers teen as 'happy soul' who was victim of bullying

Published: Friday, Nov. 30 2012 5:24 p.m. MST

Students walk to a memorial on the overpass where, on Thursday, Bennion Junior High School student David Q. Phan, 14, shot and killed himself, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Taylorsville.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — David Q. Phan was a "bright and smiling boy and loved to talk to everyone," his family recalled Friday.

But they also knew that the 14-year-old boy was a victim of bullying.

"David had been bullied for the past few years. He would come home crying sometimes. Bullies would walk home with him, taunting him and throwing things at him. After ignoring them didn't work, he started fighting back and got into trouble at school because of this," Phan's cousin, Vy Lake, said.

But David's family does not want to point a finger at anyone for the suicide of their loved one, nor speculate that his tragic and fatal actions were the direct result of bullying.

"We are not trying to place a blame on anyone. We just wish everyone would be more aware to bullying in the schools, and a little friendlier to their peers," said Lake, who also spoke on behalf of David's parents.

On Thursday, David shot himself on the overpass leading to his school, Bennion Junior High, 6055 S. 2700 West, about 3 p.m. The shooting was witnessed by other students.

Many people, particularly David's classmates and friends, have speculated out loud and on social media pages such as Facebook that he took his own life because he was the victim of bullying.

Lake said David's family went to the school about two years ago to discuss bullying concerns with the principal.

"Everybody in the family was aware (of the bullying). My sisters went to school with him and used to try and look out for him, but then they graduated to high school. I spoke to his principal on one occasion about it. Later it became harder to gauge how much bullying was still going on because he wasn't telling his family," she said.

When asked why David was bullied, Lake said she didn't fully know.

"David was just a unique boy with a really outgoing personality. He spoke his mind a lot."

Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said the district was aware of the reports of bullying two years ago. But since then, there had been no additional reports. If there was bullying that was occurring, Horsley said David didn't tell school officials about it.

"What we have yet to receive from any student is any identification of an alleged perpetrator or details with specific incidents to bullying," he said.

As of Friday afternoon — even after the much publicized shooting and reports of bullying — Horsley said no one had stepped forward to report a specific incident involving David.

School officials also noted that David was facing other personal issues and that they have not come to any conclusions about why he took the course of action he did.

"What is clear at this point in time is that David was facing significant personal challenges on multiple fronts. Without detailing private information that is available to us, at this point in time it would not be appropriate to make any formal conclusions," Horsley wrote in a prepared statement.

"Consequently, school administration and counselors have stayed in close contact with him since that time. Counselors have further remained in close regular contact with David because of other issues in his personal life. Despite specific personal inquiries, David never reported any further bullying concerns and on the contrary, reported that things were going well."

David had approached a counselor about 18 months ago because of personal concerns, Horsley said. He declined to elaborate, but noted that the meeting with the counselor was separate from the bullying issue. However, the counselor did continue to ask David if he had any bullying concerns at that time.

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