COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — Channing Smith took his own life. Now his father hopes to channel his pain into reforming child bullying laws.
David Smith fears those who humiliated his son won't be held accountable and says things need to change.
Channing Smith lived with his father -- a former police officer ... just the two of them at a home in Coffee County. David Smith says Channing's tragic death could have been avoided. "This was a premeditated assault by electronic means," Smith said.
He calls his son Channing's death the result of not cyber bulling, but cyber assault. "Their intent was to humiliate and embarrass him and cause great mental anguish."
Sixteen-year-old Channing took his life last month. This after his family says he had confided in a few that he was bi-sexual. After texting with some other teens they posted screenshots online. Whatever Channing's sexuality was at this time I know he was greatly upset that the postings led his girlfriend to break up with him," Smith said, who added Channing must have dreaded going back to school. Smith said he and his son talked early the evening Channing took his own life.
His son never mentioned the upsetting posts.
Smith later learned Channing had called others to say he was going to harm himself, but they told no one.
He found his son the next morning. "I get up early," Smith said. "I noticed the light on in his bedroom and I went in and found him."
Channing died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Smith knows under the current law it may be difficult to charge the teens who he said bullied his son. He and the District Attorney are now asking the state attorney general to issue an opinion on the current law.
Whatever the answer, Smith knows there needs to be change.
"I would love to see someone in the legislature champion a Channing's Law," said Smith.
His thought is to pass a stand alone law separating it from harassment and stalking statutes, and that the new law would hold people criminally responsible if convicted of cyber bullying. Smith believes any new legislation should mandate required cyber bullying education for students.
It's important to note: District Attorney Greg Northcott has not announced yet whether he will file criminal charges. But most legal experts agree it would be a tough case to prosecute under current Tennessee law.