Amazing Mom: Brenda High
Brenda's Family: Husband: Bill High, married 32 years; Kids: Sonja, 31, Jacob, 29, Tara, 27, and the late Jared Benjamin, forever 13.
Brenda Lives In: Pasco, Washington
Why Brenda Is Amazing: In the spring of 1998, a bully beat up Jared Benjamin High, a middle-school student. The police classified the eight-minute attack as an assault. A chiropractor who examined Jared after the beating said it looked like the 12-year-old had been in a major car accident.
Although the bully had a record of violence, an administrator placed the blame on Jared, who was a part-time, special needs student, and suspended him. Such violence was new to the High family and they hired a lawyer to bring a suit against the Pasco School District for a violation of their son's civil rights and for the cost of his medical bills.
In September 1998, after several months of pain and depression caused by the assault, Jared killed himself. It was six days after his 13th birthday.
The lawsuit against the school system was changed to one for wrongful death and was settled after more than three years. Brenda High, Jared's mom, says that at the time, bullying and a resulting suicide were rarely linked. Brenda credits a 2001work by two British journalists, "Bullycide: Death at Playtime: An Expose' of Child Suicide Caused by Bullying," which identified a connection between bullying and suicide and coined the term "bullycide."
Some six weeks after Jared died, Brenda says she had a spiritual awakening, which led her to create a website about her son's devastating experience.
"JaredStory is my healing website," she says. "I didn't even know how to do email."
Her lack of skills didn't stop the love she wanted to show for her son. Brenda took classes, read HTML books and paid one of her son's friends in Kit Kat candy bars to help her build the site. She says she realized that, "these teachers don't know what to do; these administrators don't know what to do. That's when I pursued the laws."
For her efforts, anti-bullying legislation was passed in Washington State and went into effect in 2003. That same year, Brenda launched Bully Police USA, a non-profit watchdog organization staffed by volunteers, with a website detailing and grading anti-bullying laws across the country. According to the site, 42 states have thus far passed anti-bullying legislation.
Brenda says that if an adult was bullying another adult at work, it would be illegal. She questions people who respond with "kids will be kids" and asks why is it okay for kids to bully each other? Our governments -- local, state, federal -- are in place to protect citizens, she says, and our children are the "most vulnerable of our citizens."
Brenda's Best Friend Aaron Beasley Says: "Brenda is an amazing person to me. She stands up for her rights and is politically active."
Recognition: Although her websites have received awards, such recognition is minimized, Brenda says, when it comes to what's really important. "I've had people say that I saved their kid's life and you can't get any better than that," she says.
Brenda's Guilty Pleasures: "I love crispy bacon. I could eat bacon all day long, if it didn't give me heartburn," High laughs. "I would rather have a piece of crispy bacon than a piece of chocolate." She also loves the TV show "Medium."
Brenda's Best Advice: "Document. Document. Document. That's the best advice that I ever can give anyone and they won't be sorry if they ever have to do anything later."
Related: Amazing Mom: Paula Zwillinger
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