Was bullying a factor in Sherman High student’s death?

Fred Pace

February 28, 2014

RACINE — Hundreds of Sherman High School students, community leaders and others from across Boone County gathered at the John Slack Park in Racine for a candlelight vigil to remember a 16-year-old freshman student that recently passed away.

Although it was hard to talk about, many were trying to figure out why Christopher Nelson, a freshman at Sherman High School, would take his own life.

Nelson died Monday. His family and friends say that he was the victim of bullying at the school.

“He was one of what we say the outcasts. He was one of us,” said Billy Hapney, a freshman at Sherman High School.

Several students and parents at the vigil said that bullying at school remains a constant problem.

“To see my child come home and cry and so many children in this area come home and cry, it’s frustrating,” said Michelle Hapney, Billy’s mother.

Billy Hapney, Josh Perdue and Tylor Britt were all best friends with Chris. Now among these three young boys there’s a sense of crushing grief and despair. And they say just like them, Chris was a victim of bullying.

“I was bullied from third grade until now,” said Hapney.

“Random high schoolers will go up to you and just counting how you look or how you act or who you may hang out with,” said Britt.

“Just because we’re not up in your rankings and social status doesn’t mean you have any right to pick on us or ridicule us in any way,” said Perdue.

Judy Sanders, a mother of a Scott High School student, also brought her daughter and another student from Madison to the vigil.

“This is just horrible,” Sanders said. “My daughter has also been the victim of bullying at school and we came to show our support and deepest sympathies.

“Chris was a great guy. He was like charismatic and he loved everything,” James Bishop said. “He loved music. He loved playing games, video games especially.”

“You know I talked to him just the day before and he seemed like he was upset and I tried to help him the best I could,” Bishop said. “Never would have thought he’d actually go to the lengths.”

While some family members say bullying was the trigger, Boone County deputies investigating the death said so far there is no concrete evidence to prove the theory. However, the investigation is ongoing.

“Bullying may have went from something physical in nature to now it’s turned into what you called cyber bullying. They may be a hundred miles away from someone but they can still bully them,” said Chief Deputy Chad Barker of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

“This non-bullying, no tolerance policy, it’s not working. You have to find a different way. This isn’t going to work anymore,” said Michelle Hapney.

Christopher’s father said that his son had reported bullying before.

“Our heart goes out to the family,” Superintendent John Hudson said. “What a tragic loss. It’s a tragic loss to the community and Sherman High School.”

In the meantime his friends are continuing to raise awareness about bullying and all the harm it can do, and wanted to remember their friend.

“He was one of my best friends,” Sherman student Makenzie Rose said. “He always tried to make people smile, even on their toughest days.”

“The day before he passed away, he was all happy,” Rose said. “He did talk about being bullied, but he never said any names.”

“If you’re ever feeling like you’re done, and you can’t do anything else,” Bishop said, “never give up hope, because there’s always someone here for you, and there’s always going to be someone who loves you for who you are.”

“I hope, hey, just remember him,” Hapney said. “And know that he’s a good person, that his legacy lives on forever.”

During the vigil, donations were taken for funeral costs for the family of Chris.

If you would like to help the family out, a fund has been set up at four Whitesville State Banks in Boone County. You can also donate online at