A gifted 15-year-old prep school graduate who earned the highest grades in his school’s history took his own life in response to bullying, according to his obituary.
Connor Francis Tronerud from Sutton, Massachusetts, attended Assumption School in Millbury before graduating from Our Lady of the Angels in Worcester, Massachusetts—where he earned the highest grade point average the school had ever seen. This earned him a spot on the National Junior Honor Society.
Tronerud next tackled Marianapolis Preparatory School in Thompson, Connecticut, where he made the Headmaster’s List honors every quarter.
He was not a bookworm, nor a social outcast. While he was happy relaxing with his iPad and playing Nintendo, he was also on the school’s Varsity Ultimate Frisbee team and enjoyed hiking.
Connor Tronerud was on a “trajectory of academic excellence,” according to his obituary. However, we was also an intensely private person who found the rough-and-tumble world of high school, and more particularly social media, to be inescapable and intolerable.
Tronerud took his own life on Dec. 4.
The Marianapolis community is grieving the loss of sophomore Connor Tronerud. Connor will be greatly missed by the entire community. For information about services, please visit https://t.co/yCSiOwCkyW pic.twitter.com/4gyI4vFxK0
— Marianapolis Prep (@Marianapolis) December 9, 2017
Injured, Isolated and Vulnerable
It is possible that Tronerud’s issues with social media arose from being bed-ridden. He broke both his legs in a running accident late in the summer and had to attend classes online via Face-Time. Denied mobility, it seems likely he would have turned to the online community for support—but support is not what he found there.
Tronerud had always attended Catholic schools and had been an altar boy at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Millbury for many years.
The Rev. Dan Mulcahy, pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption, said it seemed to him that Tronerud had been troubled by the state of the world for the past year.
“He was upset about the world’s situation, how cruel people in the world can be,” Mulcahy told the Hartford Courant. “I guess something broke in Connor.”
Mulcahy saw the young boy just two weeks prior to his death. Mulcahy said Tronerud was happy to finally have had his casts removed.
“He was really excited about that, so when I learned of what he decided to do, I was so shocked,” Mulcahy said. “Totally shocked. I feel awful for his family.”
In fact, no one who knew Connor Tronerud had seen his suicide coming.
The GoFundMe page his parents started to help battle online bullying says, “Connor was a dynamic, witty, unforgettable young man. As he transitioned into adolescence, he struggled with peers invading that privacy in order to provoke a response.
“He had many spaces in which he felt safe and nurtured; others—including social media—proved overwhelming and harmful.”
It is possible Tronerud, trapped in his bed with two broken legs, felt isolated, and in the online world where people can fully exercise their cruelty because they are anonymous, and the targets of their scorn seem imaginary, a sincere young man might take too much to heart.
Worcester DA Investigating
Though the death occurred in Connecticut, the Worcester County District Attorney, Joseph D. Early, Jr. is investigating the suicide.
Thompson, Connecticut is 20 miles south of Worcester and five miles over the border, within the jurisdiction of Connecticut State Police Troop D, but Connecticut authorities seem satisfied to let DA Early handle the case.
It is not clear at this point if any physical bullying actually happened at the school.
More Attention to Online Bullying
The tragic death of Connor Tronerud, literally one of the best and the brightest, could cast light on the growing problem of online bullying.
With teens living more of their lives “connected” they are increasingly defined by virtual communities, where cruelty and abuse is much easier to engage in and, because of 24-7 connection, much harder to escape.
“No child should suffer marginalization,” Tronerud’s family wrote on their GoFundMe page. “At the same time, the complexities of a ‘connected’ world and its pathways to poor decisions can be difficult for adults and teens to navigate.”
As his family’s GoFundMe page states, “The more we can equip peers, coaches, teachers, mentors, and friends to bolster those who are isolated, the more lives can be saved, and the sooner healing can begin.”
Tina Meier who started a foundation to fight cyber-bullying after her own 13-year-old daughter took her life, talked to the Hartford Courant.
She said that social media can torment teens in two ways: through direct abuse, or through the endless comparisons teens make when they look at their peers’ varnished profiles.
“You’re comparing yourself to everyone online, and if you’re struggling and look at everyone else who’s putting their best foot forward, you wonder what’s wrong with you,” she said.
“Sometimes we’re not trained to see the signs and don’t recognize them, and it looks like just typical teen stress,” she said.
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