Dairy Queen Franchise Owner Allegedly Bullied A Teen Until He Commited Suicide

Is bullying becoming a public safety concern?

By Eric Shorey

What's up with Dairy Queen, you guys? Last month, a racist franchise owner practically caused a riot after hurling racial slurs at a customer. Now, a different franchise owner has been charged for second-degree involuntary manslaughter after many have suggested he is partially to blame for a teen's suicide.

According to CNNKenneth Suttner was violently bullied relentlessly until he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It took more than a month to collect enough evidence to charge Harley Branham, Suttner's manager from when he was employed at the fast food chain.

Suttner was allegedly repeatedly berated at his job and forced to perform humiliating duties, reports The Columbia Tribune. Branham says the insults were merely jokes and were taken by the teen in stride.

"There's a lot of people at Dairy Queen saying I was the reason" for his suicide, Branham said, denying the claims, "but I don't understand why it would be that way."

Dairy Queen has issued a statement on the matter: "We are still in the process of gathering information but understand from the franchisee that the manager is no longer employed at this location," the statement read.

Suttner's school was also found to have been negligent and similarly denied the claims being made: "We can and have set in place, policies, procedures and training to minimize bullying," the district said. "In spite of best intentions and the best practices, we cannot guarantee that no bullying occurs, particularly, where, as here, there is no knowledge of bullying of this student."

Testimony from locals say otherwise. “Every time we went to the school to do something about the bullying, it just got worse,” said mother Barbara Smith.

“These things were brought to the attention of the appropriate school officials, and it’s a shame it was swept under the rug,” added Mary Korte, a friend of Suttner's.

“If we don’t take care of bullying, we’re going to have more of these,” concluded Howard County Coroner Frank Flaspohler, who also suggested that bullying has become a public safety issue.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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