This week, David Bianchi appeared on “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace” as part of a panel of medical and legal experts to discuss a teenager who was bullied by her teammates, which resulted in her subsequent suicide. The discussion featured Nancy Grace, the parents of 16-year-old McKenna Brown, a psychologist, a medical examiner, and David Bianchi as “the nation’s leading hazing lawyer.”
Bullied by Her Friends & Teammates
McKenna Brown, a high school hockey player and sexual assault survivor, was a month away from turning 17. She was well known as a good student, inclusive friend, and kind soul. She was also bearing the weight of her sexual assault, mostly on her own, having told very few people. From the outside, she seemed like a normal, happy teenager. On the inside, she was contending with intense hurt. Thankfully, she had loving parents and a strong community around her. She was beloved by her teammates, who respected her for her athletic talent and strength of character.
It wasn’t until her circle of ‘friends’ turned on her that things went terribly wrong.
Like any young woman, McKenna had flirted with a boy who showed interest in her. He happened to be a friend’s ex-boyfriend from two years ago; still, McKenna felt it’d be polite to ask her friend if she was okay with them speaking. The friend, by all accounts, seemed fine with it—she had a new boyfriend anyway.
However, McKenna was soon on the outs with her circle of friends. They all sent her hostile texts, insisting that she’d broken the “girl code.” The friend who had been ‘wronged’ started isolating McKenna to “leave her without a single friend.” They met together behind McKenna’s back, cutting her out. McKenna, to her credit, earnestly tried reaching out to her friend to make things right.
Then, in an act of shocking viciousness, these ‘friends’ mass texted the entire hockey team about McKenna’s sexual assault. That night, McKenna wished her parents good night, walked up to her room, and ended her own life. Her mother found her body the next morning. The investigation that followed didn’t yield a cause until some of McKenna’s friends came forward with screenshots.
Incredibly, the young women who had pushed McKenna to kill herself attended her funeral, expressing zero remorse for their actions. “She got what she deserved,” one of them reportedly said.
David Bianchi Talks About Bullying & the Power of Social Pressure
David brought his years of hazing litigation experience to the discussion, highlighting how McKenna’s treatment by her one-time ‘friends’ resembles hazing. Both situations feature immense social pressure, humiliation, and psychological manipulation that contributed to McKenna’s vulnerable state of mind.
“In college hazing cases, young males—usually—get seriously injured or they die because they’re being, essentially, bullied,” David said on the podcast. He also drew connections between what happened to McKenna and Florida’s criminal anti-bullying and anti-cyberstalking statutes.
However, one infuriating difference between our hazing cases and what happened to McKenna is that what happened to McKenna is not being treated like a crime. The police are not going to press charges or investigate McKenna’s death further, and the girls at fault have only faced school suspension for their actions. Incredibly, they may be able to rejoin the hockey team.
Bullying, even when it results in death, is rarely a crime in Florida.
Listen to Crime Stories with Nancy Graceto hear more about McKenna’s story.