Recently, a story about a local senior at Sulphur High School being stood up by 18 "friends" on prom night went viral based on a post made to a local Facebook group. The community immediately came together in the face of this apparent act of mass bullying against one poor student, leading to many kind words and offers of help.

However, after doing a little research and speaking with those directly involved who had firsthand knowledge of the incident, the story does not appear to be quite as sensational as it's been made out. Speaking to several people on condition of anonymity, we've uncovered a bit more nuance to the story.

Cortney O’Neal/Sulphur-Carlyss Information Station, Facebook
Cortney O’Neal/Sulphur-Carlyss Information Station, Facebook

Employees at Casa Ole' confirmed that the young man arrived at the restaurant and was seated for a party of 18 around 5:30pm on prom night. After about 45 minutes, a server approached him because the waitstaff was beginning to suspect something was wrong when no other members of his party had arrived. Additionally, other waitstaff also claim to have seen a group of kids seated nearby who were taking pictures of the young man and laughing. At approximately 6:30pm, the student ordered some food, ate, then asked for the check and left around 7:00pm to wait outside for a parent to pick him up.

In an admirable act of kindness, the server who waited on the student picked up the check and paid for the cost of his dinner.

The initial coverage of the story indicated that 18 "friends" stood this poor young man up on prom night, which immediately calls to mind images of bullying and cruelty on a large scale, something made all the more impactful with the recent Netflix series 13 Reasons Why being so fresh on everyone's minds. The series deals with such bullying and its possible ramifications, and has proven to be very popular with both students and adults.

The truth in this particular story, as always, lies somewhere between the broad strokes and the fine print. From what we've been able to determine, the initial reporting of a mass group of kids pulling a terrible prank on one unfortunate student appears to be unfounded.

What seems to have happened is much smaller in scale, though no less heartbreaking.

From what we've been able to uncover, the student did, in fact, arrive at Case Ole' expecting a party of 18 for dinner. However, it appears that this invitation was provided to the student by one other individual, rather than eighteen kids out to pull a horrible prank.


Despite the fact that this young man bravely revealed himself online after the story went viral, we will preserve his anonymity along with all other parties, because it involves high school students rather than adults. We will not elaborate or speculate on the reasons and motivations behind this unfortunate event, nor will we go into specifics regarding the relationship between these two students. The young man has already had a very large spotlight placed on him during a very difficult time, and we don't wish to add to his burden by publicly revealing details he might prefer to keep to himself. What he chooses to share with his classmates and on social media is his decision, not ours.

Regardless of the number of people involved, nothing like this is ever cool. It's neither funny nor clever, and no one benefits from it. It's cruel, and can leave lasting emotional scars on those affected.

Still, it's important to make the distinction between what has gone viral and what likely actually happened. If a group of 18 kids decided to single out one student and pull a highly public prank, then it speaks to a very real problem involving the student body of Sulphur High School. However, if this terrible act was done by one individual with highly personal motivations, the story is very different.

Make no mistake. Bullying is bullying, no matter how many people are involved. What happened to this young man should never happen to anyone, and those involved should feel ashamed and work to make amends.

However, the fact that the story has already gone viral is problematic. It escalated what could have been a relatively minor embarrassment that might have been dealt with fairly quickly, and turned it into something much larger. News travels fast in high school, and rumors move even quicker. Every other student at the school now knows what happened, who it happened to, and who did it, even if all of the facts aren't entirely consistent.

If the victim of this deplorable act had any hope of anonymity before, that hope is now lost, thanks to the enormous megaphone of the media being turned onto an issue he would have probably preferred to keep quiet. As mentioned earlier, the student eventually revealed himself on social media, but only after the story went viral. It was a very brave thing to do, but it was a choice he should have never had to make.

Even so, the overwhelmingly positive response of the community to this story cannot be overstated. Anti-bullying efforts are being coordinated as a result of what happened, parties are being planned in the young man's honor, offers of friendship are being extended, and the end result might very well end up being far more favorable than the lasting scars of one miserable night of being the butt of someone else's sick joke could have otherwise had.

The Bully Project
The Bully Project

In the always-on age of 24-hour news and social media, we can all be a little too quick to take any story at face value, especially when it's one that tugs on our own emotional threads long since frayed by the cruelty of others. We all remember what it was like in high school. We remember how mean kids can be to other kids. None of us want to see the same torments happen to another child, so stories like this can quickly take on lives of their own.

Let's not condemn the entire student body of Sulphur High School prematurely based on nothing more than speculation and rumor, but we must also be careful to not let this young man slip through the cracks. Prom night is special, and his was utterly destroyed. He did end up attending prom after the event at Case Ole' and appeared to enjoy the rest of the evening by all accounts, but nothing anyone can do could ever really make up for what happened before the dance. But it's important that we try. And many people are, which is amazing.

To the same end, we here at Townsquare Media in Lake Charles have offered to treat this young man and two guests to dinner at Harlequin Steaks & Seafood, and we hope he takes us up on it. It's a small thing, but enough small things coming together can have a big impact. The community of Southwest Louisiana always unites when it's needed most, and every generous offer of support to this young man can only help.

For any Sulphur High students reading this, please take a minute and think about how your fellow student is feeling after all of this. Put yourself in his shoes. Watch 13 Reasons Why, and think about what you can do to help him.

It's important.

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