The city of Tacoma is facing grief and bewilderment after a teenage girl killed herself - days after her father cut her hair and filmed himself doing so to punish her.
Izabel Laxamana, a troubled 13-year-old, left six notes to her family members before jumping from an interstate bridge last Friday, police said. The youngster died the following day.
The death of the youngster has triggered sadness and anger, especially after the video found its way online, apparently put there by a third party and later removed. Many online commentators claimed the girl’s father should he held responsible for her death.
Yet police who have been probing the girl’s death said while the girl’s father had indeed cut her hair and recorded the incident, there was no evidence that he had committed a crime.
They said it appeared there were a number of factors that were affecting the youngster and that the hair-cutting and video did not "have much to do with her decision to take her own life".
Officer Loretta Cool, a spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department, told The Independent that Izabel’s father, Jeff Laxamana, had cut off the girls hair to try and stop her doing certain things he disapproved of. She declined to specify what these were.
“Yes, it did happen. He did cut her hair, he did it to try and make her stop,” she said. “He asked her if she understood there were consequences for her actions.”
In the video, details of which were reported on Thursday by Jezebel, the girl’s hair can be seen lying on the floor of a room as the camera pans around.
“The consequences of getting messed up, man, you lost all that beautiful hair,” the father can he heard to say. “Was it worth it?”
“No,” she says. “How many times did I warn you?” asks her father. “A lot,” she says.
Izabel was a pupil at Giaudrone Middle School. Dan Voelpel, a spokesman for Tacoma Public Schools, said that more than 20 crisis counsellors, including chaplains from the local fire and police departments, had been providing help to staff and students.
The team assisted more than 150 students on Monday and about two dozen on Tuesday, he said. Other students were being referred to a local mental health counselling service.
“It’s a tragic loss and a deeply emotional experience for the Giaudrone staff, students and community,” he said in a statement.
The death of the teenager has sparked widespread discussion on social media about the merits or otherwise of parents who seek to “shame” their children, either publicly or privately, in an effort to change their behaviour.
Earlier this year, Timothy Srobenhorst, from Wisconsin, made headlines when he posted images of his son doing boot camp-style exercises after learning that he had bullied another pupil at school
One Facebook page established in the aftermath of Izabel’s death has called for her father to be prosecuted. Mr Laxamana has not made any public comment.
Ms Cool, the police spokeswoman, said she believed Izabel had killed herself because she believed things she had done in her past had shamed her family. “This was her way of apologising to everyone,” she said.
Ms Cool said Izabel was a 13-year-old who “made a couple of bad decisions and then made one really bad one”, and urged anyone who suspected a teenager was struggling with depression to seek help from the authorities.
“Kids don’t realise the permanence of suicide,” she said. “They play video games and the next day everything’s all right. [But with this] they don’t know how many people are going to be affected.”