There was a bright smiling blue eyed girl born Sept 06, 1992: Amanda Rebecca Cota. That bright smiling blue eyed girl left us March 8, 2009. I know the hearsay and I know the grieving way too much. How you ask? I am Amanda's mother.

Some say she died of a broken heart. Not really. Some say she was in her prom dress. Not really. Some say she held a picture of a love lost. Somewhat true. Some say she committed suicide. True. Some say she shot herself. True, but not by herself! WAIT! "Not by herself?"

Amanda was coached into suicide by her bullying peers.

The number of cases of suicide by bullying is on the rise in the U.S. Yes it is suicide, but suicide of another form, a form that borders on murder or manslaughter. Don't point fingers. We are all in some ways guilty of some form of bullying.

My Amanda was bullied non-stop the last few weeks of her life. She never said a word to me about her peers being so severely mean to her. Sometimes we say things to others or about others to gain power. Power is something everyone desires. Power over others. Power to control one's life. For many people desire for greater power over others will drive them to destroy those around them. Some people can take it. Some people succumb. Some are so overcome by the constant pressure that they take their own life. When it got to that point, Amanda didn't let anyone know, not even me, her nosey Mother. Amanda was being bullied to this exact point, where the only way she could figure out to make all the pressure stop was to give them what they wanted. She gave in.

There is a lesson to be learned here: never judge a book by its cover. It may be a beautiful strong looking book on the outside, but inside full of scribbles. While we try to maintain some semblance of normality, many of us are fighting a constant battle to contain all of the mixed up mess on the inside. That good looking outer cover can really be a thin disguise covering our insecurities, and we're vulnerable to the slightest attacks. Even while under attack, we try not show how wounded we really are. We wait until we are away from everybody, when no one will see us cry, when no one will laugh at how sensitive we really are. How do we know if the joke has gone too far? How do we know whether the person is going to spend all night crying because of what was said? How do we know how close that person is to just giving up?

Let's do a test. I want you to take 10 seconds and look around in each class today. Look at all the faces, from the ones you think as the coolest to the ones you think are least. You may see them look up at you and kind of shuffle in their seats. Why are they doing that? It's their insecurities. They are trying to hide them. Maybe they will glare back at you or direct some comment toward you in an effort to end your staring. When you single someone out like that, the natural thing to do is to put up a wall to block whatever is being directed at us.

Now take a few seconds and find someone that is not a common friend of yours, someone you think is different from you that you just don't mesh with. Maybe it's someone you picked on once. Say something nice to them. You may again see that nervous shuffle as they prepare to block whatever may be coming next. But if you continue to genuinely smile at them, you may begin to see them shine. It might not be the brightest light, but instead a small flicker. That's called a flicker of acceptance, and it means a lot and goes a long way toward improving a person's self image.

Why am I asking you to do this silly task? It's very simple. On September 6, 1992 I got to be the first one to see the most beautiful girl come into this world. On March 8, 2009 I was the first to see that beautiful girl after she left this world. I lost a large part of my life and my world that day. I have visions that no one could ever imagine. I no longer live in our nice comfortable home but instead a small, cramped, borrowed space. I can't bring myself to go back there. I can't face what I saw there. Most of all I lost my beautiful baby--not by suicide, not by a gun--I lost her to the prolonged effects of bullying.

As I think of all your beautiful faces and your parents, I cannot let this take its toll on you. There are at least 25 deaths a year just here in California from bullying. It does not single out the kids who have no friends or the quiet kids. It happens to all sorts. But here it has to stop with my Amanda. Open your eyes and your heart and stop the hate. Start caring. Bullying attacks life in many forms.

Amanda loved all, even those who bullied her. Because of that, I forgive those who pushed her beyond her ability to cope. You should as well. Remember to think before you speak. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY, YOUR WORDS CAN COST A LIFE.

You are our future. Start acting like it. Life does not revolve around high school, so don't let the childish drama there control you. Concentrate on learning all you can now, because after high school is where life begins, and all of your life lessons will be put to use. I know each and every one of you will do me proud. From the heart of Amanda's Mom, good luck, god bless, and I love you all.

Kellie Walters