Billy Ray Cyrus joins community in remembering teen who committed suicide

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COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – People packed the lawn at Rotary Amphitheatre in Manchester Sunday to celebrate the life of Channing Smith.

The messages “never forget” and “#JusticeForChanning” echoed throughout the park, all to the tune of Amazing Grace, sung by Billy Ray Cyrus.

Dozens of community members and Channing’s friends and family gathered to remember the 16-year-old Coffee County student who took his own life.

“Channing was one of those kids who loved with all his heart but he didn’t really realize how many people loved him,” said Crystal Smith, Channing’s mother.

His family says Channing was the victim of relentless cyberbullying, being outed by his classmates for his sexuality on social media.

Now, Channing’s mother, along with community members, are begging the Coffee County District Attorney to take the case seriously and press charges.

“As a mother, I was mad.  So we came up with a petition,” said Deana Bannister. “All lives matter in this county and in this town so we are going to try to move forward with trying to get sensitivity here with not only the D.A., but with the schools.  I want an open community where people can freely talk about who they are and not be scared,” she said.

Channing’s mom said she’s speaking out and wants to spread this message and story to prevent similar tragedies.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.