CSI creator’s dramatic turn to graphic novels – helping teens and families deal with difficult topics

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MYSTERY WIRE — Fans of the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television series are anxiously waiting for word on a reboot of the original show. But at the same time, the man who created the show has been on a different mission to help children growing up in tough situations.

Anthony Zuiker spent years living in Las Vegas, working on the Strip, watching crime happen and crime scene investigators doing their jobs. This was before writing some of those crimes into storylines of the TV show, which was so successful, it has been spun-off from Las Vegas to Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

USING CSI FOR GOOD

CSI has had an enormous effect on justice in America. Juries have come to expect DNA evidence presented like they have seen in the show. The National Institute of Justice, run by the government, has even studied the so-called ‘CSI Effect’ during criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Zuiker and his wife, a longtime schoolteacher, have invested much of their time the last two years to their new venture, publishing books. Their passion has even caught the attention of the New York Times, which featured them in a June 2018 story.

Michelle and Anthony Zuiker (Photo: David Zentz)

His latest spinoff uses some of the same themes he wove into the show. Topics of books published by his company,  Zuiker Press, deal with bullying, divorce, school shootings, racism, and gender identity, all real issues teenagers deal with daily in our modern society.

“Social media and cell phones and false rumors can be spread district wide in a matter of seconds,” Zuiker told Mystery Wire. “And it can crush a young person. During our days, it was a beat up, you go home, you’re safe. But when you have a device in your room, a computer, an iPad, a phone, it’s 24-7 bullying, you really can’t escape.”


Below, you can scroll through the covers of all eight of the graphic novels.


Zuiker says the books are written after months of personal interviews with the author and their families. Each book is an effort to help a teen learn from each author’s pain and heroics, and to find hope, change and happiness in their own lives.

HAILEE’S STORY

Published with permission of zuikerpress.com

September is suicide prevention month and one of Zuiker’s novels deals directly with this subject.

Goodbye A Story of Suicide tells the story of 13-year-old Hailee Joy Lamberth. Hailee took her own life in December, 2013.

Her story, as told in the book, is described by Zuiker Press as a thirteen-year-old should be enjoying life, planning her future, anticipating the joys to come. Instead, and sadly for all who knew her, Hailee Joy Lamberth, chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Hailee was an A student, bubbling with enthusiasm and love for life. She danced, wrote poems, and attended classes for gifted students. She loved playing with her little brother, Jacob. They’d play hide and seek and she’d always hide in the same place so that Jacob would find her.
But her favorite interaction with Jacob was when they rode the Ferris wheel together and got stuck at the top. Jacob was afraid, but Hailee reassured him. “We’re practically in heaven,” she tells him. “Well if we die,” Jacob says, “At least we’ll be together.”
When she was twelve years old, the bullying began.

Her story goes on to describe how she was cutting herself and had dropped out of a class where she was being bullied. All this happening while she was keeping a brave public face, not letting anyone know what was really happening.

“We were very skeptical,” Hailee’s father Jason Lamberth told Mystery Wire. “We’d been approached by other companies that had wanted to do something similar tell Haley’s story, but they didn’t have the right motives. Anthony and Michelle, you know they’re there. First and foremost their only purpose was to help young people and then fell right in line with our goals.”

In the time following her death, Hailee’s parents decided to not allow her death to be in vain. Along with helping tell her story to Zuiker, her parents sued the local Clark County School District claiming it was partly responsible for her suicide, because the district never told them she was being bullied.

After a nasty fight with the school district, her family was awarded a $700,000 settlement from the district in 2018.

Hailee’s father, Jason Lamberth, also pushed for Hailee’s Law which passed in 2015. It led to the creation of the state Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment which provides training, intervention, and other resources to combat bullying.

The law also requires disciplinary action to be taken against school staff who do not inform parents their children are being bullied.

“That was the number one aspect of Hailee’s Law,” Lamberth said at the time. “I think it was that we were denied the opportunity to intervene and help Hailee. You know no parent should be denied that opportunity. If all the protocols and policies had been followed, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”


Below you can read the first four pages of Hailee’s story, Goodbye A Story of Suicide 


BENEFITING FROM THE BOOK

So, who or what benefits from Zuiker’s novels? According to Zuiker and Lamberth, any profits will go directly into the community from where the story originated. “We’ve shipped half a million dollars in books,” Zuiker said. “50,000 copies all over the country all over Canada by just simply raising the money, charging people a deep discount, and offering this for schools for free.”

For Hailee’s story, proceeds in Las Vegas will only go towards bringing more books into the community.

“If you would like to purchase books to be given to Clark County School District (Las Vegas) schools, go to zuikerpress.com and click the red ‘donate’ button (link below). All Contributions are for books only and are tax deductible.”

Zuiker Press School Book Fund

Teacher’s also have the opportunity to use these stories in class. “We have a curriculum on every book,” according to Zuiker. “Right now, we’re on the seventh curriculum, all in Common Core. So when teachers go to zuikerpress.com they download the free downloadable packet, we give them the book for free, there’s no heavy lifting.”

Hailee’s father, Jason, added, “If children are afraid to talk to their parents, maybe they just bring this book home and leave it on the coffee table or the counter. And then the parent can say, ‘well, what’s this about? Are you experiencing suicidal ideation? Let’s have a conversation. Are you being bullied? What’s going on?’”

In the Times article, Zuiker said he is thankful for the success with CSI and it has allowed him to venture into other topics he says matter. “That’s the important lesson for people who are successful; it doesn’t have to be about the next hit,” he said. “You can do positive things. At some point, you have to give back.”

As far as a reboot of the original show, Zuiker told Mystery Wire, “it is going to come back as I hear. I can’t go on record about how many episodes … I can’t tell you who’s coming back, but you’ll recognize some familiar faces.”

——————-

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

If you need help, call 1-800-273-8255.

The Nevada Department of Education also provides help for anyone being bullied. The Bully Free Zone Prevention Hotline is 1-775-689-0150 or you can text STANDUP to 839863

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