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Bullying leads boy, 11, to commit suicide

by Tracy Baim
Friday Apr 17, 2009
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A disturbing cluster of bullying-related suicides of children and young adults has sparked outrage from regional and national LGBT leaders.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, 11, hung himself at home April 6 after enduring bullying at his Springfield, Mass., school, including daily taunts of being gay. His mother reportedly complained to the school weekly, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN ) .

This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year, reported GLSEN: "The other three known cases of suicide among middle-school students took place in Chatham, Evanston and Chicago, Ill., in the month of February."

This latest suicide, by someone just 11 years old, has further shook the activist movement trying to fight against school violence.

Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, GLSEN said, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th National Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment at school.

"Our hearts go out to Carl’s mother, Sirdeaner L. Walker, and other members of Carl’s family," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "As we mourn yet another tragedy involving bullying at school, we must heed Ms. Walker’s urgent call for real, systemic, effective responses to the endemic problem of bullying and harassment. Especially in this time of societal crisis, adults in schools must be alert to the heightened pressure children face, and take action to create safe learning environments for the students in their care. In order to do that effectively, as this case so tragically illustrates, schools must deal head-on with anti-gay language and behavior."

"What will it take for parents to start advocating that schools address anti-gay prejudice and bullying? A suicide or murder in every classroom?" Debra Chasnoff, director of the new documentary, Straightlaced-How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, said in an e-mail to Windy City Times. "It’s absolutely unconscionable that school district officials are ignoring this epidemic of prejudice and harassment. It’s time to insist that our schools help all students become allies to stop anti-gay taunting and support each other to break out of gender-based stereotypes."

"Anti-gay bullying cannot just be seen as ’boys being boys,’" said Chicago youth activist Joe Hollendoner. "School communities have a responsibility to keep their students safe, which includes preventing harassment based on one’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The suicide of Carl Walker-Hoover reminds us that all students-gay or straight, trans or not trans-are affected by anti-gay bullying. By making schools safer for LGBT students, we are actually making schools safer for all students."

Two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. The top reason was physical appearance.

"As was the case with Carl, you do not have to identify as gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language," GLSEN’s Byard said. "From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers. In many cases, schools and teachers either ignore the behavior or don’t know how to intervene."

"The recent suicides in Illinois and Massachusetts are tragic reminders of the work that needs to be done around creating safe schools for all of our youth whether they are LGBTQI or perceived to be LGBTQI, so that they can build healthy and self-satisfying lives regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Chicago youth activist Bonnie Wade.

Two weeks ago, GLSEN reported about Eric Mohat, 17, who killed himself after bullies urged him to take his own life. His parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Mentor, Ohio school he attended, saying that the school knew of the bullying. The parents don’t want money; they want Mentor High School to recognize their failure to protect Mohat and to implement anti-bullying programs.

GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey reported that 86.2% of LGBT youth said they were being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half ( 44.1% ) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter ( 22.1% ) reported being physically assaulted, according to of more than 6,000 LGBT students.

In most cases, the harassment is unreported. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students ( 60.8% ) who experience harassment or assault never reported the incident to the school. Of those who did report the incident, 31.1% said the school staff did nothing in response.

"If we don’t do something to end the bullying then these kids have died in vain. No child deserves to be hounded to death because they’re perceived to be gay or weak or different. And they deserve better than adults who look the other way," said Eric Marcus, author of Why Suicide?, a question-and-answer book that was inspired by his own father’s suicide

"There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the teachers and the administrators who knew what was going on but looked the other way should be charged as accessories to murder. They had the power to save these kids from killing themselves, but they did nothing," said Marcus, who is also the author of several books on gay issues and history, including a book for teens, What If Someone I Know Is Gay?

While LGBT youth face extreme victimization, bullying in general is also a widespread problem, GLSEN stated. More than a third of middle and high school students ( 37% ) said that bullying, name-calling or harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school, according to From Teasing to Torment. Bullying is more severe in middle school. Two-thirds of middle school students ( 65% ) reported being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and only 41% said they felt very safe at school.

Copyright Windy City Times. For more articles from Chicago's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.windycitymediagroup.com

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-04-24 09:50:54

    i felt for that youn boy, its only cowards, bullies who get a kick out of abusing the timid,helpless ones. The victim needed friends and understanding, not teasing,hate,redicule.


  • Anonymous, 2009-05-06 10:36:52

    I am so sorry for the loss of this young boy and other children we’ve losted to this sad tragedy. My 13 yr old daugther is currently a victim of bullying at her middle schoolby boys for no reason. Her father and I are furious that the parent(s)for allowing their sons to continously hunt her down to make her learning experience difficult. It had taken numerous calls, emails, and appearences to get the school to become involved in this problem. I will admit reading these other stories are causing much concern and anger within aour family against the families who chose to allow this to happen. There needs to be more punishment and counseling for the families who cannot control their children before further action takes place against them.


  • Anonymous, 2009-05-07 15:12:06

    I am so saddened but so angry when i hear about these kids being pushed so far, and their self-esteem sinking so low that they feel they have no other option, no one in their corner outside of their own family to support them and help their situation. I feel that the schools are absolutely responsible, they could completely be more involved in and actually enforce the legislation that is in place to educate children about gay and lesbians. They use the term as deragatory and loosely because they dont understand it. But the education of this sensitive material needs to expand beyond gay and lesbian to weight and eating disorders, depression, etc. Rather we like it or not we have to acknowledge that kids are being exposed to things at a much earlier age. Realistically we cannot control that, parents cant be there all the time to monitor what they see and hear. But when you have all of these suicides and a great deal of them stemming from bullying at school we can absolutely make a difference there. All the schools staff are adults and any kind of inappropriate behavior should be documented and the offenders punished rather its name calling, pushing and shoving other kids, whatever. What happened to no tolerance, since when did that just apply to physical altercations. If the rules are to treat all other students and teachers with respect, and the punishment for breaking the rules are clear then who do these kids and their parents have to blame but themselves. We cant afford to be reactive to this situation and growing problem. We have to be proactive and bring the punishment and hold the teachers, priniciple, school board, bully’s parents, and school bus drivers involved. If it is determined a member of the staff at school witnessed bulling and did not take action they also should be held accountable. Its serious and the school cannot control what happens when the kids go home, but they are responsible for these kids safety while at school period. The things these kids are taught a this age they take with them when they go out into the world as adults if they are not held accountable these things now who is to say they will have a different attitude about it later in life. I understand not all incidents and all kids will continue to be habitual bullies but you cant discriminate, there is know way to look at them and be able to tell they all have to treated the same. Same punishment rather its the first offense or the 5th. If every possible action is taken by school officials to stop this behavior and something still happens at least these poor parents wont be left wondering what if, what could I have done if I only knew.


  • Anonymous, 2009-06-23 13:10:03

    My son was bullied for 18months while the school officials and police department did nothing. Felicia Reynolds sued the school district after her son, Ricky, stood up to an alleged bully named Sean Joyner after years of complaints to officials at Hoover High School. After being removed from the school due to a separate incident, Sean was allowed to return and fought with Ricky. Sean died from a knife wound, and Ricky was put away for 20 years. Unlike the Hollywood formula of bully movies, when the Karate Kid in real life stands up to bully Johnny Lawrence, he ends up doing one to five years in the county jail. Feliciareynolds@yahoo.com


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-17 23:25:04

    I just had to move my children out of a school and district in Bay County, Florida because the school and Superintendent Husfelt would do nothing about the Bullying situation. My child was not only bullied by children but by two Volleyball coaches too. it is really sad that the children are put too often last in this situation. There is a specific policy to prevent this Bullying and to provide counseling and nothing was ever offered! Unfortunately this started with a reprimand for one of the Volleyball teachers for being involved in an assault and battery incident; and she was still allowed to have closed door sessions with Middle School Children; even though parents, teachers and staff are aware of disparaging remarks she has made to children -- calling them fat, ugly, etc... Well, if the teachers are allowed to act like that what can you expect from the students?


  • Anonymous, 2009-12-03 21:45:47

    ~*Sighs*~, I feel bad for this young boy. He had it, He had a Bright Future coming for him, He would of been a Successor.But, He took his own life away because of this school bullies. I get bullied alot in my time, when I got furious, I Waited for them after school with a knife and a Gun. When they came, I Pointed the gun towards them. I then thinked, If I kill these bullies, I’d go to jail for illegal possession of a firearm and threatened to kill a student. So I figured, put the gun away. When I did, they ran off. So Now, when you feel like you getting bullied, talk to a principle or a Counselor, They’ll maybe or maybe Not help you; Depending what kind of race their are. If your tired of all this, Dont Kill yourself, Just tell them to Transfer you. If you Dare bring a weapon to school, Ima Find you and Smack the Day Lights out of you so you can learn about Not Bringing weapons to school.


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-15 19:04:30

    Millions of children worldwide are bullied every day This book may help "Trust Me" by John Fisher My story is a simple tale about a 49 year old man who goes over to his friend’s house and touched his latest invention and suddenly finds himself in the year 1969. Invisible to everyone around him except for one person. His 11 year old self. He remembers how shy and bullied he was as a child and convinces his younger self to let him navigate him though his rough times. Teaching how to dress, talk and walk. Greatly Improving his relationship with his mother and father.  Then it on to his 4th grade mean teacher. Making small leaps through time, he’s in middle school completely rocking the school with his knowledge of sex, dealing in a positive way with four bullies. PE coaches and their paddles.  In high school, he advises his younger self how to connect with his first crush. Saves his girlfriend and other girls from an evil boy. Though out my book, my character grow more confident and helps more of his classmates.    Several opportunities to laugh and cry. My character returns to a world much nicer and more just http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781615462667 ISBN 978-1-61546-266-7 www.uujohn.webs.com Millions of children worldwide are bullied every day This book may help "Trust Me" by John Fisher My story is a simple tale about a 49 year old man who goes over to his friend’s house and touched his latest invention and suddenly finds himself in the year 1969. Invisible to everyone around him except for one person. His 11 year old self. He remembers how shy and bullied he was as a child and convinces his younger self to let him navigate him though his rough times. Teaching how to dress, talk and walk. Greatly Improving his relationship with his mother and father.  Then it on to his 4th grade mean teacher. Making small leaps through time, he’s in middle school completely rocking the school with his knowledge of sex, dealing in a positive way with four bullies. PE coaches and their paddles.  In high school, he advises his younger self how to connect with his first crush. Saves his girlfriend and other girls from an evil boy. Though out my book, my character grow more confident and helps more of his classmates.    Several opportunities to laugh and cry. My character returns to a world much nicer and more just http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781615462667 ISBN 978-1-61546-266-7 www.uujohn.webs.com Millions of children worldwide are bullied every day This book may help "Trust Me" by John Fisher My story is a simple tale about a 49 year old man who goes over to his friend’s house and touched his latest invention and suddenly finds himself in the year 1969. Invisible to everyone around him except for one person. His 11 year old self. He remembers how shy and bullied he was as a child and convinces his younger self to let him navigate him though his rough times. Teaching how to dress, talk and walk. Greatly Improving his relationship with his mother and father.  Then it on to his 4th grade mean teacher. Making small leaps through time, he’s in middle school completely rocking the school with his knowledge of sex, dealing in a positive way with four bullies. PE coaches and their paddles.  In high school, he advises his younger self how to connect with his first crush. Saves his girlfriend and other girls from an evil boy. Though out my book, my character grow more confident and helps more of his classmates.    Several opportunities to laugh and cry. My character returns to a world much nicer and more just http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781615462667 ISBN 978-1-61546-266-7 www.uujohn.webs.com


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-03 07:47:05

    im a fourteen year old girl that has been bullied science kindergarten and still is i have to deal with it and put up with random people cuming up to to scream at me because i dyied my hair purple or blue and even black and that i waer brightly colored clothes or nothing but black ive got noted shoved into my locker that i try to avoid with all costs that treaten me because im just alittle different but really im just like them my sister does noting to help and neither did my parent my mom is bipoloer and depressep and my dad abused us for the entie time we had to deal with him but my mom got over him when he beat her because she knew he was cheating on him so now their devoiced but now with him gone my home life is still nothing but abuse beacause the kids that ridicule me live at avery house near me so yeah ive never been phsically harmed because i do have some friends that would beat the ares if they layed a finger on me so im safe their but just because they know my name they know everything about me and trust me if attempted to off my self a few times and it not working and probally never will no mater how many pills i take....


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-01 21:54:08

    Anonymous, please please don’t do anything to hurt yourself. Give yourself a reward EVERY SINGLE DAY that you survive these terrible people. It can be just a little thing, like listening to a favorite CD before bedtime, but at least it will be something to look forward to while you are getting through a hard day. Also think about telling your school counselors about the lack of care at home, it might be possible to be placed with relatives while your mom gets help for her mental illnesses. I can only promise you that it gets better as you get older. I am 45 years old now and I live thousands of miles away from the people who bullied me when I was in school. I have had interesting jobs and I have a wonderful 13 year old daughter of my own. Just this week, she stood up to a bully at her school when she caught him bothering another student. I was so proud of her and I know that something you will be able to raise a terrific child with great values too!


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-09 16:33:25

    What does this say about our country that things like this keep happening? Certainly, there is bullying in other areas, but I recently looked at a study which stated that bullying may be worse in the U.S. and that it may not be studied like it has been in at least the U.K. I am saddened by this article. No 11 year old should even be thinking about suicide! Prejudice is probably the reason for a lot of these actions. There is a lot of insecurity about and people want to take out their own anger or frustrations on others, who traditionally have been victimized by society. But its the 21st century and this needs to stop! If the recent suicides of GLBT students don’t let us wake up nothing will!


  • Anonymous, 2010-11-09 13:42:53

    my son was bully last year, nothing was done about it, now he is in middle school the bullying is worse he being call fat and other ofensives names after meetings and try to do something about, the school suspended my kid saying believing in the bullies, iguess what the bully kid hes mother is a teacher in the school wich explain why he gets away with it, i withdraw my son and iam doing home schooling , i have no choice my son was getting very depressed and i was scared i dont want him to end up dead


  • Anonymous, 2011-10-31 17:58:35

    i am not a mother, i am not an older sibling, but i am a 14 year old girl and i am ready to tackle the world against bullying. i see things going on in school that you would not even imagine and i can tell you some sad stories about some of these kids. the bullies have no clue what goes on in these other kids lives to be messing with them. they have no fucking lives and for someone twice the size to be messing with smaller kids gets on my nerves, you cannot see a picture of me because these are just words but stop and read this try to imagine what i look like. 5feet, about 175lbs, long dark brown hair, hazel eyes, funny, but i dont take shit from anyone. im one of the popular kids, i fit in and wear whats stylish, but i dont act like my stuck up friends. i have gotten into tons of fights because i am that one person that does not care what people think of me and really noone should. i stan up for the kids that no one else stands up for and they can’t fight but i certainly can. all the people know me and dont mess with me or the crowd i hang out with but i dont care if i know the person that is getting bullied or not i will stand up for them and when i do see something phyiscally, verbally, or cyberlly, going on I WILL SAY SOMETHING. but lately i havent been seeing so much bullying, i have done my part and i feel good about myself. keep your heads up and just remember this..... "PEOPLE WHO TAKE TIME OUT OF THEIR DAY TO SAY SOMETHING TO YOU, MEANS THAT THEY HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO WITH THEIR LIVES."


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