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Another 11-Year-Old Commits Suicide: Anti-Gay Taunts Cited

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Apr 21, 2009
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The April 6 suicide of an 11 year old boy who suffered ant-gay taunts and bullying at school marked the fourth such incident this year in which a student killed himself after suffering harassment.

Now the number has grown to five with the hanging death of Jeheem Herrera, according to an April 21 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Herrera,a fifth grader, reportedly endured harassment and bullying at school despite Georgia law meant to prohibit it.

Moreover, schools in DeKalb, where Herrera’s family resides, specifically forbids bullying (including "cyber-bullying" via the Internet), with strict penalties in place for infractions.

But that wasn’t enough to prevent Herrera’s suffering and suicide, reported the article, which cited the boy’s family as saying that Herrera had endured "relentless" bullying at Dunaire Elementary School.

A school spokesperson was quoted as saying that anti-bullying laws and policies did not constitute "a vaccine" against such harassment.

Jennifer Errion added that such laws exist in the context of "a society that is often misguided. We’ve created the idea that bullying is a rite of passage, and I don’t think it is."

Herrera reportedly hung himself with a belt after returning home from school on April 16. His younger sister discovered the body, the article said.

According to Herrera’s stepfather, kids at school "called him gay and a snitch. All the time they’d call him this."

Herrera’s mother told the media that when she asked her son’s friend about the bullying Herrera reportedly endured, "He said, ’Yes ma’am. He told me that he’s tired of everybody always messing with him in school.’"

The friend added, "’He is tired of telling the teachers and the staff, and they never do anything about the problems. So, the only way out is by killing himself.’"

Herrera’s death took place the day before this year’s "Day of Silence," which, as reported at EDGE was, in some places, dedicated to the memory of another 11-year-old suicide victim.

Herrera’s death follows the April 6 hanging death of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Springfield, Massachusetts, who suffered anti-gay taunts at school despite his mother’s reported "weekly" attempts to get the school’s administration to intervene.

"Some students are holding the day this year in memory of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old from Springfield, Mass., who took his life April 6 after enduring constant bullying at school, including anti-LGBT attacks," a news release from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) read.

"Carl, who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on the Day of Silence," noted the release from GLSEN, which is a national advocate of safe schools and GLBT youth.

The April 17 edition of The New York Times took note of the rash of suicides among middle and elementary schoolers, in a column by Judith Warner titled, "Dude, You’ve Got Problems."

Wrote Warner, "Being called a ’fag,’ you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.

"Words like ’fag’ and ’gay’ are now among the most potent and feared weapons in the school bully’s arsenal.

"It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity--by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature."

Moreover, noted the EDGE article, "[A]s study after study has shown, a good deal of gay bashing comes from personal gay panic," or a fear by the individual attacking those perceived to be gay that he might be gay himself.

The EDGE article also referenced a YouTube video in which a 12-year-old claims to be an "ex-gay," or a person who has experienced same-sex attraction but "overcome" such attraction and "converted" to heterosexuality.

That young boy, the story said, had himself been harassed, with tormentors inviting him to kill himself.

The article also noted that a normal part of human sexual development includes a period of same-sex attraction--even for those who grow up to find themselves included by natural inclination in the heterosexual majority.

Such "gay panic" makes it hard to put relevant legislation and school policies into place in a timely manner. Even with such laws and policies in place, the question of enforcement is never a certainty.

To add to the confusion, there are some religious and conservative groups that appear to implicitly condone, if not approve of, anti-gay bullying in schools. In some states where anti-bullying legislation has been deliberated, anti-gay groups have objected on the grounds that law against attacking GLBT students might "promote" a homosexual "lifestyle."

Even the Day of Silence, in which GLBT youth and their straight allies observe a day without speaking at school to symbolize the lack of voice of gay students, has come under attack recently from conservative and religious parents who threatened to keep their children home on April 17 rather than allowing them to attend school on a day when some of their classmates might stay quiet in protest of anti-gay bullying.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2009-04-22 17:37:56

    IF YOU OR YOUR CHILDREN ARE CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING BULLYING please contact us. We are Emmy-award winning filmmakers currently in pre-production on a major documentary film about bullying. We can be reached bullyproject@verizon.net.


  • Anonymous, 2009-04-30 08:23:51

    Here is the real life story of 8 year old girl Helia Anthus has a problem. She is different. She is bullied by most of the other kids in the neighborhood. But when her only friend loans her a book, she learns that being different can also mean being special. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK-nqV8BOC8


  • Anonymous, 2009-05-17 12:52:31

    America...shame on you!


  • Jewell Loving, 2009-05-25 15:36:00

    I have an 11 year old daughter who was hospitalized because she threatned to kill herself at school because she was being picked on constantly, and now even though its only a week left of school I am a little weary of sending her back to school.


  • Anonymous, 2009-05-28 20:44:03

    i agree america SHAME ON YOU !!!! these are kids !that are doing this because they think its funny or just joking around. i blame there parents i think because the way they act is based on there parents actions.... No child should be bullied or THREATENED!!! EVER .... i know iam not a expert but if any child you know or children that you know are being bullied let them know that its a thing everyone goes through an if it gets worst to tell an adult.... i send love an support an strength to the family an familes who lost there kids!!! but to let parents an kids know BULLYING AN THREATENING IS NOTHIN TO KIDD ABOUT!!!!


  • Anonymous, 2009-09-07 18:06:09

    Joking around is something that all kids do, but these kids were bullied to the point where it is no longer harmless fun!!! I agree that the parents are to blame. We as a society have come to the point where we look inward and not outward. We don’t consider other peoples feelings any onger and this attitude is affecting the way our kids act. My heart goes out to the parents of these kids, because this is something that should never happen to children, especially not at school where the focus should be on education and not judging other people for not being like you. Our children need to be taught this, now more than ever.


  • Anonymous, 2009-10-20 22:18:16

    I have an 11 year old son who is in trouble all the time for running his mouth and disrespect. But it seems to have come to this over being bullied by so many at school and in the neighborhood. When i told him to just tell, the assistant principal informed me the he too was being a bully. When I asked how:because she explained that by always telling is a form of being a bully. He is called gay;ugly,fat and other names all the time. Many of the kids even say things about me(mom) and others. He is in the 6th grade and has been dealing with since kindergarten. He is not fat,gay or ugly. However; this is consuming his day to day life.Younger, older and his own age, getting beat up along with the name calling. In the end:the school suspends him for acting out and disrespect and they never catch the other ones. And also because they say if 1 or 2 kids-maybe bullied.But it’s a lot of kids(they stick together).I do not know what to do any longer.Losing hope and scared that what i read of others bullied and what step they have taken. And one day feel this could be my son.


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-05 14:38:22

    i blame the teachers...america is a wonderful place but the teachers NEVER get involved, the just say walk away and ignore them. that doesn’t work i have thought of doing it myself and the whole reason is because that i am alive is that because i love someone deeply. I am only 12 years old.


  • Anonymous, 2009-11-22 17:55:36

    i also believe that it is th teachers faught they just tell you to le it go and dont let it bother you but that does not work.people say thet words dont hurt but there wrong words do hurt. i am 12 years old and i have also been a victom of bullyin. i have never thought about killin myself but i do imagine that it could get to the point to where someone would want to kill themself. i just wanted to say that if there are any kids reading this dont listen to what teachers say about bullyin. dont go to the teachers just tell your parents you will have more luck with them than you will with teachers. i also wanted to say that if there are any kids who do bully kids that it is not nice and that worlds do hurt


  • Anonymous, 2010-02-25 00:51:29

    My daughter was being bullied and I took her out the district. Its so not fair to be bulllied. I blame parents for allowing their kids to act out in such a way and some teachers are also to blame cause I’m sure some see it and turn there heads.


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-14 18:00:18

    I have a 11 year old who is being bullied and call racial names. And on yesterday she cried telling me that she is tired of it. I blame the teacher because they know whats going on and also for the far most I blame the administrive staff because they knew what was going on because it was brought to there attention several time. Lord forbid if something happen to my daughter. I would not be able to take. God bless this child dfamily and may ihis soul rest in peace. Lord please take those bullying and let there livesbe hell.


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-20 11:42:51

    i get bullied for being small all the time,im 13 and in first year in ireland,but at least the shool HELP me,there a g.councilors,class prefects who tell teachers for you 6th years (18 yr olds) everybodyy!


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-21 09:44:15

    OMG... WHERE DO I START? Well, first I would like to say that my child has been designated a talented and gifted child from his school yet... he has been labeled dumn, stupid, fat, and now the Principal wants him removed. He was jumped and his face scratched from top to bottom (photos horrific to say it loosely), he been karate chopped, clothes torn, pushed down, stumped on and insultant, harassed, called a girl (by Teachers and he’s not gay), retaliated against, hit, puched, yelled at, screamed at by Principals and yet... no one helps. I’ve gone to the Board of Education, Superintendent, etc. NO ONE HELPS... THIS IS THE NORM STORY... NO ONE HELPS UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE... MY CHILD cries all the time and has developed this nervous condition from the bullying... if someone can help, please do.


  • Anonymous, 2010-04-21 09:47:00

    The last email... I’m tired but I won’t stop protecting my child. We must not let our children become statistics.... if I stop... he will be. Help me, help you protect our children. No more Statistics.


  • Anonymous, 2010-05-19 10:07:58

    My son was bullied by two students at the private school he attended. After numerous emails and calls to the staff at the school and getting the "boys will be boys" or the staff would respond with "you mean so and so’s son, meaning the family of the bullies were kids of wealthy and popular parents, so I must be mistaken, I enrolled my son in a self defense class-he was so passive and I felt he needed some assertiveness training. Well, he beat both of the bullies up and of course my son was told he was going to get suspended from school. My son’s enraged and armed with all the emails I sent, dared them to suspend my son and he did not get suspended and he gained respect and fear from those two bullies.


  • Anonymous, 2010-08-01 00:29:16

    I am a 12 yaer old girl sometimes I get bullied nd I think about hurting my self but I just say if I kill myself its not like my problems can just go away by killing myself it just makes it worst so if your my age and you feel like you want to leave this earth think about it first think about all the people who will miss u inclouding the people who are bullying u


  • Anonymous, 2010-09-14 22:47:43

    I went through bullying all through my school years. It was a terrible and emotionally and mentally crippling. I didn’t know how to tell anyone. Finally in the 7th grade I told the staff and they said they couldn’t do anything about it. I thought about taking a gun to school but knew that was the wrong thing to do. This was back in the 70’s - fortunately for me and the school I didn’t take the gun to school. My life however was and is ruined. It will take intervention and self - defense classes for students who are bullied to stand up to these bullies or there will end up being a number of columbine type events. Then they will think that they had better do something about the bullies or end up with dead students


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-04 08:42:15

    Hello, my name is Joseph but i go by Angel...I am gay, when I heard this story i did cry....is there any way i could in contact with the parent or at least know a lil about this boy....im into music and like to create music....I just thought i make a song for this boy.....


  • Anonymous, 2012-02-18 09:33:55

    This anti-gay public speech especially by politicians and "religious" leaders is behind this. While this country does believe in free speech, it should not apply to speech that has been shown to directly place people in danger. At this point, the danger has been shown, the speech needs to be silenced. It’s the same as yelling fire in a theater (in the absence of a fire).


  • Anonymous, 2013-04-06 11:23:38

    Hello, my name is Jack.. We need to do something about this issue... We all are loosing love ones because of this.. enough is enough.. how many more suicides will it take to put a stop to this... We need to stop bullying!!!! my heart and prayers go out to Jamey Rodemeyer’s family, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover family and all the other families who lost loves ones that were bullyed.. R.I.P


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