When I saw this story on the news last night, it absolutely broke my heart. It took be straight back to a time when I was in school and the numerous taunts I heard kids make to others who they believed were gay. Here’s just a paragraph from the story:
Sirdeaner L. Walker found her son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of her Springfield home on Monday night. Walker said Carl, a sixth-grade student at the New Leadership Charter School, had been taunted and threatened by classmates for weeks before he killed himself.
Maybe I’m hypersensitive, but the idea of anyone committing suicide just makes me want to do anything in my power to try and reach out. However, when I hear a pre-teen taking his or her own life, something goes off in my head and makes me wonder if he or she had any traumatic event occur before they decide to take their lives.
The tide of bullying seems to be growing larger and stronger as the years pass.
The National Youth Prevention Resource Center claims “almost 30% of youth in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are estimated to be involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. In a recent national survey of students in grades 6-10, 13% reported bullying others, 11% reported being the target of bullies, and another 6% said that they bullied others and were bullied themselves.”
A study completed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2005 found that “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.” Physical appearance was the top reason.
In 2008, another study done by GLSEN concluded that “nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported 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.”
Anyone with a soul should be shocked that we have children taking their own lives because of the trauma they are facing at school. Sure, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words never hurt.” But, these so-called words are driving youths to take their own lives. And too many of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth are literally decaying on the inside due to the pain and suffering they face each day in the hallways of school. There comes a point where one has to say enough is enough. There has to be a point in which we need to teach our children that it’s never okay to taunt others just because they are different.
There needs to be a point in which we stand up against homophobic threats just like we all stand up against racism and colorism, or sexism and religious bias.
My idealistic mind hopes that this tragedy will serve as a wake-up call for community leaders, parents, teachers and our fellow young people–take a stand and stamp out hate. Our children should not have to carry the burden of feeling alone and depressed in the traditionally-safe setting of an educational institution.
But, my realistic mind believes that this tradegy will go away just as quietly as all the other stories of kids who commit suicide just because we feel it’s okay to remind them they are different.