Sunday, April 26, 2009


The recent suicides of two boys have us looking for someone to blame - we don't need to look far.

As reported:
Two 11-year-old boys took their own lives this month. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover of Massachusetts and Jaheem Herrera of Georgia both committed suicide by hanging themselves after enduring unbearable anti-gay bullying at their respective schools. They join an alarmingly growing list of students who have ended their lives, desperate to escape the torture of relentless homophobic attacks. School officials failed to address the bullying despite Walker-Hoover and Herrera’s parents’ repeated attempts to raise their concerns.
In both cases, the boys' mothers and many others hold school administrators and faculty accountable. David Mattingly of AC360 asks,
How could a child be forced to such an extreme act in such a short time?

It’s not like he was suffering in silence. Jaheem told his mother about the verbal abuse — and one physical assault. His mother says she complained multiple times to school officials. And this is a school system that experts say had a progressive anti-bullying policy.

Jaheem’s complaints should have been taken seriously and adults in the school should have intervened. Did they?

And he refuses the pro forma response - we want to reassure the community that this is an important concern ... we care about the well-being of all of our students ... we are committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment for them to learn ... we will continue to reinforce our policies/programs to address behaviors that are unacceptable - given by school officials.

I’m sorry, but this is not enough.

An 11 year-old child who should have been preoccupied with things like Wii and comic books found his life so miserable and meaningless that he ended it. Where was this “safe and nurturing environment” when he needed it? This is not a failure of a system or a program, this is a catastrophe.

I agree that schools failed Carl, Jaheem, Eric Mohat, Lawrence King and way too many other kids who looked, spoke and acted "different." And there lies the real problem. Our children need to learn that there is nothing wrong with being so. That there is nothing wrong with being gay or transgender.

But how will they learn this when day in and day out, they hear words and witness actions of adults that condemn homosexuality as simply wrong? If society, especially its moral arbiters, curbs homophobia and attendant bigotry fear and hate, then not only will words like "fag" and "homo" lose their fangs, they will not be gleefully employed by children.

We don't need to look far for someone to blame for the suicides of Carl and Jaheem. We are all complicit.

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