Carl Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera had never met but have so much in common. The two boys were both 11 years old, in the sixth grade and were allegedly being bullied in their respective schools by students who continuously called them gay. On April 6, Carl used an extension cord to hang himself in his family home in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ten days later, Jaheem used a belt to do the same thing in Dekalb, Georgia. Our reports on their deaths have garnered a tremendous amount of reactions, but there was one in particular that stood out.
Dionne is the mother of an 11-year-old boy in Ohio. Just a few months ago, she discovered that the constant bullying her son experienced caused him to have suicidal thoughts. Here’s her story on how she fought to save her boy.
I read “A Parent’s Worst Nightmare: The Real Story Behind Carl Walker-Hoover’s Suicide” and it just broke my heart. I was compelled to write a letter because I have a child who went through a similar situation earlier this year. My 11-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD/bipolar since he was 5 years old, was being bullied at his school. One of the students in his sixth-grade class not only called him gay, but told him in vivid details that he was going to rape him. It bothered my son enough to come home and tell me and I immediately contacted the school.
My son has dealt with bullies and name-calling for many years. He told his counselor and another teacher what this student said to him. When I spoke to the principal, he said he would review the footage from the camera in the room and get to the bottom of it. After a week, he contacted me, not in response to that situation, but to tell me that my son poked another child with a pencil. He was sending the matter to the school board and requesting that my son be expelled. I asked about the matter of my son being bullied and the principal said that, unfortunately, on that day, the video recorder wasn’t working and so it was basically my son’s word against the other student.
While awaiting placement for my son into a special learning center, I received a call from the only teacher who seemed to care about him. She told me she was looking at one of his tests where he had written, “I’m dead. That’s what people want and that’s what I should do.” These words brought tears to my eyes. As soon as she told me that, I called his psychiatrist and asked for an emergency appointment.
My problem with bullies is that they will get suspended for a day, but then they come back. Bullying needs to be referred to the school board and classified as a reason for expulsion because these poor children can’t progress when they’re being tormented every day. Where is the compassion for these children? When is someone going to take a stand for them and prove that someone actually cares?
I won’t say that my son is perfect. When he gets agitated, he acts out, but for him that’s a cry for help. Don’t just label him as being bad. The school needs to find out what’s wrong. The worst thing is for a child to feel like no one is listening to them. When I told him what his teacher said to me, he said he wrote that because he felt all alone. I told him that I will do everything in my power to get him whatever help he needs. All I could do is hug him and let him know he has a reason to live.
Now my son attends a new school. Parents have to make sure their voices get heard. I went to the principal and left several messages for the school staff about this incident and they labeled my son a troublemaker. Nothing was done. I implore any parent whose child is being bullied to keep calling the school and harass them like your child is being harassed. Let them know you won’t allow them to get away with doing this to your child.
I’ve written a poem in dedication to any child who is a victim of a bully or who has lost thier life because of one. I hope that my words help them.
Allow me to introduce myself.
I won’t use my name, my sex, or my wealth.
Just know that I am someone’s child.
A person like you, now a person defiled.
My story began on a cold winter’s day.
I woke up happy that day.
I put on my clothes.
I put on my shoes.
I combed my hair, the way I wanted too.
I looked in the mirror, and what did I see?
A beautiful person staring back at me.
I put on my coat, and kissed my parents good-bye.
My day would darken when in school, I’d arrive.
The people who I thought were my friends, would play a big part in a tragic end.
As soon as I walked through the doors, my ears rang from the words and the roars.
In the midst of it all, I managed a smile.
Don’t let them see you cry, I thought for a while.
I laughed and responded positively.
If you don’t like what you see, turn your head, walk away, and stop looking at me.
Instead of fighting, I kept a cool head.
But I hurt more and more from the words that were said.
People I’ve never spoken to, pointed and stared.
What is wrong with me? I thought to myself.
I just want to learn, have friends, be myself. I’ve tried telling my teachers, they said they would listen.
But each time I spoke, my tears seemed to glisten.
It was almost as if the teachers were on their side.
So, I went to the principal, with whom I’d confide.
The principal just smiled and patted my back.
But I knew deep inside he never would check.
For the story I told, has been told by many.
I wish I was invisible, where no one could see me.
My mommy has tried to help where she could.
She stood for me, when no one else would.
But to my mind, I have become a burden.
To my mother, I love you.
To others, I’m worthless.
I’ve only given my very best.
There has to be one thing that I can do right.
I can place the noose around my neck, tight.
And then I’ll kick the chair from beneath me.
I’m feeling no pain.
I’m finally free.
Now that I’ve introduced myself.
Didn’t use my name, my sex, or my wealth.
All that’s important is I was someone’s child.
A person like you, now a person defiled.
No one on my side.
I was a victim of words, but I died with pride.