This is just so incredibly sad. Via the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN):
An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school. The other three known cases of suicide among middle-school students took place in Chatham, Evanston and Chicago, Ill., in the month of February.
It shouldn’t have to take this person’s death for folks to realize that bullying – specifically, anti-gay and transphobic bullying – is a very real and very serious problem that absolutely must be addressed in schools. GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard says:
“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.”
In 2007, almost 9 out of 10 LGBTQ youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. This should be reason enough for schools to take action, and now.
Our deepest sympathies go out to Carl’s family and friends. If you work in a school, check out GLSEN’s four steps they suggest that schools can take to combat anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.