I could hardly believe what I was seeing when I read the headline of a CBS News article last night: “9-year-old Denver boy dies by suicide after being bullied at school, mother says“. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. Bullying and cruel words penetrated the soul of another child too young to fully understand the consequences of his actions, once again.
My first thought after reading that headline was, “How does a nine-year-old even know how to commit suicide?” I promise you I’m not being naive when I say that at nine, my two older children would not have even known where to start…and I’ve got internet filters that would alert me if they searched for it. I suppose he could have learned from a peer…because by Jamel Myles’ mom, Leia Pierce, says he was the victim of bullying at school, and that his peers told him to kill himself. And after just four days in the fourth grade, he did.
Pierce says that over the summer, her son Jamel told her that he was gay. “(H)e looked so scared when he told me. He was like, ‘Mom I’m gay.’ And I thought he was playing, so I looked back because I was driving, and he was all curled up, so scared. And I said, I still love you,” Pierce told news station KDVR.
She also says he told her he wanted to start dressing more like a girl, and that he wanted to tell his fourth grade classmates at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School “He went to school and said he was going tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce said.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I think it’s fair to say that a bunch of nine and ten year olds are not mature enough to handle that information. If I were Pierce, I would have told him that he was too young to discuss sexuality with his peers. But that’s water under the bridge, and she is certainly not responsible for how others treated her son.
The bullying started as soon as Jamel outed himself to classmates
Jamel did tell his classmates that he was gay, and taunts and bullying ensued. Four days later, his mother found him dead.
“Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him,” Pierce said. “My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I’m just sad he didn’t come to me.”
In another emotional interview, she told the Denver Post, “My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself. He didn’t deserve this. He wanted to make everybody happy even when he wasn’t. I want him back so bad.”
Schools need a zero tolerance bullying policy
My heart breaks for this mom, and for this child, it truly does. The Denver Post reports that the elementary school has grief and crisis counselors available to students and has opened up a room for parents to come in and talk about the tragedy. I can only hope that some good comes of this in terms of how parents encourage their children to treat others with kindness no matter what, and that both the school and its parents will adapt a zero tolerance policy for bullying.
Pierce, the grieving mother, says she thinks parents should be held accountable if their child is bullying another. “We should have accountability for bullying … I think the parent should be held [responsible] because obviously the parents are either teaching them to be like that, or they’re treating them like that.”
Jamel Myles was a child made in the image of God…and I truly mourn his loss. Please moms and dads, teach your children to treat others as they would want to be treated, no exceptions, no matter what. We are the first roadblock to bullying, the first step in saving young lives.