13-Year-Old Texas Boy Shoots Himself; Suffered ’Relentless’ Anti-Gay Bullying
A 13-year-old boy in Texas has killed himself after suffering 'relentless' bullying at school, according to a Sept. 27 story in local newspaper the Houston Chronicle.
Asher Brown was a straight-A student, the article said, but he came in for harassment at school because of his religion and because he didn't dress the way some of his peers expected he should. Asher's parents told the media that their son was "bullied to death" by schoolmates, and said that the harassment Asher endured even took the form of simulated sex acts forced on the boy in gym class. The bullies, the bereaved parents said, called Asher gay and were "relentless" in their torments, even as Asher's parents attempted on numerous occasions over the last year and a half to get school administrators to intervene.
Asher lived in the area of Cypress, Texas, and attended Hamilton Middle School, which is part of the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, the article said. Asher's torments began two years ago when he began to attend the school, and he sought refuge in the company of other students who were similarly targeted for harassment, the article reported.
Asher's stepfather said that the boy had come out as gay on the morning of Sept. 23, and his parents were supportive of him; but that afternoon, Asher shot and killed himself using his stepfather's gun.
The school denied that Asher's parents sought help for their son, and claimed not to know about the bullying that the boy allegedly suffered at the hands of his classmates. A spokesperson for the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, Kelli Durham, said that Asher's parents had never reported the bullying their son endured or sought help from school officials.
"That's absolutely inaccurate--it's completely false," Asher's mother, Amy Truong, told the media. "I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up." Added Truong, "It's like they're calling us liars."
"My son put a gun to his head because he couldn't take what he was hearing and the constant teasing," stepfather David Truong said, according to a Fox26 news story posted on Sept. 27.
Fox 26 reported that Asher was also bullied at his previous school, prior to attending Hamilton Middle School, where the harassment he endured continued--and got even worse.
Nationally, children as young as 11 have committed suicide in recent years, after having endured relentless bullying at school. The bullying often takes the form of anti-gay taunts and harassment, even when the children being bullied are not gay. Groups such as the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) seek to provide educational materials in order to promote a safe learning environment in the schools, but some schools have policies in place that deny students classroom learning about human sexual diversity.
In two separate incidents in different parts of the country, two youths, both 15 years old, hanged themselves after enduring anti-gay bullying at school. A news anchor at a CBS affiliate WCCO in Anoka, Minnesota, reported on Sept. 13 on the hanging death of 15-year old Justin Aaberg, a student in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, who had come out as gay two years earlier and endured anti-gay harassment at school. The anchor said that there had been "a record number of suicides" in the school district, "mostly among gay students." The article cited a teacher--who commented anonymously for fear of reprisal--who said that he thought three of the students who had killed themselves were struggling with their sexuality.
"I actually thought he had the perfect life," said Aaberg's mother, Tammy Aaberg, who discovered her son's dead body on July 9. "I thought out of anybody I knew that he had the perfect life. But I guess he didn't think so." The article said that Tammy Aaberg had become an advocate of changing the school system's policy on sex ed, which states that, "Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations."
But an unnamed lesbian alumna of the school district addressed the Anoka-Hennepin School Board at an Aug. 23 meeting, telling them that she had not had a family or church that she could turn to as a young gay person. "If you have students feeling like they're isolated, like they have no one to turn to, and then they fill with self-hatred, are we surprised that we're having suicides in the district by GLBT students? Something needs to happen."
Tammy Aaberg also addressed the school board, the report said, having found out from her son's LGBT classmates that he had been bullied at school--and the classmates, also, had endured abuse. The teachers reportedly did nothing to intervene. The news article said that this was due to the sex ed policy, which school staff feared could be used against them if they came to the defense of gay and lesbian students who were being harassed. ""I'm asking you all to rewrite the policy in order to give teachers training in how to be more sensitive to GLBT students," Tammy Aaberg appealed to the school board.
"These kids, they just hate themselves. They literally feel like they want to die. So many kids are telling me this," Tammy Aaberg told the news station.