Gay California 13-Year-Old Dies--Youth Hanged Himself After ’Years’ of Bullying
A 13-year-old boy who attempted suicide by hanging succumbed on Sept. 27 after nine days in intensive care. The boy, Seth Walsh, lived in Tehachapi, Calif., and had endured "years" of bullying by schoolmates, reported local news channel KGET the following day.
The article reported that Seth was harassed even on Sept. 19, the day he hanged himself in his back yard. Police said that after investigating the boy’s suicide attempt, they determined that no criminal charges would be brought. "Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears," the town’s police chief, Jeff Kermode, told the news channel. "They had never expected an outcome such as this." Seth attended Jacobsen Middle School. Tehachapi lies 35 miles east of Bakersfield, and has a population of about 10,000.
The article said that, according to his friends, Seth had been targeted for bullying and harassment because he was gay. They also told the news channel that the school’s staff and administration had not intervened on behalf of the boy.
As Seth lay in the hospital, a relative created a YouTube video with messages of support. "Seth Walsh," text read, "the best person ever." Other messages read, "He’s my bestest buddy," and "Stay positive and pray he will up and running around soon!"
"Don’t ever bully again," text on the video implored viewers.
Following his death, Seth’s grandmother told the media, "He passed away in a natural death. He is in the process of being an organ donor," reported Tehachapi News.com on Sept. 28. "He was different. He knew he was different," Seth’s grandmother added. "He was a very loving boy, very kind. He had a beautiful smile. He liked fashion, his friends, talking on the phone. He was artistic and very bright."
The article said that a memorial was planned for Oct. 1.
An earlier article, posted at the site on Sept. 24, said that Seth’s family called for calm. "A negative action... by adults and children... will not solve or help anyone!" the family’s statement read. "Violence is not the answer. Please everyone, be kind and love one another!"
The boy’s death was one more in a grim succession of GLBT youths--and straight youths harassed for being gay even though they were not--ending their own lives rather than continuing to endure torment. Even as Seth lay in intensive care, a Texas boy named Asher Brown, also 13, shot and killed himself on Sept. 23, using his stepfather’s gun.
Asher Brown was a straight-A student, but he came in for harassment at school because he was gay, because of his religion, and because he didn’t dress the way some of his peers expected he should, reported the Houston Chronicle on Sept. 27. 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, 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.
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.
Two Anoka-Hennepin School District teachers were accused last year of tag-teaming a student whom they harassed, insinuating that he was gay and embarrassing him in front of his classmates. The student, who was not gay, eventually transferred to another district and brought suit against Anoka-Hennepin. The district settled with him for $25,000. The teachers in the case were placed on leave, and remain on leave currently.