Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mother Calls for State Probe Following Son’s Death

SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts (Observer Update) - A Springfield woman is calling for the state to investigate a charter school after her 11-year old son hanged himself following months of anti-Gay harassment, reported.

Carl Walker-Hoover was found hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of the family home. His mother, Sirdeaner L. Walker, said that the New Leadership Charter School did nothing to stop the bullying despite her repeated complaints to the school. In an interview with the “Republican” newspaper, Walker said that the grade 6 student suffered taunts and threats from other students who made fun of him, insulted the way he dressed and called him Gay. The 11-year-old did not identify as being Gay.

A vigil for Carl was held at the school, but Walker said no one from the publicly funded school contacted her. The media was barred from the vigil. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said Friday.

Earlier this month, the parents of a Mentor, Ohio, high school student filed a federal lawsuit in connection with their son’s suicide. Mohat, 17, went home from school on March 27, 2007, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. In a federal lawsuit, the parents of Eric Mohat allege that he regularly “was called ‘Gay,’ ‘fag,’ ‘queer’ and ‘homo’ among other names” and that the school did nothing to prevent it. The lawsuit names the school district, administrators Jacqueline A. Hoynes and Joseph Spiccia, and math teacher Thomas M. Horvath. All have declined comment in the case.

“You do not have to identify as Gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers. In many cases, schools and teachers either ignore the behavior or don’t know how to intervene.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half reported being physically harassed and about a quarter reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.

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