Atlanta | Bullying | Deaths | News

Another 11-Year-Old Commits Suicide Over Anti-Gay Bullying

The recent 'bullycide' deaths of Eric Mohat and Carl Walker-Hoover certainly weren't the first, and won't likely be the last, but I didn't expect to read this story about Jaheem Herrera, which is similar in almost every aspect to Walker-Hoover's, just one week later.

Jaheem And like Walker-Hoover's, it includes a school tone-deaf to a mother's concerns, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

"On Thursday afternoon, after returning home from Dunaire Elementary School, Jaheem quietly went into his room and hanged himself. His 10-year-old sister, Yerralis, also a fifth-grader, discovered Jaheem’s dead body. 'His sister was screaming, ‘Get him down, get him down,’' said Norman Keene, who helped raise Jaheem since the boy was two years old. When Keene got to the room, he saw Yerralis holding her brother, trying to remove the pressure of the noose her brother had fashioned with a fabric belt. Jaheem was bullied relentlessly, his family said. Keene said the family knew the boy was a target, but until his death they didn’t understand the scope. 'We’d ask him, ‘Jaheem, what’s wrong with you?’' Keene recalled. 'He’d never tell us.' He didn’t want his sister to tell, either. She witnessed much of the bullying, and many times rose to her brother’s defense, Keene said. 'They called him gay and a snitch,' his stepfather said. 'All the time they’d call him this.' In an interview with WSB-TV, the boy’s mother, Masika Bermudez, also said her son was being bullied at school. She said she had complained to the school. She said she asked him about the bullying Thursday when he came home from school and he denied it. She sent him to his room to calm down. It was the last time she would see him alive."

Watch the heartbreaking news report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Family says bullying led boy, 11, to hang himself [atlanta journal constitution]

Clip via Pam's House Blend)

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  1. My God, this has got to be stopped. Parents and other caregivers have got to take their responsibilities seriously to demand that schools stop the bullying. What can we as a community do? We must also rise to the challenge. Start by letting our families know that we are gay and will not tolerate this abuse of our younger selves any longer.

    Posted by: rudy | Apr 21, 2009 8:59:13 AM

  2. I don't really like the term "bullycide". "-cide" comes from the Latin for "killer" (think suicide, genocide, and germicide), and so bullycide always makes me think of someone taking revenge on bullies.

    Posted by: Brian | Apr 21, 2009 9:06:53 AM

  3. These constant stories are bringing out my darker side and want me to go viligiante and bully the bully.

    Being bullied with gay taunts? Call us! We have plenty of big strong powerful gays and lesbians who would be happy to teach your bully what a fag really can do. Trust us they will not be able to hurt you anymore.

    Okay got that out of my system. But something has to be done.

    Posted by: kujhawker | Apr 21, 2009 9:14:10 AM

  4. When I was getting shit in my Catholic School when I was in 5th grade, mind you this was back in '70, I insisted my parents take me out and transfer me. Thank God they did. I'm not saying the answer is to run, but put the child in a safer place.

    Very sad.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Apr 21, 2009 9:35:02 AM

  5. What a beautiful boy. What a sad world. Solomon once said that it is better in life to cry than to laugh--this is why. I am crying now on my morning train.

    Posted by: lodenmuse | Apr 21, 2009 10:14:36 AM

  6. I guess gay and other civil rights organizations are going to have to bring law suits against school districts (whatever the appropriate legal justification can be--civil/negligence). Of course, not every parent is going to be cooperative with a gay organizations help, but in the last three tragedies, the parents seemed to welcome "gay help".

    That "don't snitch" bullshit must be incredible powerful with these younger generations. He killed himself rather than identifying the prepubescent savages that were torturing him.

    And some teachers are homophobic jerks also....(sorry, I got bad memories too)

    No child should feel that kind of pressure and isolation.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Apr 21, 2009 10:16:30 AM

  7. We need to start asking the Obama family to come out against bullying. A video with the whole family including the girls would go a long way toward setting a new tone. Make bullying uncool. This should become a top priority of the LGBT community. I went to HRC's website but couldn't find anything on it there. Is there some channel where we can focus our energies?

    Posted by: pete | Apr 21, 2009 10:16:48 AM

  8. I would hope this might rekindle the discussion of an lgbt safe school in Chicago. I'm not saying the ultimate answer is isolation, but at least it would temper the bullying and give kids a sense of belonging...I hope.

    There are so many other factors...teaching kids how to talk out their problems instead of bottling them up...teaching parents that sometimes sending your kid to his room to calm down should be replaced with sitting down and having a serious talk. Kids need to feel that they can come to their parents and talk about anything...even something embarrassing, like being called a fag. Of course, the ultimate improvement needed is for it not to be embarrassing to be called gay or a fag, but rather for it to be an embarrassment for the one who uses such terms.

    We must demand not simply rights for ourselves as adults--like equal marriage and employment and tax laws--but also rights for our little sisters and brothers who will follow us. Lots of brave men and women did that for us in the 60s, 70s and 80s...and now it's our turn.

    Write your congressman and the White House, sure--but more importantly--CALL YOUR SCHOOL BOARD REPRESENTATIVE. Talk the counselors or principals in your local schools. Get involved in your local school council if you have those in your area. You don't have to be a parent to be involved, you're a taxpayer and a concerned citizen. In other words, direct your anger and sadness beyond this important forum into action. Accountability in the schools isn't just about grades--it's about safety and fairness, and we have a right to demand it for our kids and our neighbors' kids, gay and straight.

    Do it for Eric and Carl and that the dying stops here.

    Posted by: notshychirev | Apr 21, 2009 10:25:01 AM

  9. Isn't this the sort of thing GLSEN should be addressing instead of having gay proms? I'm all for positive affirmations, but let's stop people from committing suicide and educate against bullies first.

    Posted by: Ben | Apr 21, 2009 11:15:03 AM

  10. I mean the following as an honest question and not as an attack, Andy, so I regret if it comes off that way -- but how can you post this story as the very second story of the day and then the very next story is about Miss USA? I don't mean it like, "You're an awful person, how dare you, you're so insensitive!" But how are you able to just move on so early in the day? I know you posted about Eric, and Carl just yesterday, but you posted those a little later, and after you had posted some less devastating news. If I read this news first thing in the morning I think I would just get in a funk and keep searching for any other related news or updates. I wouldn't be able to get off. But I guess that's why I'm not a blogger. Actually, it helps me that you move on and I can post other things. Maybe that's part of it. Like I said, I mean no insult.

    Posted by: K | Apr 21, 2009 11:23:19 AM

  11. As a spacefaring civilization bragging about our technologies we fail to see that our intellect is dead in the water. Religion and media are to blame...

    Posted by: Walter | Apr 21, 2009 12:29:00 PM

  12. I'm sick of this. I just sent a note to the President asking him to somehow address this issue. Something needs to be done.

    Posted by: Joseph | Apr 21, 2009 12:29:27 PM

  13. Let's all raise money to send the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Livestock Jesus to comfort his family and open the minds and hearts of his cruel classmates and the community.

    Posted by: Leland Frances | Apr 21, 2009 12:36:24 PM

  14. I just can't take this stuff anymore. We can't get simple laws passed in all 50 states that says it's not okay to bully someone for being gay, or perceived that way. The bigotry is astonishing and just so sad. I don't understand how so many people could be so filled with hatred.

    This poor kid. These poor kids. For shame! These schools can't be allowed to do nothing anymore. This would never go on for religious or racial persecution. It can't be continually ignored when kids are targeted for being gay.

    Posted by: Ryan | Apr 21, 2009 12:46:05 PM

  15. The bizarre thing is that there have been successful lawsuits. The first involved Wisconsin's Jamie Nabozny who was spit on, mock-raped, urinated on, called a "fag' by A TEACHER, kicked so hard in the stomach by other students he required surgery, attempted suicide several times, and eventually dropped out of high school. As far back as middle school, his parents were told by his principal that "boys will be boys," and if Nabozny "was going to be so openly gay, that he had to expect this kind of stuff to happen." The suit was 13-years ago and resulted in the school system having to pay $900,000. Read that again. It was thought that such a huge settlement would cause other schools to become more proactive out of fear of the same cost if not morality.

    As for GLSEN, they DO a great deal to fight school harrassment, including publishing semi-annual studies documenting the ongoing practice, training teachers, and sponsoring annual "No Name Calling" programs for younger students and similar programs for older ones. In L.A., they take kids to the Simon Wiesenthal Holocaust Center.

    The most recent group, Gay American Heroes Foundation … … educates about the ultimate extension: hate crimes. If there is anything worse than murdering someone they think is gay or trans, it's their getting us to kill ourselves.

    However, in addition to supporting these ongoing education programs, the same is true about this issue as every other LGBT issue: the old methods AREN'T WORKING well enough Lawrence King was killed in a school that had anti-harassment policies. The child who killed himself a couple of weeks ago did, too.

    After the fact tears, candles and teddy bears, and "if I'd only done more" recriminations do NOT prevent the next death. It is time we started ACTing UP!

    GLSEN, HRC, et al., should be calling for a mass action at one of these schools and SHUT IT DOWN FOR A DAY! Publicly call out by name the specific teachers, administrators, and the other KIDS who have blood on their hands.

    If funerals and financial penalities won't change them, the blood won't stop flowing until we make it stop.

    Posted by: | Apr 21, 2009 12:57:28 PM

  16. Want to do something? Donate to

    They are focused on this very issue.

    Posted by: David R. | Apr 21, 2009 1:00:52 PM

  17. It would be nice to see some of these openly gay elected officials/and supposedly gay friendly officials throughout the country actually WRITE and ENACT some "safe schools" legislation similar to what Sheila Kuehl's(AB537)did in California a few years ago. Where are the school boards? Where is the Victory Fund? How many 11 year olds have to kill themselves before Americans care? Sad.

    Posted by: SFshawn | Apr 21, 2009 1:02:03 PM

  18. You can also join a PFLAG Speakers Bureau in your area. We do out to schools and talk about our lives to put a positive, proud face to "gay". Direct interaction goes a long, long, way.

    Posted by: David R. | Apr 21, 2009 1:02:45 PM

  19. We "go out to schools"; of course, we do out to schools too ;-)

    Posted by: David R. | Apr 21, 2009 1:03:47 PM

  20. Book this guy and bring him to your school. Great speaker to schools, colleges and universities. Greg Baird

    Erase Hate!

    Posted by: Greg | Apr 21, 2009 1:56:06 PM

  21. I went to a Jesuit High School in upstate NY, all boys school. Bullying was a huge problem for a lot of kids. My best friend, Nathaniel Vanni, took his own life on Feb. 2, 1995. When it was announced during home room, everyone made fun of him. Calling him a faggot. No one said any thing. I begged my parents to transfer me to a boarding school. I never looked back. I have seen a few of these tools later in life, still haven't changed. This needs to stop, but as long as fathers pat their sons on the back for being good old straight boys, it won't.

    Posted by: CJ | Apr 21, 2009 3:03:48 PM

  22. i was born and raised in a small town of 7,500 people, and i had an older brother who was big for his age. so, i didn't suffer much bullying. still, my heart bleeds for the little boys and girls who have taken their lives after the torture and death by a thousand cuts.

    short of suing the school districts for negligence and careless indifference, or what ever legalese a civil rights lawyer can conjure, i don't know what action one can take other than beating the school administrators and teachers into a pulp. but, that would make us bullies.

    i agree with BRIAN. thinking further along that line, what about patricide, matricide, and infanticide? bullycide is a misnomer in this context. if we were to be getting rid of bullies, then that term would work. unfortunately, that is not the case.

    Posted by: nic | Apr 21, 2009 5:43:03 PM

  23. You don't have to be gay to be called gay. I work at a middle school, and the insult of choice among students is "gay." I probably lecture on it twice a day, every day.

    Maybe if we could get it through people's heads that it's not "just" the gays dying? Does it have to be their straight-but-bullied grandson who dies before they see this hate harms us all?

    Posted by: KD | Apr 21, 2009 9:40:36 PM

  24. This is exactly why kids need to be taught being gay is ok from the youngest ages possible. Fuck the bigots who scream it is against their religion. I was bullied all the time growing up and this kind of stuff just really pisses me off. Why are people so hateful toward each other?

    Posted by: Jason Young | Apr 22, 2009 6:40:32 AM

  25. I was searching for something else on google when the link to this story came up. I've never been so shocked and moved by a website. The photo of Jaheem hit me so hard at first because it looks just like I did at that age. Difficult enough as it was to be mixed racially 25 years ago at that age, the whole idea of being gay didn't bother me until all the other a-holes in the projects where I lived began to point it out. I was relentlessly teased the same way. It made me want to slaughter everyone including myself, and i almost did many times. I almost succeeded a few times but thank god I didn't. The story just brought back memories I'd hoped were thoroughly repressed.

    It did make me want to get out and away from it all. I did. It breaks my heart to know there are so many beautiful people who don't. My heart goes out to them.

    Posted by: Beau | Apr 24, 2009 11:23:18 AM

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