Bullying | Gay Youth | Iowa | News

Gay Teen Takes His Own Life, And Is The Fifth One To Do So From His High School

AJ Betts

Over the weekend, 16-year-old AJ Betts tragically ended his own life after enduring harassment at the hands of his peers for at least a year and a half. Betts was reportedly outed by his classmates, and made repeat attempts to stand up for himself and others. A memorial service was held for him earlier this morning.

According to Queerty, Betts underwent bullying simply for being "different". In addition to mocking his sexuality, bullies also chose to single him out for having a cleft lip and for being half black. His friend, Noah Lahmann, told KCCI 8 News, “you’re hurting people with words. I lost my best friend because of words." His mother also told reporters that she hopes to keep the spirit of her son's advocacy alive, to ensure that his death is not in vain:

"Several people who are gay or lesbian teens told us that AJ saved them from committing suicide when they were feeling desperate, and I really hope, for AJ's sake, that we can stop it, so that maybe, even if we can save one more life from bullying, that would be a success."

Betts MemorialShe added that prior to this weekend, "we had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I've ever met. Everybody who meets him says that."

As was noted by KCCI and Queerty, Betts is the fifth student from Iowa’s Southeast Polk High School to commit suicide in the last five years. The school's principal told KCCI that he could not comment on the nature or severity of the bullying that drove Betts to take his own life. He has also yet to comment on Southeast Polk's apparent problem with student suicide. The Southeast Polk Community School District has also chosen to remain silent on the issue. 

You can read KCCI's full report and watch the video HERE.

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  1. @ Mateom--the one claiming the "real "identity: please explain the intent of your comment "...at least Betts wasn't an attractive gay teen".

    Posted by: gregorybrown | Jul 29, 2013 4:11:25 PM

  2. Gregory,

    that wasn't the real MATEOM. That's that old hag David Hagatha Hearne--created by Rick. There are some crazy-azz fools on this blog now.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 29, 2013 4:36:55 PM

  3. Thanks, Derrick! I hadn't even noticed that Rick/Jason had returned and was posting under my name again. The only comment from the actual MateoM is the one criticizing Jerry for being dense. The others criticizing the looks of this poor kid and and arguing that five suicides by queer youth isn't related to anti gay bullying is obviously from Rick/Jason, because he's the only person I can think of that has such little humanity that could even post such things. I thought Andy had finally gotten a hold on the trolls, but I guess I was wrong. People like Rick/Jason are the kinds of closeted gay people would happily join in on bullying openly gay teens so long as it allowed themselves to pass as straight.

    Posted by: MateoM | Jul 29, 2013 4:44:03 PM

  4. rather than being a useless tw@twaffle and sayign "the it gets better campaign doens't work!" how about you try this:

    make a video with a specific applicable message. not just sentiments. APPLICABLE actions.

    that way, you give direction to not just gay people, but non-gay people. you give them direction, you give them applicable advice, you give them something to set their sights on that they can work toward.

    but, NO. that's too hard for the sniveling wimps who use the deaths of children to, pathetically, rail against Dan Savage.

    quel freakin' surprise.

    if you cant' get to the towns where these kids live, USE THE WORLDWIDE WEB TO REACH THEM - send messages of support, show them how to make life better NOW for themselves and their friends and family.

    gay youth suicide rates have actually not increased.

    what's changed? for the first time in history, straight people are talking about them.

    we can help our youth by coming out, and opening the doors for them.

    i hope you grown adults who read these threads do just that. OUT yourself. to everyone. EVERYONE.

    you're a grown adult. it's your, OUR, responsibility to open the doors for the next generations.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 29, 2013 4:46:31 PM

  5. Too bad I'm so pathetic that I have the balls to live one day out of the closet. I don't need other people to bully me into being suicidal and closeted; I bully myself more than enough for that. Proof: I feel the need to utilize several usernames to ridicule the tragic loss of a promising queer youth who was emotionally destroyed by his peers just for being himself. The only true self I know is the cowardly, emotional eunuch that has never once stood up for myself. I'm much happier ridiculing others. No, not happier, but it certainly keeps my mind off of how pathetic my own life is.

    Posted by: Rick | Jul 29, 2013 4:50:59 PM

  6. @Christopher King - i encourage you to put a face to your story. make a video on youtube and provide the link here, so we can all share it, and in this video you're going to be making you can give a specific message of just how you were able to get through the daily bullying of being a young kid, either who was openly gay or was targeted as gay, before you were officially out.

    that would be the best thing to do in order to help others. rather than telling them that they're cowards, how about you show yourself as a non-coward, since you're clearly not one by your own admission, and you can show them how to get through the daily bullying so many young kids get.

    so, deal?

    when can we expect to see the video you're making, Christopher King?

    thanks in advance.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 29, 2013 4:54:28 PM

  7. @whomever has taken over doing FakeRick - i approve :D that was spot-on.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 29, 2013 4:55:48 PM

  8. His parents are primarily responsible, but again, clinical depression is very hard to treat.

    Here's a video that demonstrates the issue:


    Posted by: anon | Jul 29, 2013 5:01:55 PM

  9. Little Canadian, you would approve of posting under other people's names. And mocking the death of my father. I didn't ask for him to die while bottoming for well-endowed black youths. I would appreciate it if you stopped ridiculing me for it.

    Posted by: Ratbastard | Jul 29, 2013 5:03:19 PM

  10. HAHAHHA. ok :D

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 29, 2013 5:06:02 PM

  11. The level of trolling of this site, even in serious issues like this, is really disturbing

    Posted by: jjose712 | Jul 29, 2013 5:10:33 PM

  12. Yeah, the trolling has to stop. You'd think the trolls would be easy to spot and ban. Our inability to unite in situations where our youth is literally being killed off by an inhospitable social climate only adds to the despair that underscore stories like this. Can somebody please put a stop to this behavior?

    Posted by: MateoM | Jul 29, 2013 5:20:40 PM

  13. I was bullied as a kid too, but I used that to make myself stronger and more successful thank anyone that went to school with...by far. These kids are coddled by their parents and are made martyrs by the media. Call me more names, but Im right.

    Posted by: Frank | Jul 29, 2013 6:28:08 PM

  14. Gay community is going to be silent about this, instead of gay groups sending troops out to that town...speaking to school officials, having townhall meetings, even opening an office there for a few months and doing sevre outreach work. We have the money to do this but we always fail our LGBT youth!

    Posted by: Latina Hottie | Jul 29, 2013 6:47:07 PM

  15. LOL look at the self hating gays blaming the it gets better campaign as opposed to mother f*cking holding HETERO homophobes responsible. You self hating crowd have your tongues so far up the breeder a hole you can't even come up to see reality. Keeping licking their bum

    Posted by: Martin | Jul 29, 2013 6:49:19 PM

  16. Frank, it's homophobe bigots like you that need to kill yourself not our precious gay youth. Better yet, I pray you get cancer and die a slow, longgg, agonizing death. And people like you usually do. Karma makes sure of that boo boo.

    Posted by: Klien | Jul 29, 2013 6:51:53 PM

  17. @ Frank
    Take a loaded gun, turn it around and pop. Please. Thanks.

    Posted by: USC Trojans Fan | Jul 29, 2013 6:52:16 PM

  18. Guys, Frank is a troll. He posts as UFFDA, Ratbastard, depending on his mental state. Don't feed the trolls.

    Posted by: Junior | Jul 29, 2013 6:53:09 PM

  19. Frank aka David Hearne.....f*ck off!

    Posted by: Latina Martina | Jul 29, 2013 6:55:55 PM

  20. @Frank - it would be wonderful, then, since you're such a strong and empowered openly-gay man who survived adversity, if you would show these young at-risk people just how you got through it.

    you can put your specific message and tell your specific story on video, and post it on youtube, and provide the link here on Towleroad so that we can all help you in sharing it, thus likely helping save some more lives.

    when can we expect you to share this video with all of us?

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Jul 29, 2013 7:18:15 PM

  21. It would be more helpful if the it gets better campaign was on television instead of being relegated to the internet. And yes,all the fake names and arrested development on nthis blog has become most tiring.

    Posted by: greenfuzz | Jul 29, 2013 7:34:18 PM

  22. I don't think that anyone should have to endure the torment that classmates can dish out. At the same time, I can't get all worked up over some kid doing himself in when so many of us put up with all kinds of crap and abuse and never tried suicide, or cutting ourselves, or any of the other self destructive behaviors glorified in after school specials.

    Of course, having parents who weren't idiots, and older siblings who promised a better day made a lot of difference. People who have kids need to realize that their choices as parents have consequences to their kids.

    Posted by: Hagatha | Jul 29, 2013 8:21:18 PM

  23. Thanks authentic Mateom for clarifying that. I am more and more appalled at the things people post in blogs and comment threads. There is deep meanness in the land. Ironic or satirical comments are needed in settings where they are merited but casual insensitivity is becoming the norm.

    Posted by: gregorybrown | Jul 29, 2013 8:23:39 PM

  24. Beware, Little Kiwi is an extension of the trolls he despises when he blatantly poses under their names, he is in fact a diabolical double troll mole. The only one who knows is Andy and he does nothing. Poor Mateom, and all the rest.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jul 29, 2013 9:21:23 PM

  25. Little Kiwi, I did it by having a strong sense of self and having support of good parents. Do you doubt that kids are different today or do you not know any? Do you see these 25yr olds today who've invented the Quarter Life Crisis? Look it up, its a real thing. Parents are raising kids, both straight and gay who don't know how to take care of themselves. Just a fact of life these days and I don't owe you anything else.

    Posted by: Frank | Jul 29, 2013 10:23:23 PM

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