Jaheem Herrera. Remember his name, as it joins the list of names that already includes Eric Mohat, Lee Simpson, and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover — because like them, 11-year-old Herrera took his own life after facing anti-gay torment in school.
He hung himself. With a fabric belt. His 10-year-old sister Yerralis found him in his room, hanging there.
Students at Dunaire Elementary School, home of the Dolphins in Stone Mountain, Georgia, called Herrera “gay and a snitch,” says his stepfather. Jamheem’s sister, who was in the fifth grade with her brother, witnessed the harassment on several occasions. And her family was aware he was a target for bullying; they just didn’t know how bad it was.
And as if this story couldn’t get any worse, Herrera told school teachers and staff about the harassment. It’s unclear what their response was, and fingers will be pointed. At school administrators. At students. At the parents.
But there is no winner here. We lost another young life because of anti-gay bullying in schools. And yet we still have folks like Tennessee’s State Rep. Stacey Campfield demanding schools not even be allowed to have frank discussions about sexuality. Because as we’ve seen here, repression and ignoring the issue work so well.
With each new life taken too early, the media attention to this issue grows. And soon, if we don’t force schools to address the issue, these little boys will no longer warrant much press coverage, because their numbers will be too many to make any incident. And letting them become a statistic is no way to honor these boys.
Meanwhile, the website of Dunaire Elementary School continues to scroll this message across the homepage: “It is our mission to provide students with an educational program designed to promote individual success and lifelong achievement.”