After the recent suicide of David Hernandez, a 16-year-old junior in Long Island, New York, questions are being asked if his sexuality—and bullying he received because of it—was a factor in his taking his life.
Hernandez was discovered dead in home on September 29. According to the East Hampton Press, “Rumors that he had been bullied at school for being gay have been circulating on the internet, but they have not been confirmed [and] his family declined to comment this week through a friend of the family.”
Hernandez had attended meetings of the East Hampton High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, including one just days before his death. East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns said his department will “continue our thorough evaluation of this sad and complex situation,” but has refused to discuss allegations of homophobia or bullying.
David Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth Network, said his organization was working to create a community center in South Fork where LGBT ?students and their families and friends would feel safe. He explained that its often rougher outside of school, especially for members of the area’s Hispanic immigrant community, which make up 40% of the school district. “They don’t have the support system outside of school… In churches, which is often an important part of the Latino culture and of their family life, there is not a lot of good things said about gay people and little or no standing on the side of equality.”
According to Kilmnick, the East Hampton School District is further along than most as when it comes to reaching out to LGBT students: It was the first in the region to have a GSA in a middle school and has been eager to adopt policies enforcing tolerance and respect. “I know some are quick to blame the school district here,” he said “but East Hampton is certainly one of the more progressive ones in addressing these issues and in preventative work.”
Hernandez’s death is still under investigation, but with both his parents and administrators seemingly disinclined to address his sexuality, it’s not clear if we’ll ever have an answer as to why he took his life. But, as Kilmnick say, “regardless of whether David was gay or not, he should have had a place he could have seen as a lifesaver.”