Anti-Gay Bullying Claims Another: Jaheem Herrera, 11, Kills Himself


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.”

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  • Lee

    Based on your 7 Habits thread, the obvious solution is to raise money to send some of the Sisters to the school and the boy’s funeral.

  • Pete

    It’s not just homophobic bullying, but a lot of it is tied to misogyny. Being “gay” is bad because these little bastards consider it on par with being a “girl.” You’ve got to go after both forms of intolerance and hate.

  • Alexa

    @Pete: Exactly.

    Maybe the assholes so hell bent on preventing us getting married should instead spend their cash on preventing little children from being bullied so much they see no choice but to kill themselves.

  • Geoff

    On our side of the coin, it does make me wonder what local and nat GLBT groups/community centers are doing as far as outreach and preventative measures to address this seeming trend? Yeah I know, probably not much…but this is an opportunity to educate, and prevent. What a sad ending to such a young life.

  • rigs

    @Mark M: you’re sick

  • Amie

    @Geoff: Actually, a number of statewide and national LGBT groups have already passed or introduced policy changes to stem the tide of anti-LGBT bullying.

    California just passed a safe schools measure a few years ago, and Florida & Oregon are working on doing the same. GLSEN has a slew of anti-bullying resources for parents, teachers and students alike. And the National Center for Trans Equality has a guide for gender variance in schools. LGBT orgs are hard at work on this one–and these cases are tragic proof of the necessity of that work.

  • alejandro

    this shit is just fucking sad. it gets me so angry.

  • [email protected]

    Yes, several groups work to try to stop bulling. I would add the Gay American Heroes Foundation … … which 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…it is time we started ACTing UP! 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.

    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, the other KIDS who have blood on their hands.

  • Mickey's mouse :P

    It starts at home…Honestly, parents who support their kids and reassure their children that there’s nothing wrong with them are going to prevent their kids from committing suicide. I’m not saying it’s the parents fault…but It really does start at home. Parents should be educating their children about sexuality, not in the deepest of terms, but enough so they get the gist of it.

    Also schools should be educating parents as well, they are a child’s second home. The schools also have the duty of making sure everyone is treated with respect, now they have a couple of options there. If the parents aren’t going to teach tolerance at home it has to be taught at school. It takes a community to raise a child…and it takes a community to save one.

  • Grace

    “Starts at home”…maybe in the majority of cases, it makes something intolerable tolerable.

    But do you really think kids don’t percieve the split between family life and “real” life? They know the world is different. If they percieve it as scary, yeah, they’ll stay home where it’s safe; but they won’t go out in the world and live their life.

  • Mark M

    @rigs: I AM SICK??? Who the fuck keeps picking the youngest of the young for MG???????

  • Jayson

    I have a feeling a home life of religion coupled with the latin machismo attitude played a role in this. School teasing and bullying was not the only factor (IMO).

  • John from England(used to be just John but there are other John's)


    Urgh, more policies blah, blah fucking BLAH!

    But what about targeting schools effectively or somehow working with the govt education team to make sure that these are implemented!??

    So depressing!

  • Lee

    Any word yet on how much the fund to send the Sisters to the school and the boy’s funeral? Note: in addition to flight, hotel, food, don’t forget the extra cost of supplying mourning black giant bras to put on their heads.

  • sal

    @Mark M: have some respect for this kid,gosh.someone died under unfortunate circumstances and you mock his life ,sad.

  • Bitches, Please

    Children lose their self worth and self-esteem with constant bullying in school and on the streets, even with parental support at home. I agree with Pete that it is a form of mysogyny. But the sad part is that even girls will come down on gay guys and call them sissy, girly, etc. as if to say that it is bad or a weakness to be a girl! Go figure!

  • sal

    @Bitches, Please: omg me too,i so dont get that too

  • Dustin

    @Mark M: Who thinks this is funny? Even if your jab is at Queerty for their mixture of news and eye candy (which even the Huffington Post does these days), how is it at all appropriate to make light of this boy’s death?

  • Dustin

    @John from England(used to be just John but there are other John’s): Sad truth is, having strong policies in place is the floor, not the ceiling, in this fight. Having grown up in Georgia, myself, I can tell you you weren’t going to get most teachers and certainly not a principal to take your bullying claims seriously, especially when they aren’t held accountable to anything on paper.

  • jamie

    I don’t know if I’d even call this a “gay” issue. Christ, the kid was 11 years old. I consider that too young to know one’s sexuality. He was bullied because he was different, and some are afraid of things/people that are different.
    Tragic. Simply tragic.

  • Ralph

    Something about that suicide description reminded me that schools also need to openly educate kids about the dangers of “the choking game” and autoerotic asphyxiation.

  • jim

    Honestly, what’s with the extreme reaction, to bullying, by kids today? Not to blame the victims, but I just don’t GET it. I mean c’mon, I’ll wager that most of us here were subject to at least some of this same shit when we were growing up (in the 60s-70s in my case)–I know I was, and there was MUCH less acceptance of homosexuality, etc, and virtually NO visibility (as in positive role models) of gay people. But suicide, when in GRADE SCHOOL, never even remotely entered our minds! And bear in mind that in the 60s and 70s it wasn’t only fellow students, but teachers, too, who bullied those who were “different”–so “reporting it to a teacher” wasn’t even an option. But we survived, and in a much less-enlightened era. I simply don’t understand the lack of backbone (or whatever) I’m sensing in these poor kids lately.

  • evil4life

    its pretty, people don’t choose to be gay, and no one especially men is ever pleased with them, and its ridiculous that a child has to be tormented like this a such a young age, and the worst part is, is that once it starts it follows you for the rest of your life

  • Katherine

    At 11, I was still playing with Barbies, I was not questioning my sexuality. This has so many connections that it’s unbelievable: society, misogyny, harrassment towards the LGBTQIA community, etc. The list goes on. This, people, is why last Friday was a National Day of Silence, & why this weekend, I’m taking part in something called CTK (Come Together Kentucky) with all of the university & college’s GSAs & Pride Alliances. A weekend of workshops, fun, & hope for a more equal future.

    Administrators should have done something. Students should be punished. Parents should have taken him seriously, & should take this case seriously. This is so, so sad.

  • stopsuicide

    Why is all the money going to marriage?

  • Jessica

    ohh D: thats sooo sad. :[
    i hate racist fuckers!!
    well then.. im pretty much racist against other racist people. :] haa.
    but yeahh thats soo sad.
    well at least he wasnt tortured like the 19 year old -i think- in Texas when he got DRAGGED BEHIND A CAR..
    its just terible these kids… are so mean. i have gay friends and i feel offended when they get called names..
    well if anyone here’s a teen add mee.
    im only 14. :]

  • ERIC


  • Facts

    @jim: DO you have any facts to support this hypothesis that bulling victims dealt with it better back then, or are you just going on what ‘you’ remeber it being like? Maybe things like this wern’t focused on back then in “much less-enlightened era”? Facts, not personal memories and perception should be relied on when trying to judge id kids these day just “lack backbone”. Seriously, nothing is that simple. My condolences go to the family.

  • Debbie

    What’s the point of making this assumption? The fact are that he *was* bullied and that it definitely played a role in his suicide.
    You are making some pretty stupid assumptions as well. How can you know for sure they were Catholics or that they abide by Latino stereotypes? Many Latino families are pretty much Americanized and share the same ideas of the culture in the US at large.

    These kind of stupid comments only detract from the real issue at hand, namely that bullying needs to be seriously addressed in this country.

  • Shannon

    Just to let everyone know there is an anti-bully rally on May 9th at 2pm in Dekalb county. I am a mom and law student and I was so enraged when I heard how this little boy was treated I hit the roof and offered to help any way I can. Please spread the word. These hateful little shits can and should be kicked out of school. They are of no contribution to society anyway, and they just robbed everyone of the joy of knowing Jaheem. The can be re-instated as students when they learn how to act.

  • laylay

    I knew Jaheem and it is just so sad to see him go.I was one of his class mates at Dunaire Elementary.I say this from my heart that I luv Jaheem whether he is gone or not.Its just so sad.Also for his family,I luv yall to and I want yall to always keep him in ur heart because he is loooking down smiling at u.

  • Violet

    When I was 11/12 I was also bullied at school in a similar way…people would call me “lezzie.” I was pretty much ostracized for 2-3 years at school and I was quite miserable, but I never told anyone.

    I recall a number of girls being singled out as lesbians, although I, and I expect many of the others, had never been involved in any form of sexual relationship. The sad fact is that calling someone gay is seen as an insult in our country regardless of whether or not someone is actually gay.

    Especially when you are going through puberty, being called gay is just confusing–you’re only barely becoming aware of yourself as a sexual being anyway. Also, you may not personally think of it as an insult, but it is clear that others are indeed trying to insult you, so you feel hurt. Definitely homophobia is at the root of this kind of bullying, but also these bullies would find something to call their prey even if they did not resort to homophobic comments. The problem is even deeper than that…in the end, cruel/unhappy/sick people find any excuse they can to treat others badly.

  • ???

    The one who was doing that to him deserves death – not Jaheem.

  • Karen

    The kids who do that are a few sons of a fucking bitch.
    I’m so angry gosh

  • khalil

    it was like that for me people call me gay and i said stick and stone will broken my bone but word will never hurt me

  • HotlantaBama

    @Jayson: I doubt the part about latin machismo. The school he went to was predominantly black. I think it had more to with this kids not accepting of people different from them and how strong homophobia is in the black community.

  • r.i.p.jaheem

    awwwwwwww that is sooo sad and that little boy is cute :[ im 11 and i was crying

  • jessica

    thats so sad thas wat happen to me ppl called me a lesbian and a bitch and i realy wanna hang myself R.I.P jaheem much love

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