According to sources, 12-year-old Shimizu loved being on the squad. His classmates at Folsom Middle School in California, however, didn’t approve and teased him relentlessly for it, calling him “gay” and hurling other insults his direction.
The bullying got to be so severe that eventually Shimizu left Folsom Middle School to be home schooled. Then on Wednesday of this week, his parents found their son dead, the victim of an apparent suicide, though police are not releasing any additional details about the death.
Friends say Shimizu had a bright smile and charming personality, but that underneath there was a lot of pain.
“Any time I talked to him it really brightened my day and made me feel better,” a friend said.
“I didn’t see why people would tease him because he was so nice,” a fellow cheerleader added.
“He was always so passionate like he didn’t care what a lot of people said,” Reed told Fox40. “He just kept going on with life. He was always so happy, like the happiest person I’ve ever met.”
Daniel Thigpen, a spokesperson for the Folsom Cordova School District, confirmed that Shimizu’s family did report their son was being bullied on more than one occasion, and the incidents were “handled.”
“Any allegations bullying related to this specific incident, we’re certainly reviewing how we responded to those and we’ll use that as an opportunity to always take a look at how we respond to future allegations,” Thigpen said.
Grief counselors have been made available to help students and staff. The Folsom Cordova School District officials also say they have a comprehensive anti-bullying campaign in place.
“Bullying him because of cheerleading,” 11-year-old Mia Kleinbard said, “it’s not right. It’s what he loves to do and that’s a human right to do that.”