Gay Teen Is Fifth Suicide In Five Years At Iowa High School

aj-bettsA memorial service is being held this morning for the fifth suicide in as many years at Pleasant Hill, Iowa’s Southeast Polk High School. 16-year-old AJ Betts stood up for other gay kids, but after being outed himself, he suffered harassment from his peers for being “different.” He took his own life over the weekend.

“You’re hurting people with words. I lost my best friend because of words,” Noah Lahmann lamented to KCCI News. According to Lahmann and AJ’s other friends, AJ was constantly ridiculed not only for being gay but for having a cleft lip and being half black. “He’s different. He doesn’t add up to what they’re used to,” added Lahmann.

AJ’s mother, Sheryl Moore, had no idea of the torment her son was put through as he was always “the happiest kid I’ve ever met.” As her son’s friends paid their respects, Moore learned to a degree how bad things were for him.

“About a year and a half ago, AJ was outed as gay at SE Polk High School,” Moore said. “Everyone got a long with my son very well until they found out he was gay.” Sadly, AJ did not benefit from the support he provided to others and the harassment became too much for him to bear.

“Several people who are gay or lesbian teens told us that AJ saved them from committing suicide when they were feeling desperate,” said Moore, who wishes to see her son’s life not lost in vain. “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.”

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  • Derek Williams

    Now the trailer-trash bullies are out partying, high-fiving each other at having ‘rolled another fag’.

    At some point, surely, thugs terrorizing youngsters like this have to come before the law.

  • balehead

    There are also a lot of straight suicides at this school too…whats up???

  • Derek Williams

    @balehead: Straight people can be just as much victims of homophobic bullying, especially if they don’t fit the ‘jock’ stereotype of a male, or the ‘femme’ stereotype of a female. That’s why many anti-discrimination statutes refer to “actual or perceived homosexual orientation”.

  • Deepdow

    Fuck Hollywood and fuck politics. Fuck the church too.

    Thanks you three for making it swell on Earth for the Gays.

  • Polaro

    Bullying can be devastating to teens. They are emotionally fragile, even if they don’t look or act it. Greater acceptance leads to more kids coming out at younger ages. This leaves them open to more bullying if the schools and parents are not paying close attention. This new found love of gay people is a two-edged sword. It makes us a little complacent when the war for acceptance is far from over.

  • fagburn

    Be interesting to hear if anyone has done any research on how the It Gets Better campaign – though well-meaning – has fetishised suicide for gay teens.

  • Ogre Magi

    @fagburn: Why do you think it has?

  • Polaro

    @fagburn: I don’t think “fetishised” is the right way to look at it. I think it tells kids the world is rosy when it still has thorns. Kids may come out, but not understand that some kids, being unbridled assholes, will try to make their lives miserable for it, even if others are supporting. Oddly, many people crave the approval of people they do not know far more than they do the approval of those who love them. I don’t understand why, but they do.

  • fagburn

    @Ogre Magi: One example, gay kids who have posted It Gets Better videos then killed themselves.

  • gaym50ish

    I predict that we will hear the usual response, and I am so tired of reading that school districts are “taking steps to combat bullying,” or the community is “addressing the problem of teen suicides.” These are statements designed to make us feel better, not to call people to action. The public’s attention usually lasts for a few weeks and then it’s back to business as usual. It’s the same pattern, over and over.

    When push comes to shove, the resources offered by the gay community are almost always rejected because parents don’t want their children “indoctrinated” by gays. Focus on the Family even has a program called “True Tolerance” that is anything but tolerant. It purports to teach parents “how to protect your schools from the gay agenda,” advocating that they monitor anti-bullying programs to make sure they don’t acknowledge there are gay kids who are victims. The underlying objective, of course, is to deny Focus on the Family’s own culpability. Its leaders would like you to think the organization is deeply concerned about bullying without admitting that its anti-gay messages contribute to the abuse.

    This is an excerpt from Focus on the Family’s “True Tolerance” message to parents: “Our nation’s K-12 public schools are coming under increasing amounts of political pressure from national homosexual-advocacy groups. This pressure often comes in the form of demands to create a ‘safe environment’ for gay and lesbian students. Schools are told that if they do not ban ‘homophobic’ and ‘anti-LGBT’ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) messages — as well as include positive statements about homosexuality in their policies, curriculum, books and during special events like the Day of Silence — they will face legal liability.”

    By insisting that there is some insidious “gay agenda” at work in the schools, anti-gay groups are literally putting children’s lives at risk. Gay kids are under attack not only from their classmates but from the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Institute, American Vision, the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), the Traditional Values Coalition, and other groups too numerous to name — not to mention all the churches that teach American families to fear and oppress homosexuals. They provide ammunition to the bullies.

  • dre23222

    Many years ago when I was school, things were so different. Yes you had people who called you names but you knew how to stand up to them even if it means getting kicked out of school. You let know people know that you are not going to bring me down because I will go down fighting for my rights before I cave into your monster acts. I wish the parents of these tormenters step and let these kids know, its not right to do this to children. Another thing is that most of these kids parents are so young they encourage it because they are stupid and ignorant just like the tormenters.

  • Fitz

    I wish he had held on. HS is a rough time for a lot of people.
    Impulse control is so iffy at that age. The article doesn’t say how he did it,
    which I think is important if there were things the adults in his life
    could have done to limit access.

  • scotshot

    @dre23222: I gotta ask, where did you go to high school? Sesame Street?
    I graduated high school in 1972 and never saw that attitude work when I came up. You kept your head low and tried to stay invisible or you got the shit beat out of you. Things are a bit different today, but not really that much.

  • CycloneKelly

    I went to SEP when the suicides began. The 1st was actually my next-door neighbor, who was beautiful, very smart, and popular. The next 2 were popular and good-looking as well. I was unpopular at SEP due to my weight and shyness. I was bullied constantly. I considered suicide multiple times during
    Jr. High and early high school. I got help from a counselor once, but the harrassment started up again just days later. I wish bullies had a shred of empathy for others, to realize what daily bullying does to someone. It makes me understand why people commit suicide. SEP is such a huge school that it’s easy to be lost in a sea of students. The can’t control the amount of students in the new school already, and it will only get worse. The number of former SEP student/former students suicides is probably 10-15 in the last 5 years.

  • nrmamnn

    As being the cousin of this boy, I must say a lot of people don’t understand the meaning of this. He obviously didn’t feel comfortable. In this day in age more people are accepting to people who are gay. The kids who bullied themselves don’t feel comfortable being themselves so they bullied the person who came out to everyone, and who pointed out who he was and what he was. There is no shame for that. At this age men and women are coming out of the closet and truly are gay or lesbian. Some of you old folks who believe “gay” or “lesbian” is not right are really wrong. God made us who we are and no one should be judged by little high schoolers who go around and sleep with the opposite sex because they think it’s right. This man knew who he was and knew what he liked. Which is what I can say is called maturity. Most his classmates were probably sleeping around with everyone to see what they liked, or did not like. He knew what he wanted from the get go. I am christian, and I do believe this is how God wanted it to be. No one can judge you but God, and I tell you what, this man is in heaven. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, black, white, Mexican, trans, chinese, or etc. God has a place for you. It’s time for everyone to grow up.

  • transiteer

    This is what happens when the country is full of hate. And the hate is fueled by phoney religious ‘leaders’. Bully the Bullies, and put them where they belong.

  • Billysees


    “Bullying can be devastating to teens. They are emotionally fragile…”

    “This new found love of gay people is a two-edged sword.”

    Good comment.


    “I wish he had held on…Impulse control is so iffy at that age…”

    All very good comments.

Comments are closed.