Gay Utah Teen’s Suicide Leaves Parents Questioning School’s Conduct

david-phanOn Thursday, November 29, David Phan was suspended from Bennion Junior High in Taylorsville, Utah. But, when his mother, Phuong Tran arrived at the school to pick up her son, she was not given a reason for his suspension.

Rather, the principal said, they would “discuss it Tuesday.”

From what Tran understood, another student had made a complaint against her son and, when David’s backpack was searched, a condom was found.

She took him home and, after being reassured he was all right, went back to work.

But around 3pm the same day, 14-year-old David Phan shot himself in front of shocked peers on a pedestrian bridge leading to Bennion’s campus.

David’s mother would later find a note in David’s room: “I had a great life but I must leave.”

An avid outdoorsman who worked at local gun shows, practiced at the firing range and wanted to serve in the Army, David came out to his older brother and other family members a year ago. Then, about three months ago, he came out to his mother and, finally, his father, Nhuan Phan, who hugged David and assured him he loved him and wanted him to be safe.

The day before he took his own life, David received a singing telegram from another student. Though he laughed along with his classmates, his cousin reveals that he was indeed mortified.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, David’s parents and relatives described him as being a boy who was “well-loved with a strong family support system, but who could not deal with the bullying and the burden of being a gay Asian student in a school they believe did not support him.”

Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley released a statement shortly after the suicide describing David as having “significant personal challenges on multiple fronts” and that counselors had been in regular contact with him regarding “other issues in his personal life.”

Horsley added that David had never reported any incidents of bullying.

The teen’s parents, however, didn’t know that David was being counseled: “We have a right to know as parents,” said Nhuan Phan. “Nobody told us anything.”

Horsley clarified to the Salt Lake Tribune that David had been seeing a guidance counselor, not a mental-health specialist, and in those instances the school notifies the family “when needed.”

John Mejia, the legal director for ACLU Utah, wrote a letter on behalf of the Phan family to superintendent Martin Bates, calling Horsley’s statements “extremely inappropriate” and urging the district to cease from releasing any further information about the Phan family.

In an effort to learn more, David’s family has enlisted the help of Steven Ha, an Asian community activist with ties to both the Vietnamese and LGBT communities. Ha said he will introduce the Phan family to local gay activists and assemble a group to address several issues, primarily suicide prevention for gay ethnic youth.

“We’re not interested in suing but working with credible sources,” Ha said. “That’s how we want David to be remembered.”

Those interested in helping can email him at [email protected].


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  • Cam

    “”District spokesperson Ben Horsley released a statement shortly after David’s suicide describing David as having “significant personal challenges on multiple fronts” and that counselors had been in “close regular contact” with him regarding “other issues in his personal life.” Horsley added that David had never reported any incidents of bullying.””


    The typical Mormon passive aggressive attack/response. They make a false claim that there was something wrong with the person and it’s a warning shot out to the family that if they complain they will start releasing supposedly embarrassing or shameful information. The problem is, when the parents aren’t stupid and go to a group like the ACLU that tactic falls apart, they’ve already backtracked and now are only claiming he was seeing a Guidance counselor.

    And as for the school claiming that he wasn’t bullied or never reported it….thats funny since it seems like every student that the newspaper spoke to seemed to know the kid was being bullied.



    Here we go again!! Mormon church, is a mental illness like all Christians are. The fucking Catholics, and all other fucking Christian church.

  • rand503

    THey should keep the threat of a lawsuit out there. That’s the only thing that gives them leverage.

  • hyhybt

    I still don’t understand why he was suspended…. nor, for that matter, can I think of a legitimate reason any school would refuse to tell a parent the reason for a suspension in whatever level of detail they want, immediately, unless either the circumstances indicate the parent could be a danger to the child (in which case they’d be unlikely to send him home to them) or they need time to cook up an excuse.

  • Spike

    Utah = Mormon = Hate State

    Poor kid never had a chance and you can guarantee no one at the school sees this boys actions acceptable as it removed a problem/gay student from their school.

  • Dez

    We all know it’ll never happen (or until after we fight long and hard enough) but cases like THIS are exactly why when middle school kids learn sex-ed, they need to learn about homosexuality, bisexuality and the whole spectrum of sexuality instead of just what reproductive organs people have and only about sex between men and women. It’s this lack of education that leads to gays not only feeling ostracized but actually BEING ostracized. If people/kids were just educated, they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on when bullying gay kids.

  • Randal Oulton

    Whoa, can we back up a second here…

    How does a 14 year old *have access* to a gun?

  • deanpierce

    So many factors here….some already mentioned. Another area that concerns me is that guidance had been seeing him…guidance folks are normally NOT mental health specialists. They deal with academics, course offerings, meeting graduation requirements. This incident…the mass shooting last week…all reflections of the general disenfranchisement that is becoming more pervasive in our society, no matter what religion, ethnic, lifestyle issues are involved….

  • NovaNardis

    @KARUADAM: Christianity is a mental illness?

    Well to take a completely unrelated story and use it for your own aims.

  • hyhybt

    @NovaNardis: You expect better from someone who, in another thread, said to kill all Russians?

  • wombat

    @Randal Oulton:

    The article already says this ..

    “An avid outdoorsman who worked at local gun shows, practiced at the firing range and wanted to serve in the Army”

    I would presume that he was a member of the local gun club or similar organisation

  • mlbumiller

    @Randal Oulton:Did we read the same artical? He was discribed as an outdoorsmen and worked at gun shows. He had plenty of access. You should look at the gun laws in Utah.

  • 2eo

    @Cam: Indeed, no different to the releases the catholic church do in relation to when one of the thousands of paedophiles they protect and condone is caught out.

    The aggressiveness in this is striking though, it’s almost completely overt. I know the mormon church is quite powerful among the lunatic fringe but the language is very forthright even for the mental cases. They’d never get away with it over here.

  • hephaestion

    This makes me FURIOUS!! He had a supportive family but they couldn’t protect him from his goddamn anti-gay SCHOOL!!!!!

  • Charles175

    I understand and respect the parent’s wishes not to sue. But it is silence on the issue of how Mormons deal with homosexuality that will cause this boy and others like him to die in vain if there is no lawsuit. Utah has by far the highest suicide rates of young gays in the country. This $%*t has to stop!

  • Bob LaBlah

    I hope the family reconsiders and does sue. The Mormon Church has more money,billionaires and near billionaires than any other church in the west. They should pay for thier arrogance.
    By doing so it might cause a debate of reality amongst the school board members that the time has come to teach sex education as though they TOO are in the twenty-first century and not still in the nineteenth, which is EXACTLY where Mitt Romney’s line of thinking was and still is.
    These people and their arrogance (along with their idiotic beliefs such as blacks were once a tribe of whites who offended god and HE turned thier hair coarse, made their lips, buttocks and…..Well you get the picture I’m sure)are a threat to the entire population of Utah.
    I means seriously, imagine well over HALF of the population of a state believing in such garbage and sending their kids away to “religious reeducation CAMPS”? Cant do it? Well kiddies, that IS what devout Mormons with money do. Make’em pay out of their religious asses.

  • Peter

    My condolences. I hope his family gets the counseling they need so they can heal from this tragedy.

  • Tallgay

    NovaNardis you are right to question if Christianity is a mental illness: it isn’t. it is a superstition.
    It is the people who follow it who are mentally ill. They produce statements like the one discussed above, that this poor kid had something wrong with him. It isn’t the system, is it, according to these representtives. Christianity really is the root of evil in American society.

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