Last spring Tampa Bay area teen Zachery Gray hanged himself from a rafter in his family’s home because bullies tormented him daily. But though his attackers called him “fag,” “queer” and “Zach Gay,” Gray was straight—and had a girlfriend. His suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but it left him paralyzed and brain damaged, requiring around-the-clock care.
Before he tried killing himself, Gray wrote a suicide note:
“To all my friends and teachers at ZHS… Don’t take my death and spread rumors about me just know you can’t always push someone around. But also please remember me for who i was not what you thought i was.
Love always. Zachery Gray. Class of 2012.”
Gray was a senior at Zephyrhills High in Pasco County but his pleas to teachers and administrators went unanswered:
But according to an investigation the district conducted after the suicide attempt, Gray complained to teacher Brenda Carlson that other students were making comments about him being “heavy” and calling him “Zach Gay” during a field trip to Jacksonville.
Carlson told the school investigators she asked Gray, “If someone calls you a tree, are you a tree? And if someone calls you gay, does that make you gay?”
The teacher never filed a report with the school or contacted Zach’s mother, Sissy Gray, who has filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. “[Carlson’s] job was to come to me, tell me, go to the principal, go to authorities,” said Mrs. Gray. “She did nothing.”
Zachery apparently wasn’t the first student in Pasco County to attempt suicide after being targeted bullies: Just four months prior, Kiefer Allan of Sunlake High shot himself after three boys simulated raping him on a school bus.
The 15-year-old succeed in taking his life.
The Pasco Sheriff’s department says their investigation indicated that Allan, who had a girlfriend, “had been picked on and that everyone assumed he was gay.”
Like Sissy Gray, Allan’s family is outraged that the bullying went unabated—”for many, many months,” according to their attorney—and that their son’s tormenters weren’t punished for their crimes. (Battery charges were eventually dropped by the State’s Attorneys’ Office.)
If you didn’t know any better, you’d say there was no problem at Zephyrhills or Sunlake High: Neither school reported a single instance of bullying last year. Only 28 incidents were reported for the whole district— from 67,000 students at almost 90 different schools.
The Tampa Tribune dug through Florida education records and determined that off all 67 districts, nine reported zero incidents of bullying. The rest? They had numbers in the thousands.
Either they’re fudging the books or those schools have some Children of the Corn enrolled and no one crosses the line.
Source: News Channel 8 Tampa