Straight Tampa Teens Attempt Suicide After Enduring Anti-Gay Bullying

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


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  • Matt

    “The 15-year-old succeed in taking his life.” Succeeded. I know it’s early.

    “Like Sissy Gay,” ouch, that typo is a bit rough considering the subject at hand.

  • Jerred

    Ummm, “Sissy Gay”, did I miss something? Please proof read your posts.

  • Sternflammende

    @Matt: Thaaaaaaaat’s an unfortunate typo. Let the flame-war begin.

  • t2

    @Sternflammende: They DO have editors right?

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    Teachers have been given far too much authority to do nothing.

    When my oldest brother was nine years old, he was consistently harassed by his teacher. When he complained, he was ignored. When my oldest sister called the school, her complaints were ignored. Finally my father went to the school, and beat the shit out of the teacher in the parking lot. The harassment stopped.

    Parents when confronted with the fact that teachers, and administrators do nothing to help their kids, need to meed out street justice. If this boys mother had gone to the school and bitch slapped that teacher, something would have been done. Bullying starts at the top, and trickles down. Students do what they see their authority figures doing.

    Cut the head of a dog, the tail stops wagging.

  • Burburrage

    Again, Queerty shows the world how inept they are at simple sentence structure.

  • MikeE

    @Mr. Enemabag Jones: while vengeance may feel momentarily good, the years in court and prison for assault won’t.

    besides, bullying a bully? it never ends.

  • Man de Lay

    Sorry, people, but I was bullied in high school and never even considered offing myself. Not once. You need to understand the difference between someone who’s a victim and someone who has mental issues. A stable person who is harrassed can pull through it. People who kill themselves have mental issue—period.

  • BJohnM

    @Man de Lay: And so that makes it OK to bully the people who wind up committing suicide? Because they had mental issues to start with? WOW! Let me guess, you now work as a school official in Zephyrhills?

  • rev fartwell

    Tampa and the rest of Florida and the rest of the south are all cesspools of vile horrible human beings. This is why I hope a hurricane passes thru tampa when the repubes are there for their hatefilled convention in august

  • Delius

    Kids out there killing themselves…while little Andy Cooper is playing the in the closet game.
    What a waste of human life that “man” is.

  • Miami Heat

    @rev fartwell: Your comment, “Florida and the rest of the south are all cesspools of vile horrible human beings,” is as broad and ill-iformed as saying “All gays are pedophiles.” Methinks you need to reconsider who REALLY is “hatefilled” (which is properly written as “hate-filled,” not that I’d expect you to be smart enough to know that—I suspect you’re too caught up in your own hatred of others to notice your inability to properly communicate an idea. Too bad you’re one of the angry gays and not one of the happy ones—must make for a miserable existence).

  • JDE97

    @Delius: One has nothing to do with the other…

  • Oh, ok

    That teachers response isn’t remotely uncommon. They don’t care and often times will defend the bullies rather than the bullied(especially if those bullies are jocks).

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    I have nothing positive to say about government schools or even other people’s miserable children that kids have to deal with there. This is the the confluence of bad government schools/teachers and,most likely, bad parenting.

    There’s more to the story and some of it is in the linked article. The parents claim they knew NOTHING about any of this until that day. There’s ONE admission of the boy saying something to a teacher, in the investigation, and she’s gone, and that will be dealt with since it’s apparently against local laws. Where has this story BEEN for a year? I can’t find anything.


    The mother claims that very day he hung himself, he wanted to be on some powder puff dress up cheerleader thing and got bullied for it.

    He then pulled a chair out from under a teacher and got suspended (that day) and the mother picked him up and drove him home and went back to work before he hung himself.

    The school told him HE WAS FACING POSSIBLE ARREST AND LAWSUIT. There are allegations that he had problems at home, we’ll see.

    Could the parents be completely in the dark? Yes. But in my experience, the parents are being awfully talkative making that point right now. A year later. Now that he’s 18.The school will be paying some huge settlement in the future, and while they probably deserve to, it’s not helpful if the parents are playing dumb to get it. Like any lawyer would be telling them.

    Call me crazy, but I just don’t picture my str8t kid, gay brother, or any boy, wanting to dress up like a girl cheerleader after an alleged long history of being “put through pure hell” for a long time at a school by being bullied especially being called fat and gay etc….then when the predictable happens he goes home and tries to kill himself. And coincidentally he just so happens to have gotten in trouble and threatened with arrest that day for removing the teacher’s chair out from under her.

    I’m quite sure the mother gave him a royal ear full on the way home in that car and who knows what she even said, did or threatened? I really don’t think he attempted suicide that particular day because he got teased and rejected for the drag cheerleader team.

  • Matt

    Enemabag Jones your dad sounds psycho.

  • Drew

    Jeez I hope he gets better.

    His suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but it left him paralyzed and brain damaged, requiring around-the-clock care.

  • Aussie Col

    @ScaryRussianHeather: You are bullying a paralyzed kid; the other issues are irrelevant to the fact that bullying was part of it.
    Most parents don’t know about the bullying, they don’t speak of it.
    The school is at fault, which you did acknowledge briefly then launched into your treatise about what else could be wrong with this kid, and became an apologist for the bullies implying it was ok because he deserved it for his powder puff cheer leading aim.
    Str8 men often dress up as women for fun; look at any sports club or summer break hi jinks…just check out youtube and FB.
    Kids that are bullied and troubled act out, and I can see how you think pulling out a chair meant that he deserve to attempt suicide because YOU are a really ugly, nasty example of the human race *and I use human race on advice as science says we are all people, I personally doubt it*
    You suck big time. Bullying this poor, troubled boy in a time of most need. You should feel proud.

  • Gene in L.A.

    You people who are more concerned with how Queerty says something than with what they’re saying need desperately to get lives, especially when the topic is as serious as the endangerment of our school kids.

  • Paul F

    @rev fartwell: Gee, thanks. Now I know who’s house my hubbie, cat and I can crash at for the next ten years for free when ours is blown away in the hurricane. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t invite “those People” to come here for their whore fest, oops, convention. (P.S.:Gene in L.A. THANK YOU! I’m so tired of people who act as if the world will cease if a punctuation mark is out of place and ignore what is being SAID because of it.)

  • bamsterprof

    While it seems this teacher was extremely negligent, many teachers are hampered by homophobic and transphobic policies decided by Boards of Education. In schools where teachers can’t intervene because such behavior is viewed as “pro-gay” and “pushing the gay agenda”, oftentimes the most they can do is break up conflicts, remind kids to be “polite”, and move along…… When gay, lesbian, bisexual sexualities can’t be brought into the classroom at all, even in biographical discussion of authors or scientists or mathematicians, for fear that it will send a postive message about non-hetero sex styles and non cis-gendered embodiments, many teachers are gagged and bound by people who are not even in the classroom….. Plus most people do not udnerstand that this “bullying” us SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA, and TRANSPHOBIA – behaviors grounded in privileged approaches to power, yet tinged by obvious fear of difference….

  • Gene in L.A.

    It’s prudent to keep in mind, however much we hate “SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA, and TRANSPHOBIA”, they are not the only reason bullying takes place. We should be more concerned with stopping the activity than worrying about the cause in each case.

  • Alexi3

    @Man de Lay: You’re not serious, right? You pulled through it. Well, bully for you.

  • anther1infl

    OK, I’ve read all the comments and posts from every newsgroup, website both Gay and Straight that I can find regarding Zachary Gray. And I Just cannot stay silent any longer. This makes me SICK! I can say this much Most of you have it ALL WRONG! Why is it everyone is Just assuming this was just a school related problem?
    I cannot for very OBVIOUS reasons post my identity however I will say I have known this family for MANY Years, I have known the entire Gray Family not just Tony, Lynn and Zach. But the entire Family. They are NOT as LGBT friendly or as Innocent as they would like everyone to believe. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have heard with my own ears miss Sissy and her Redneck husband tony use the phrase FAGGOT and QUEER and it wasn’t in protection of anyone. This Family has done things to HURT, Abuse and destroy others in the past for being gay and now they are suddenly acting as though they are friends of the LGBT community. This makes me want to PUKE?! I know just how this family treated others they knew were gay and believe me the things they did to cause HURT pain and suffering to those people was Unforgivable.
    Ask yourself If there was any possibility her son Zach was having any type of doubts as to his sexual orientation Was this a supporting family who was there for him in his time of need? Or were they more likely to say Mean hurtful painful things that just added to Zach’s confusion and pain. I am absolutely certain this poor kid was in fear of his life. NOT from his school mates. But from his own family! The entire Gray family has a LONG history of being EXTREMELY ABSUSIVE Bigoted Homophobic deceitful, hateful and cruel. It goes all the way back to Tony’s parents and grandparents.
    Please do not for one minute allow them to con you or anyone into believing this was caused by school bullying Alone. IT is Much closer to “Home” than anyone is bothering to look at!
    I feel so sorry for Zachary, But this is not the first time this family has done something like this to someone close to them. Maybe there really is a thing called KARMA! And I do not mean this towards Zach; I wish someone had been there for him to protect him against his Biggest Bullies his own family!

  • anther1infl

    Please read my post on this below. You seem to be one of the more enlightened persons here. And you are much closer to the truth than you realize!

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