WA Community Holds Vigil For Gay Teen Who Committed Suicide

It’s getting to the point where we should probably have a template for these stories: Another young teen has taken his life after enduring harassment and physical attacks because of his sexual orientation. This time the victim was Rafael Morelos of Cashmere, WA, who took his own life on January 31.

As Fox 13 in Seattle reports, on Friday some 100 community members gathered at a memorial for  Morelos, who was a target at Cashmere Middle School for being gay.

“They would bully him and cuss him out, and just hated on him all the time,” said friend Jessica Fisk. “They would follow him and try to beat him up and try to hurt him.”

But his mother said she had no idea what he was going through.

“He never told me nothing,” said his mother, Malinda. “He did not tell me he was being bullied. He had a dark side inside him that he never told me his feelings anymore. I thought it was just him being a teenager, and I just didn’t know why.”

Other students claim Morelos was also shoved and punched in the face during gym class. But the harassment didn’t stop at the school door: Students created a fake Facebook account to insult Morelos online.

In the wake of other newsworthy suicides last year—and with more than 15,000 students suspended in Washington State for bullying from 2008-2009—state officials had already ordered schools to strengthen anti-bullying policies, both in school and on the Internet. “The new law makes each school district designate someone to be the primary contact in cases of bullying or harassment,” writes Fox’s Jeff Van Sant.

Clearly those measures were either not enacted yet or were ineffective.

Rob Cline, principal at Cashmere Middle School, told the Wenatchee World that there was no ongoing effort to root out who was harassing Morelos.

He said that Rafael had, earlier in the school year, reported one incidence of being bullied but “we took care of that. We investigated and took appropriate action.”

Cline declined to say what action the district took, or when during the school year Rafael complained to the school about being bullied. “Student discipline is not something I am at liberty to share,” Cline said.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and determined that it was a suicide and there was no foul play involved. “You’re the first one who ever indicated to me that he had been bullied,” said Sheriff Brian Burnett in a phone interview Saturday.

It’s impossible to know exactly what leads someone to commit suicide, and we’re hesitant to point fingers without having all the details. But by several accounts here we have a parent who didn’t know what was bothering her child and a school that seemed indifferent at best.

Can that be anything but a recipe for disaster?

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  • Mike in Asheville

    This is, of course, a sad story, a very sad story.

    So, what is the real story? The mom says “He never told me nothing” and the principal says the school investigated one incidence of reported bullying. (And we all know that incident must have been a real assault as no one goes to their principal over a small spat.)

    This is totally fucked up as policy and form left this kid without the help he sought. Certainly there are situations where it is better to involve the parents and when it would be worse. If both the mother and principal are being honest, then the school did not engage the parents about the bullying. If the victim asked the school to not involve his parents, then the school’s policy needs to include protective services; if the student did not ask to keep his plight from his parents, then school policy to have required parental involvement.

    The kid asked for help; the system completely failed. All the effort in the world to ease the pains of bullying will be for naught if victims respond to the message that help is there only to find that that help does not exist.

    “It Gets Better” is but a start. An important start that has raised awareness such that states and school district are beginning to respond. But support for victims of bullying needs to be in the present not some nebulous future.

  • Price Waterhouse

    And the police say “case closed”, it was suicide and no “foul play”. Yes, yes, there was foul play, and I hope that those vicious kids that started that facebook page will someday realize what they have done.

  • Roger Rabbit

    Not to judge this specific case, but many ethnic groups are highly religious and because of this tend to criticize so strongly against gays and lesbians that these young people feel no hope and dare not tell their families. If his mother was unaware of his being gay, then it is most likely the cause of this lack of knowledge. Studies have shown that states with a higher concentration of conservative values also are much higher in teen suicides.

    And although I’m a white boy from the country, I was raised in a highly religious family and I know that I would have never been able to tell my folks It took me until I was 38 to confront them. Perhaps it is time to focus our attentions on this group.

    My prayers and sympathies go out to this young man and his family and friends.

  • Giovannidude

    What a tragedy. I may be wrong, but I suspect the victim is from a certain ethnic group that has a cultural tradition of machismo, and is therefore in pretty much general denial about The Gay. As in, gay teens have close to zero chance of getting support at home. And trans teens can be murdered by boys from their own ethnic background. At the same time, the leading entertainment figure in this neighboring country to the south is Juan Gabriel, who has never officially come out but is transparently gay and, some would say, a flamer.

  • nik

    this is so sad…
    how can people do stuff like that to someone else? they should effing burn!!
    they’re hurting another person…making his life a living hell…and they do this
    willingly? :S….

    i am from a certain ethnic group myself……incredibly male-dominated..
    men rule everything….men like cars…men doesnt clean…men doesnt talk to any female
    besides a possible girlfriend/wife…..some of the things i’ve grown up with…
    it isnt so extreme that men are violent or anything….just…
    gay is like an ultimate taboo….its not talked about at all….
    i had to grow up…hearing its a disease…..sick disgusting people….chromosome error
    and they would NEVER expect ANY person from THEIR group to be gay..
    so….i dropped the bomb when i was 17….already knew the outcome…
    it spread like gossipp to every family around the country….
    “oh my, have you heard? *my parent’s names*…their son is..GAY”
    there is almost NO support among the adults……and my dad…oh my…the shame!
    he had to tell me how much trouble i’ve put him in…he had to take calls left and right
    to try and “correct the error”
    he asked me to get a girl too ….
    my mom….guess maternal instincts overpowered her views in a way…..she doesnt believe that im gay…but she did actually ask me questions…she told me she didnt want me to have a hard life….and she was livid when it got around…said she would kill anyone who hurt me…its gonna take some time with her…but she’ll come around…

    oh…sorry….eh…teenage vent here? it happens..i guess..

    i know people within my family/group that wouldnt flinch while hurting a gay person..
    to them…its like we’re not people…

  • Cms student

    I go to cashmere middle school and his locker was close to mine and everyday he wud say hi with a smile on his face and surrounded by his friends… People are saying he got puched and beat up! But I had never ever said anything to him or herd anyone say stuff or lay a hand on him! I am friends with most of the guys in 8th grade he was in my gym class and I never heard anyone of those guys say anything about hitting or beating on him I don’t know where this came from cashmere is an amazing place and no one is bulling that bad for this to happen.

  • Tackle

    I’m surprised this thread received so LITTLE traffic. Hardly any show of sympathy. Considering that past bullying victims of the same fate have 40-60 sympathy messages. Which would help and be of some comfort (even if just a little) if family and friends happen to visit this site due to news about their love one being up.

    To the family and friends, my sympathies are with you. And Rafael is in a much better place.

  • Beau Smirh

    I am from the Cashmere Community, I started a petition against the school to increase it’s anti-bullying efforts. The petition can be found here:

    Please make an effort to save the teens in this district from the discrimination that is running rampant throughout it. We cannot sit back and let another suicide happen.

    As for the student who claims that Cashmere is a kind place, it is not. Make no mistake that Rafael was not “happied” into suicide. He was bullied into it. Please sign the petition. One life is ENOUGH!

  • TIan M irvine

    well, sad yes, and shouldnt happen especially in thsi day and age, where almost everything is exceptd and welcome. Why do so many people care if another is gay, I garentee you they do not care if you like men or women…what difference does it make…and to torment someone for it…WOW, rediculous. I dont believe anyone has the right to judge another. but as we all know it happens….telling soemone to burn owever is NOT going to solve a probablem but make it worse, how is that ok? jeez people thats like killing someone because you hate murderers..think about it….I really think cashmere is going down the shit tubes all together, not 1 but 2 kids killing themselves ? come on? send some people in there undercover to watch or even kids to watch to see whats going on, get some talkers and weed those kids that hate on others OUT, their is no excuse for that…its not difficult to fix, its really not….Ill go there and do it myself….kinds need a good firm sense knocked into them sometimes….parents OPEN YOUR EYES and be excepting even if it doesnt fit into your little square box you consider exceptable…its your babies for s*** sake!

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