A 9-year-old Colorado boy took his own life last week after classmates bullied him for coming out as gay.
Jamel Myles had come out to his mother this summer and then told his fourth-grade classmates when school began last week at Denver’s Joe Shoemaker Elementary School, reported KDVR-TV.
“He looked so scared when he told me,” said his mother, Leia Pierce. “He was like, ‘Mom, I’m gay,’ and I thought he was playing, so I looked back because I was driving, and he was all curled up, so scared. And I said, ‘I still love you.’”
“He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce said. “He goes, ‘Can I be honest with you?’” I was like, sure, and he’s like, ‘I know you buy me boy stuff because I’m a boy, but I’d rather dress like a girl.’”
Before Jamel Myles died, he said that students had told him to commit suicide, his mother said.
On Thursday, just four days after Jamel started the fourth grade, police responded to a “medical incident” at his Denver-area home and rushed him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Denver police said Monday in a statement to The Washington Post.
Police said that the medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.
Jamel’s mother told KDVR that she believes that her son killed himself in part because he was bullied at school and now she is on a mission to raise awareness about how damaging it can be to a child’s self-esteem.
“Four days is all it took at school,” she said. “I could just imagine what they said to him. My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I’m just sad he didn’t come to me.”
“I’m so upset that he thought that was his option,” Pierce added.
Pierce said the bullies’ parents should be held accountable for teaching their children to hate LGBTQ people.
“We should have accountability for bullying,” she said. “I think the child should, because the child knows it’s wrong. The child wouldn’t want someone to do it to them. I think the parent should be held because obviously the parents are either teaching them to be like that, or they’re treating them like that.”
When asked whether the district was aware of any bullying, Denver Public Schools spokesman Will Jones said in an email: “Our priority right now is to look at all the concerns raised in this case, to keep all our students safe and to do a fair and thorough review of the facts surrounding this tragic loss.”