11-Year Old Commits Suicide Due to Bullying in School

[UPDATE: see also “Another 11-year old Commits Suicide over Bullying” post https://msqueer.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/another-11-year-old-commits-suicide-over-bullying/]

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year old boy attending the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts, committed suicide Monday because of ongoing taunting and bullying endured from his classmates. This boy did not identify himself as Gay, but was taunted by others nevertheless. School officials allegedly refused to do anything after repeated appeals from the boy’s mother.

This insanity has to stop. America has settled on a “safe” prejudice, that of being anti-gay. “That’s so Gay” is a common insult heard as frequently from adults in a bar or at the workplace as it is from children in school. That hundreds of children every day face ridicule, verbal and in many cases physical assault from their peers in what has come to epidemic proportions reveals a cancer that is eating away at the decency of our society. So long as we believe that there is a “safe prejudice” – NO ONE IS SAFE!

April 17th, which would have been Carl’s 12th birthday, is the 13th annual Day of Silence. On this day students across the country will observe a day of silence to emphasize the critical problem of bullying of LGBTQ youth and others in our country’s schools. Cards explaining their observation of silence are available from LGBT organizations locally. For those who cannot take part in the day-long act of silence, you are being asked to wear red to show your support. For more information go to: www.dayofsilence.org.

Here is the complete press release from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network):

Apr 09, 2009
GLSEN Calls on Schools, Nation to Embrace Solutions to Bullying Problem
NEW YORK, April 9, 2009 – An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school. The other three known cases of suicide among middle-school students took place in Chatham, Evanston and Chicago, Ill., in the month of February.
“Our hearts go out to Carl’s mother, Sirdeaner L. Walker, and other members of Carl’s family, as well as to the community suffering from this loss,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “As we mourn yet another tragedy involving bullying at school, we must heed Ms. Walker’s urgent call for real, systemic, effective responses to the endemic problem of bullying and harassment. Especially in this time of societal crisis, adults in schools must be alert to the heightened pressure children face, and take action to create safe learning environments for the students in their care. In order to do that effectively, as this case so tragically illustrates, schools must deal head-on with anti-gay language and behavior.”


Two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1859.html) a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. The top reason was physical appearance.




“As was the case with Carl, you do not have to identify as gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language,” Byard said. “From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers. In many cases, schools and teachers either ignore the behavior or don’t know how to intervene.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2340.html ) of more than 6,000 LGBT students.

In most cases, the harassment is unreported. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (60.8%) who experience harassment or assault never reported the incident to the school. The most common reason given was that they didn’t believe anything would be done to address the situation. Of those who did report the incident, nearly a third (31.1%) said the school staff did nothing in response. While LGBT youth face extreme victimization, bullying in general is also a widespread problem. More than a third of middle and high school students (37%) said that bullying, name-calling or harassment is a somewhat or very serious problem at their school, according to From Teasing to Torment. Bullying is even more severe in middle school. Two-thirds of middle school students (65%) reported being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and only 41% said they felt very safe at school.

Carl’s suicide comes about a year after eighth-grader Lawrence King was shot and killed by a fellow student in a California classroom, allegedly because he was gay.

GLSEN recommends four simple approaches (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/2263.html) schools can take to begin addressing bullying now.

Said Walker in the Springfield Republican: “If anything can come of this, it’s that another child doesn’t have to suffer like this and there can be some justice for some other child. I don’t want any other parent to go through this.”

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit http://www.glsen.org.


A resolution was introduced into the House of Representatives April 2nd. GLSEN press release provides details:










NEW YORK – Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and 33 cosponsors introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (H.Con.Res. 92) to recognize and support GLSEN’s 13th annual National Day of Silence on April 17.

“GLSEN would like to express our gratitude to Representatives Eliot Engel, Tammy Baldwin and the 33 cosponsors who are adding their voice to the hundreds of thousands of students who will take a vow of silence on April 17,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “A week after GLSEN’s lobby day in Washington, D.C., we are already seeing the impact young people can have on our democracy.”

Students will take some form of a vow of silence on April 17 to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from more than 7,500 middle and high schools participated in 2008.

“Sadly, violence and discrimination against LGBT youth is all-too-common in American schools,” said Rep. Engel, who along with Rep. Baldwin introduced a similar resolution last year. “It is a national disgrace that students feel threatened in school simply because of their sexual orientation. As a former public school teacher, I am proud to introduce this resolution. Americans need to know that thousands of children each day go to school deprived of a happy adolescence because of the insensitivity and cruelty shown by some fellow students, teachers, staff and parents.”

Added Rep. Baldwin: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students continue to face pervasive harassment and victimization in schools. As students use their silence to demand safe schools, we in Congress must use our voices to support them.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.

Additionally 60.8% of LGBT students said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and nearly a third (32.7%) said they had missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.

“It is tragic to have any child suffer and what makes this worse is that it is completely preventable,” Bullying and harassment of LGBT students stems from ignorance and can only be repaired with education. By helping other students, teachers, staff and parents understand the plight of LGBT students, we can help these students live a happier childhood and enable them to earn their education free from fear,” Rep. Engel said.


Charles Robbins, Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the nation’s only 24-7 Helpline for LGBTQ Youth issued this statement online and to email subscribers (of which I am one):

April 9, 2009 




In light of the tragic suicide of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Springfield, Massachusetts, which was prompted by anti-gay bullying in his school, The Trevor Project has released the following statement from Charles Robbins, executive director and CEO: 

“We are saddened to learn that another valuable young life was lost this week as the result of a school environment that was not safe, accepting and inclusive of all students. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover during this difficult time. This unfortunate incident serves as further testimony to the necessity for all schools to mandate suicide prevention education programs in order to help young people understand the harmful and potentially life-shattering effects of bullying, discrimination and harassment. The Trevor Project remains at the forefront of providing lifesaving guidance and vital resources to parents and educators, including our Lifeguard School Workshop Program and Trevor Survival Kit – both of which help educators constructively facilitate discussions with students about issues surrounding suicide, gender identity, sexual orientation and the impacts of language and behavior.” 

To learn more about suicide prevention, warning signs and resources, please visit The Trevor Project’s Suicide Resources Web page. 

To make a contribution to The Trevor Project in support of its lifesaving youth suicide prevention programs, please click here. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/donation.aspx

A young You-Tuber, KrisFrom1992,  posted this video and called for others to post video responses in support and solidarity. His plea is simple and impactful. I salute his courage in speaking out.

Another passionate plea came last year, following the murder of 15-year old Lawrence King from talk-show host Larry King.


Lawrence King












©2009 MsQueer.com. All rights reserved. (NOTE: Content of GLSEN press releases remain the sole property of GLSEN and content of Trevor Project’s press releases remain the sole property of The Trevor Project. No copyright infringement intended.)


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11 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Stop bullying now!

  2. I also wrote about this senseless tragedy. I would love to get your feedback.


    • I appreciate you visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. In reviewing your article, I believe that you have covered alot of ground. Your article is both thoughtful and thought provoking.

      I appreciate and respect your perspective with regard to organized religion’s role in definition of male/female roles as well as condemning homosexuality, but at the crux of the issue with young Carl’s suicide is the lack of school intervention to stop the relentless harassment and bullying he experienced daily. In fact, the school suspended Carl for bumping into a girl with his backpack, who then threatened him with physical violence. Carl’s punishement, in addition to the suspension was to have to sit next to this girl for a week. So clearly, not only were school officials turning a blind eye to the abuse Carl was receiving, they were contributing to it.

      This is an issue that transcends race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference or expression. It is not new. When schoosl were first being integrated by legislation, Afro-American students were the target. Today, as when I attended school, almost every kid who could be deemed “different” by their peers – for whatever reason – can suffer harrasment, humiliation, bullying and worse.

      With the election of President Obama, many people have expressed a renewed sense of hope – hope that our nation can truly thrive as the Champion of Equal Rights for ALL people under the law. I especially desire this to apply to our Youth. No child should grow up in fear. All students should be free to explore and express the various aspects of their own beliefs and practices without fear of reprise. ALL students must have the right to attend SAFE schools.

      Bullying and violence in the schools has risen dramatically and it will take a coalition of youth, parents, teachers, administrators, legislators, gay and straight alike, to bring this senseless behavior to a halt.

      Suggest going to http://www.glsen.org site – Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network – to find out how we can work together to help make the schools SAFE for ALL STUDENTS. -MsQ

  3. I was saddened to hear about this young boy, this problem is getting out of hand. I too, have a son that was called gay at school and made fun of. It broke my heart to see my son home crying cause of these kids. I went to the school board and to the school, they made me feel that it was no big deal. I will help due whatever it takes to stop this problem, that these kids should be responsible for their actions.

    • Thank you so much for your sharing! We have to make the school officials and school boards responsive to the issue of bullying in the schools! Have you tried to contact a local GLSEN chapter? (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). This would be a great place for you to start and also to receive support for your and your son’s experience with his school. Visit http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/about/history/index.html

  4. nice, thanks. myself I’ve recently found this book on stopping bullying, handlingbullying.com, reading through it right now. it’s really hands-on

  5. I am doing a thesis on this subject. In my thesis statement I stated, Teen suicide can be reduced by implementing anti-bullying programs in schools. I have been searching for printed articles and would appreciate any help. I believe this is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. I have been trying to find articles in scholarly journals and magazines and have not had a great deal of luck. Can anyone help steer me in the right direction or give me a name of an author on the subject? thank you so much.

    • Thanks for your comment! I am posting it and hope that you will get replies. Also I will get back with you later today or tomorrow with some suggestions for resourses.

      Have you tried GLSEN or PFLAG websites?

      Also, look at some of the links I have on the Gay Teens page – some of those site have reference resources.

      Thanks again, Deb aka MsQueer

    • You may find some helpful information at http://gayteens.about.com/. I also have some other resourses you may find helpful on the Gay Teens Page as well as the LGBTQ Resources page.

  6. The template needs to accommodate text as well as some videos. Any apt ready templates in Joomla?.

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