Meet Seth Walsh. On September 19, 2010 Seth, who was 13 years old, hung himself from a tree in his backyard. Seth did not die immediately and was discovered and taken to a hospital where he was placed on life support in critical care.
Seth died 9 days later (Tuesday Sept 28th, 2010).
From the story:
Seth Walsh was an ordinary everyday kid who just wanted to live his life except there were cruel kids around him who won't let him. Why you ask? Walsh was a young gay kid and there were kids that would not stop tormenting him while school officials ignored the problem despite being aware of the bullying.
During the investigation many students acknowledged that Seth Walsh was in distress due to bullying over a long period of time because Walsh was gay. In spite of an anti-bullying program mentioned by school, the school officials didn't interfere to stop the bullying and mental torture of Seth Walsh.
It's ironic that the principal of the Jacobsen Middle School, Susan Ortega, proudly claims that she has a B.A. in Child and Family Crisis. Apparently Seth Walsh was a crisis Ortega did not see.
From a Time Magazine report on his memorial:
Eleven-year-old Shawn Walsh paid a poignant tribute to the brother, just two years older, that he had lost. Gripping a microphone as he stood at the altar of the First Baptist Church in Tehachapi, California, Shawn joshed that his brother could be "a pain in the butt" at times but that Seth was "the best big brother in the world, no, the galaxy." Wearing a yellow plaid shirt, Seth's favorite color, Shawn then, without mentioning the word, made a heartbreaking reference to bullying, the specter at the heart of his family's mourning for his openly gay brother. "I always wanted to protect him," said Shawn, as sobs broke out in the church. "I just wish people could have been nice to him like my Mom taught me."
People were not always nice to 13-year-old Seth Walsh. Neither his valiant younger brother Shawn, nor his family could protect him from what they insist was chronic teasing. Even before Seth came out as a gay, family and friends claim that he was perpetually picked on for his mannerisms and his style of dressing. The bullying turned Seth Walsh to suicide, one of the spate of such deaths across the country in the last two weeks.
On Sept. 19, his single mother Wendy found him unconscious after he tried to hang himself from a tree in his backyard, after another apparent bullying incident. He lingered on life support for more than a week; his death has since shattered emotions in this rural community 120 miles north of Los Angeles.
But even before he came out, he was teased enough that his grandparents say he was home-schooled on two separate occasions. His best friend, Jamie Phillips says that Seth, who told friends he was gay last year, was harassed long before "since it was a rumor that went around, everyone thought he was gay." "He started getting teased by the fourth and fifth grade," says Judy Walsh. "By sixth grade, the kids were starting to get mean. By the seventh grade he was afraid to walk home from school because he was afraid he would get harassed. As he was walking by a classroom a kid yelled out 'Queer.' Stuff like that."...
The bullying took every form. "It was eye to eye, over the telephone, personal, over the internet," says Judy. "He spent a lot of his life frightened." Seth's grandparents say the breaking point came after what they believe was a bullying incident in a local park on Sept. 19. After the incident, at home, Seth appeared to be acting normally. He then showered, and asked to borrow a pen from his mother to write. Then he said he was going to play with the dogs in the back yard. His horrified mother found him later at the tree and fought to save her child even though she suspected it was a futile. "Wendy told me, when she put him on the ground, she knew his soul was gone," says Jim. The medical response teams did their best to revive him, heli-porting Seth to the county's trauma center where he remained on life support before dying Sept. 27.
Wendy Walsh, Seth's mother, made a video in conjunction with the ACLU in which she talks about Seth, and reads his suicide letter. It's pretty painful to watch.
LOS ANGELES – The Seth Walsh Students’ Rights Project — a major new initiative aimed at eliminating bullying and discrimination in California schools -- has been launched by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
The project particularly looks at harassment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students.
The creation of the Seth Walsh project was prompted by the September 2010 suicide of Seth Walsh, 13, an eight-grader at Tehachapi’s Jacobsen Middle School. Since coming out as gay in the sixth grade, Seth was subjected to severe verbal harassment based on his sexual orientation and refusal to conform to traditional gender stereotypes.
From the LA Times:
Federal officials announced Friday a settlement had been reached with a central California school district where a 13-year-old gay student committed suicide after being subjected to persistent harassment from his classmates.UPDATE 7/6/2011:
Seth Walsh, a middle school student in the Tehachapi Unified School District, was said to be the victim of merciless harassment from classmates because most of his friends were girls and he had dressed and acted in an effeminate way, investigators found.
After more than two years of being picked on, he hanged himself from a tree in his backyard in September 2010, ultimately prompting a federal investigation led by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice.
Just days after federal officials found the Tehachapi Unified School District failed to investigate or respond appropriately to the bullying of a gay, 13-year-old middle school student who later hanged himself, his mother filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.
In fact, the findings of the investigation released Friday are the foundation for Wendy Walsh's suit. The suit states that ongoing harassment of her son Seth was common knowledge by school staff, they did little to stop it, and because of the negligence, Seth hanged himself.
Walsh, in a suit filed Tuesday, is seeking compensation for wrongful-death damages, medical expenses and punitive damages.