Thursday, May 21, 2009
Bullying not to blame for suicide?
Yesterday a judge ruled that the suicide of was not a result of bullying.
What are you thoughts concerning this ruling? Was it a matter of the press not having enough facts initially or has the LBGT community been done a major injustice?
From the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Updated: 9:05 p.m. May 20, 2009
Over protests, district review denies boy was bullied
Former Atlanta Councilman Derrick Boazman one of two protesters arrested at press conference
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Eleven-year-old Jaheem Herrera got into one fight, maybe two. He had a dust-up with a friend over a pencil he took without asking. And on the day he killed himself, he got into a disturbance on the bus with another boy that got them both in trouble.
But Jaheem was not repeatedly bullied as his family claims, according to an internal review made public Wednesday by the DeKalb County School System.
Jaheem’s family and supporters immediately denounced the review, shouting “Shame!” as his mother, Masika Bermudez, wept into her hands.
Jaheem hanged himself at home April 16.
Bermudez has insisted he killed himself after being constantly bullied at Dunaire Elementary School in Stone Mountain and that she had complained to school officials several times.
Teachers have disputed those claims. On Wednesday, retired Fulton Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore, brought in to lead the review, said the school’s principal and other witnesses also disputed those claims.
Instead, Moore said, Bermudez indicated in brief conversations that she planned to move her family back to their native St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and that she did not like how children treated each other here.
The review shows a boy dealing with complex emotions and a shifting home life.
And he attended a school with its own troubled dynamics â€” one in three students is chronically homeless; more than two-thirds don’t stay enrolled the whole year; and almost all qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“My conclusion is there is no evidence of bullying at Dunaire,” Moore said. “There is name-calling and teasing, but it is almost always done outside of any adult [being present]. There is a code of silence among the students.”
Moore said the teasing directed at Jaheem came the Monday after Spring Break â€” April 13 â€” when he brought a pink bookbag to school.
Students told him “that’s gay,” Moore said, although several students appeared confused about the word’s meaning. It was a word they used because everyone else did, although they told her their teachers it meant “happy.”
Jaheem got into some physical altercations at school but not repeatedly. The most serious came during the school’s holiday party in December, when he and another boy fought in a restroom. The boy got Jaheem into a “sleeper” hold and he passed out, just as Jaheem’s friend, who was aiming for the other boy, accidently kicked Jaheem in the head.
A staff member found out about that fight in January from other students. Both boys were suspended. Moore said the school’s principal held assemblies that month to reinforce the school’s code of conduct.
Moore said the principal also asked school police to talk to students. Police officers gave a presentation in February.
By most accounts, Jaheem seemed well-liked at school, had a B average in class and loved to draw, dance and do back flips.
He attended four schools in as many years, including stops in Gwinnett County and, last year, at a school on St. Croix.
He enrolled at Dunaire in August. His family had moved to an extended-stay motel within its attendance zone. They moved again in March to an apartment complex in unincorporated Decatur.
The death of his grandmother in October hit Jaheem hard. He also told a police officer during the presentation in February that his uncle had been a gang member and “died right in front of him.”
It is not clear whether school officials followed up on that claim. Moore said during her presentation that she would not discuss some details because of student privacy laws.
More than a dozen family members and supporters came to hear Moore make her presentation. Their reaction was swift and harsh.
The judge’s conclusion “makes her [Moore] a liar,” said Dunaire parent Monique McMiller, who complained that her son was bullied at the school last year and that Moore interviewed him for her report. “To come to a conclusion there’s no bullying, to drag that family underneath like that, is embarrassing.”
Police arrested two men on criminal trespass and obstruction charges: Derrick Boazman, a former Atlanta city councilman, and a man identified as Abdullah Jihad. It was not clear how either man is affiliated with the family.
The family’s lawyer last week filed an intent to sue the school system for “a substantial amount,” alleging negligence by Dunaire school officials.