Another Child Lost to Bullying

Despite pleas to an apathetic school administration, 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera took his life last month when he couldn't take the homophobic bullying anymore. Now his mother is fighting to prevent this from happening yet again.

BY William McGuinness

May 06 2009 11:00 PM ET

Dorothy Espelage, a bullying expert and a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois, said bullying has not increased in prevalence over the years, but the context has become more homophobic in nature. She added the increased focus on standardized test scores as a result of No Child Left Behind has drained schools of psychosocial resources, making the emotional well-being of students a lower priority.

Griggs said bullying is not the same as when he was in school.

"There was name-calling, maybe a couple of fights," he said. "Now you have people attacked in restrooms -- threats, weapons -- and the schools are sticking their heads in the sand. Now we're seeing the community stand up and say, 'Look, if you're not going to do anything, then we will. We're going to sit in the schools. We're going to go to the state legislature, and we're going to demand them to change the laws. We're going to put the spotlight on them because our kids do not need to live in an environment of terrorism when they're just trying to learn. ... It's a systemic problem that is not only here in Georgia, but in Ohio, Springfield, Mass., and Texas -- they need to look at this on the federal level."

Herrera's family said the issue is related not only to homosexuality. At 11, boys are too concerned being boys, they said.

Griggs said Herrera grew despondent when his mother's complaints were not properly received and depressed when classmates called him a "snitch" for telling his mother. He added that when Bermudez came home with no good news after complaining, Herrera didn't want to burden her further, and he had faced the bullying alone since December.

Tags: Youth

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