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 07 2009 12:00 AM ET

Espelage said students need a support person within the school if their complaints are to be taken seriously. With more energy and less naïveté, she said, older students are at a greater risk to become school shooters. But younger students who cannot process their bullying, she said, are more likely to internalize their problems and turn on themselves.

Bermudez and Walker appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday to make the discussion of school bullying national, hoping that what happened to their sons will never happen to another child.

Walker, who has recently appeared on Today and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, said she never asked for this spotlight. But in a recent interview with this magazine, she said she seeks change by any means necessary.

The respective school systems in Springfield, Mass., where Walker-Hoover lived, and DeKalb County have launched internal investigations. DeKalb County district attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming said her department has also started an investigation. Walker has called for a state-level probe of her son's school, aimed at determining exactly what happened, and ways to amplify the implementation of antibullying policies to prevent further tragedy.

Byard said the change doesn't stop at the schoolhouse door.

"Some of us are more focused on policy change in the school context, but it does take all the sectors of the school community to ensure that young people are safe," she said. "It also requires that all the members of the community to live the behavior that they want young people to emulate, and I think that's part of the challenge as well. We need to be part of the solution. At the point when we as adults don't live up to what we're asking young people to do, we've pretty much lost the battle."

Tags: Youth

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