A Northern California community is mourning the death of a 12-year-old boy who committed suicide after being bullied for being the only boy on his school’s cheerleading squad.
Ronin Shimizu of Folsom took his life Wednesday, The Sacramento Bee reports. He was a seventh-grader in a charter school that allowed students to study independently at home much of the time, but before enrolling there, he attended Folsom Middle School, where he was the only boy on the Vista Junior Eagles Cheer Team.
“I heard that people called him gay because he was a cheerleader,” a friend told Sacramento’s CBS affiliate (watch the report below).
Daniel Thigpen, a spokesman for the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, told the Bee there had been several reports of Shimizu being bullied at school, and district officials “looked into each one of them and investigated them fully and took appropriate action for each instance.”
He added, “We don’t know if there was a connection between bullying and his death. But at the end of the day, we want all of our students to be protected from any form of harassment at school.” The school has a comprehensive antibullying program, he said. Under California law, schools must have policies to address incidents of bullying.
Friends of Shimizu told the CBS affiliate that the bullying continued, however, and the youth simply couldn’t endure it anymore. Thigpen told the station, “Any allegations bullying related to this specific incident, we’re certainly reviewing how we responded to those and we’ll use that as an opportunity to always take a look at how we respond to future allegations.” The school district was making grief counseling available to students and staff.
A family friend said Shimizu’s death should make the community acknowledge the serious consequences of bullying. “Hopefully if anything, in a positive way, it will educate people,” Josh Meixner told the TV station.
Anyone struggling with harassment, depression, self-harm, or thoughts of suicide should reach out to support networks like the Trevor Project, which offers a free, confidential 24-hour hotline for LGBT youth. The Trevor Lifeline is available at 1-866-488-7386. Others may want to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.