Last week Asher Brown was in the eight grade, but he'll never make it to the ninth. He shot himself in the head last week, seeking what he thought was his only refuge from the endless taunts and bullying he endured in school.
In school. Where he should have been learning, and laughing and playing and growing.
Not any more.
And all because of the daily harassment he suffered at the hands of four students at Hamilton Middle School in Houston.
His family says Asher was "bullied to death" because he was a small kid, because of his religion, because he didn't wear the cool clothes, and because people assumed he was gay. His mother and stepfather, David and Amy Truong, say the bullying went as far as other students "performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class."
Asher Brown's parents said that they had complained time and again, over the course of eighteen months, to school officials about their son's abuse, but that nothing was ever done. Amy Truong made numerous phone calls to the school, but they were never returned.
School officials say they never received a single complaint from Asher Brown's parents before the suicide, and district spokeswoman Kelli Durham said no students, school employees or the boy's parents ever reported that he was being bullied.
Now who's being bullied? The Truong's are outraged because they say the school, and the district, are simply protecting themselves, and the bullies, rather than protecting Asher Brown when they had the chance.
Amy Truong: "That's absolutely inaccurate — it's completely false. I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It's like they're calling us liars."
And the Truongs aren't the only ones complaining. The website of KRIV-TV, which aired a report of Asher Brown's suicide, has been inundated with comments from parents and students saying that Asher had been bullied by classmates for several years.
One of the last things Asher Brown said, on the day he died, was to tell his stepfather that he was gay. And his father said that was okay.
You want to see progress in America for the LGBT community? See the end of DADT? The end of DOMA? Marriage equality? Simple equality? I wanna see an America where kids don't kill themselves because they're bullied and tormented for being short, or have red hair, or wear glasses, or dress funny, or have accents, or might be gay, or are gay, or...or...or....