Zachery Gray was 18-years-old when he tried to kill himself as a result of being bullied; well, as a result of being called "fag" and "Gay Zach" and "queer" on a daily basis, even though he was straight and had a girlfriend.
After enduring yet another day of constant bullying, Zach, who’d been suspended for pulling a prank on a teacher, headed home. That afternoon, he tried to hang himself with a dog chain in a shed behind his home, but neighbors, his mother and paramedics were able to save him.
Zach was set to graduate from Zephyrhills High School this year but now suffers from brain damage and requires 24-hour care at a local medical center. He can no longer walk or talk.
And now his family is speaking out, saying the school did not do enough to stop the incessant bullying of Zach. Under Florida law, school officials must report bullying incidents and "develop plans for ending harassing behavior," but now, citing privacy concerns, the school is refusing to comment. In fact, Zach’s father says school officials won’t even return their phone calls.
A young boy tried to kill himself and the officials cannot pick up a phone. But, oh, it gets worse.
It seems that Zachery Gray complained of the teasing and the taunts; students had been making fun—and we really shouldn’t call it ‘making fun’ anymore--of his weight and sexuality, by calling him "heavy" and "Zach Gay" during a field trip. And Zach did what he was supposed to do; he complained to the teacher on that field trip, Brenda Carlson,
Carlson told investigators that she asked Zach: "If someone calls you a tree, are you a tree? And if someone calls you gay, does that make you gay?"
And that’s all she did. She didn’t report the incident and didn’t even bother to speak to the students who were taunting Zach. In fact, after Gray’s suicide attempt, she told investigators "she did not have any concerns that Zach was being bullied."
Brenda Carlson no longer works for the district. Which is a little convenient.
"Her job was to come to me, tell me, go to the principal, go to authorities," said Lynn Gray. "She did nothing."
And now a boy cannot walk or talk.
In Detroit, a 14-year-old girl peered through the keyhole of a locked door and found her brother hanging from a bunk bed with a belt around his neck.
She screamed for her mother and called 911. Her mother and a neighbor broke through the door of the boy's room, took him down and called 911, but it was too late.
He was seven.
His mother said her son, whose name is not being released, had been depressed about being bullied by other kids at school and in his neighborhood, and about his parents' recent separation.
Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said he was told the boy had expressed a desire to harm himself, and the mother told him that her son was being counseled by the family's pastor to help him cope.
The boy's family does not want to comment.
A seven-year-old is dead.
The two cases are as different as they are the same.
One young man told officials he was being bullied and they did nothing to stop it.
One young boy talked to his pastor and tried to work though his parent’s separation and the fact that he was bullied.
But the bullies were never confronted and so the bullying never stopped.
Until Zach Gray tried to kill himself and a young boy in Detroit tied a belt around his neck.
When are people, and by people, I mean the parents of the bullied, the parents of the bullies, teachers, school officials, politicians, going to realize that this is a problem and do something about it.
How many more kids have to die, or permanently scar themselves for life, before someone says ‘Enough.’
Zach’s school district needs to accept responsibility. Brenda Carlson needs to stop teaching and accept her role in this. I wonder, if she’d said anything to anyone might the bullying have stopped, and might Zach be graduating in June instead of lying in a hospital bed?