Joel Morales did leave a note, but his family knows why he took his own life at age twelve.
He was bullied, at two different schools because he was short, and because he was smart, and because his father was dead.
Joel Morales, a fifth-grader from East Harlem, had recently moved to a new school because of the incessant taunting he endured for months at his old school. But the move didn't help.
Kids chased Joel, and threw sticks at him, and hurled pipes at him, and teased him because he was smart and was 4-foot-9. He seemed able to handle it, until the kids began taunting him about his father, who died when Joel was four years old.
And so, rather than face one more day, Joel's mother, Lisbeth Babilonia, found him hanging in their apartment at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, hours after she had organized a search party because he hadn't returned home on time from an after-school club.
Maria Ubiles, an occupational therapist who worked with Joel Morales at one of the schools because of his small stature, says Joel only reluctantly talked about his problems: "It was very difficult, especially with a child like Joel who wants so badly to please everyone, to see that he was really in pain, that he was struggling."
Arlene Gago, a youth minister from a church group, said spoke with Morales regularly, but said she had no idea what he was enduring: "I always asked him, 'How you doing? How's school? We talked but he'd never tell me what was going on."
A classmate told Joel Morales’ family that Joel had said he was tired of the bullying and told them the details of the remark about his father that sent him over the edge.
School officials declined to comment on the alleged bullying, citing privacy issues.
Privacy issues. A boy is dead; a once happy child took his own life and they can't speak because of privacy issues?
What about issues of saving a child's life? What about the issues of protecting a child from bullying while he's in your care?
What about trying to save these kids from hanging themselves and shooting themselves and swallowing pills to end it all?
What about that? Isn't that more important than privacy concerns?
Look at that face up there. That happy, smiling, smart boy's face. He may have been short; lotsa people are short. But he was smart. I wonder if Joel Morales, had he not been taunted to death, might have grown up to find a cure for cancer, or a way to end HIV. Maybe he could have been president.
Or maybe he'd just be another human being living his life the way he wanted.