David Hernandez Barros was just 16 when he took his own life.
It was rumored that he had been subjected to bullying by other students who assumed he was gay, though his family is not commenting on David's sexual orientation.
And why should they? Their son, their brother, killed himself, so there really is no need to explain David Hernandez. We need to start explaining why bullying, of anyone, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, weight, height, hair color, eye color, birth marks, clothing, or personality, are dying in order to stop the bullying.
David used to attend meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school last year, and he'd attended another one just a few days before his death, according to the alliance’s president, Joel Johnson, who helped to found a gay-straight alliance at the East Hampton Middle School as well as at East Hampton High School.
“This has been a tragedy. We are grieving for David, his family and our community,” East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns said in a statement read at a brief School Board meeting. “We will continue our thorough evaluation of this sad and complex situation. Our thoughts and prayers go to the family.”
Burns and Adam Fine, East Hampton High School principal, declined to discuss the allegations of bullying at the high school.
And this is where part of the problem lies. The schools, teachers, administers, superintendents and school boards are all so busy trying to make sure they did nothing wrong that they don't address the issues. Kids are being bullied; to death.
Even in the East Hampton School District, where, according to Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth network’s CEO, David Kilmnick, the schools are far more advanced in gay and lesbian tolerance and sensitivity issues than most other school districts.
“We’ve done a ton of work with the East Hampton district, more than any other district on the East End,” Kilmnick said. “They have been more open to having programs and were the first district to have a gay-straight alliance club in their middle school. I know some are quick to blame the school district here, but East Hampton is certainly one of the more progressive ones in addressing these issues and in preventative work.”
He acknowledged, however, that that doesn’t mean bullying doesn’t occur.
“Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to know definitively what exactly happened in David’s case. Could it be a possibility that he heard something from students that were not too friendly? Yes. Could he also have been dealing with a culture outside of the school that is not so accepting of someone being gay? Yes. I haven’t heard anything about those things specifically, but I wouldn’t be surprised based on the work that we do with thousands of people across Long Island, [but regardless] of whether David was gay or not, he should have had a place he could have seen as a lifesaver.”
It should make no difference whether someone is gay, or perceived to be gay, or gay friendly, or not. It should make a difference that our schools are not at all safe for anyone who appears different, or acts, or speaks differently, who worship or love differently.
We need to demand that those in charge stop "assessing" the situation and start acting on the problem. If we don't, we'll have more and more David Hernandez Barros’ to bury.