AJ Betts killed himself; he was just sixteen.
His mother, Sheryl Moore, is hoping his story will put an end to the bullying that she said ended his life.
"It must have been really horrible, if my son got to the point where he would hurt my husband, my daughters and I to take his own life."
Moore said she will never know exactly how horrible the bullying was.
"We had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I've ever met. Everybody who meets him says that."
Like most bullied teens, AJ put on a brave face, a tough exterior, and learned to smile to hide the pain. But now his family is learning that AJ, after being outed at Southeast Polk High School last year, was a target because he was gay. His friends said AJ was constantly ridiculed not only for being gay, but also because he was half African-American and born with a cleft lip.
"He's different. He doesn’t add up to what they're used to."—Noah Lahmann, AJ’s best friend
Different. Made for being taunted and teased to the point of taking his own life just to make it stop.
The only word from authorities at Southeast Polk High is that they can’t say if AJ ever reported being bullied.
Maybe he didn’t report his bullies because he thought officials wouldn't do anything about it. See, AJ Betts wasn’t the first; he was the fifth student from Southeast Polk High school to commit suicide in the past five years.
So maybe, when the numbers start piling up and more teenagers take their own lives, maybe then the good people at Southeast Polk High will try harder to find out why. Until then, I guess high school students are disposable.