It's been exactly one year since the tragic suicide of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, the 11-year-old Springfield, Massachusetts boy who hanged himself after months of homophobic and anti-gay taunts. Carl was relentlessly bullied at his school for one year, and, although he was not gay, his mother says "classmates called him gay on a daily basis, made fun of his clothes and threatened to harm him."
"It's not just a gay issue," Carl's mother Sirdeaner Walker told The Advocate. "It’s bigger. He was 11 years old, and he wasn't aware of his sexuality. These homophobic people attach derogatory terms to a child who’s 11 years old, who goes to church, school, and the library, and he becomes confused. He thinks, 'Maybe I'm like this.'"
Only weeks after her son's death, another 11-year-old boy, Jaheem Herrera, hanged himself in family's home outside home. Jaheem was also subjected to relentless anti-gay taunting although he was not gay.
In the year since then: Sirdeaner Walker has become a national advocate against bullying, appearing on Oprah, Ellen and AC 360, as well as testifying before Congress. Walker has also championed Massachusetts' proposed anti-bullying legislation. The state House and Senate recently passed anti-bullying bills and it's now in conference committee for final approval. Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign that bill later this month and Walker says she's planning to be at his desk when he does it.
Walker says she is upset and "disappointed" there was no criminal investigation into her son's death, unlike the very recent case of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who was bullied into suicide. Nine teenagers are facing a variety of charges in connection with Phoebe Prince's death. The three oldest members of that group are expected to be arraigned today.
In related news: OUT 100 honoree Kenyon Farrow reflects on Carl Joseph Walker Hoover's death at The Grio, noting that "anti-gay bullying is a deadly threat to children of color." Farrow writes, "Where was the outrage about his death in the black community? ... Too many children grow up understanding that the best way to denigrate and socially outcast boys is to call them the f-word. We need to remind ourselves of the damage that homophobia has on the lives of black children. And let me be clear, the bullying of black lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender students, and those who are perceived to be LGBT, is not rare."
CBS 13 has a report on the one year-anniversary of Walker-Hoover's bullying suicide. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP ...