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April 14th, 2009
01:00 PM ET

Bullied to death?

Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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Randi Kaye | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

He was just 11-years-old! That’s what makes this story so incredibly sad.

I’m on my way to Massachusetts today to interview a mother who says her 11-year-old son committed suicide because he was bullied at school. Carl Joseph Walker Hoover was a sixth grader at the New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts. He started school there last September and his mother, Sirdeaner Walker, says the bullying was endless.

Mrs. Walker says other students told her son, “you look gay” and “you act gay.” She says they made fun of him for the way he dressed and that one student even threatened to kill him.

She  says she called the school every week to try and get her son help. She knew how painful this bullying was for him. Even though she’s a member of the Parent Teacher Organization, she says nobody helped her son.

Carl was a good student. He went to church every Sunday with his mom and was in the Boy Scouts. He also played football. But the bullying didn’t stop. So last week, while his mother was cooking dinner at home, Carl went upstairs to his bedroom and hanged himself with an electrical cord. His mother found him and had to cut him down. All she could do she says was scream.

Sirdeaner Walker agreed to talk to us because she wants other parents to know what can happen as a result of bullying. And it’s happened before. In Ohio, a couple is  suing the school after their son took his life. They say he was bullied to death and the school did nothing to stop it.

Believe it or not, Carl’s mom isn’t angry. She says she’s a Christian who believes in God. She says some good will come from her son’s death.

After numerous attempts to contact the New school for its response about this tragedy, we received the following statement from Peter J. Daboul, Chairman of the Board of the New Leadership Charter School.

The entire New Leadership Charter School family is deeply saddened by the loss of Carl Walker Hoover. It is unthinkable that an eleven-year old child would end his precious life. Our heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to the family and friends of Carl. We deeply regret the loss of his life.

No child should ever be subject to bullying and teasing, but we are all aware that it does exist among young people. As adults we must always be attentive and intervene appropriately. The staff at New Leadership Charter School has consistently addressed this issue whenever it has come to their attention, and they have placed special emphasis on the need for respect among the entire school population as an integral part of the leadership training provided to students. As Chairman of the Board of Trustees of New Leadership Charter School, I plan to initiate an investigation into the facts and the allegations to ensure that the school responded in an appropriate manner.

Tune in for more on the situation tonight.

soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. Lauren--NY

    Randi, thank you for blogging on such an important topic and thanks to Jack Gray for tweeting the link. This broke my heart. That was a little baby. When will this discrimination end?

    April 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  2. Pam Reitmeier

    I feel nothing but sorrow. For the family of Carl, for the bullies that if they have any sense of humanity will feel some sense of guilt right now and who probably haven't been taught any better. But most of all, I have so many emotions and hurt for Carl.

    To want to take your own life you have to hurt beyond anyone's ability to reasonably understand it. A hurt so bad that you have to take yourself outside of this world in order to go through with it. For this little boy at such a young age with so few memories to cause pain...I just have one question,

    WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH THE YOUTH TODAY?

    There's bullying, sexting, internet bullying...etc. Come on and it just gets worse. And, the lack of support from the education institutions in this case and reduction of funds just makes this worse.

    This hit me and I had to write something...thx for listening.

    April 14, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  3. Nichole

    It is indeed important to make sure that we are paying attention to children being bullied. But, we need to also make sure that we are paying attention to the bullies too. This statement is meant directly for parents of bullies.

    There are a number of reason kids bully. Often, it's because they have a feeling of entitlement that was bestowed on them by their parents. RED FLAG!

    Also, those bullies may be being bullied by an older child, sibling, parent, or a parent's "friend".

    The other thing is for parent's to STOP being a child's friend. You are their parent and you need to explain to them that you are there to help them through any issue. With my mother, I knew she would spank me any time I did something wrong but even more important, I knew she would fight on my behalf any and all the time.

    April 14, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  4. Isabel Siaba

    Hi, Randi!

    So sad story! Poor mother!
    The pain of losing a son must be immeasurable, especially in such a situation.

    Most schools deny that bullying happens in their classrooms. They say this is the age thing, which colleagues are only kidding; the students can't take seriously the joke in bad taste.

    The big problem is that among the victims of bullying prevail the "law of silence" due to lack of support and understanding when they complain to the adults (at school or home), fear of retaliation from abusers; shame of being exposed to colleagues as incompetent and weak, fear the reactions of family members, etc..

    See you later

    April 14, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  5. Susan

    I have taught children for over 30 years and each semester when the new year begins, I stand before my class and let them know the rules and the consequences of breaking them. I let them know that if they respect me, I will respect them. I also instill within them that it is wrong to disrespect their classmates, their friends and families. They are told that my door is always open to them for counseling and that what is said between me and them will never leave the room. But should someone taunt another child with the intent to hurt whether mentally or physically I will make it my mission to have them removed from the class, the school and inform the police department. There is a zero level of tolerance when it comes to any kind of abuse. Far too long, the schools have had their hands tied and it is time for the parents to mind their children. Where is your ten, eleven or twelve year old at 9:00 p.m. at night? Is he in his room getting ready for bed or is he out walking on the street because he thinks you are not his boss. Please people, raise your children and teach them it is wrong to taunt, fight, and yes, even kill. No matter how much they hate you for making them do the right thing, stick to your guns because one day what has happened to this eleven year old might come knocking on your door. Let's stop the hate and anger now!

    April 14, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  6. k barclay

    I am not a typical blogger, I might have even spelled blog wrong, but I want to applaud Kweku's insights and comments. Right on Kweku, we all need to pitch in. See a wrong, set a wrong.

    April 14, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  7. Diane N.

    @Tracey E. I think your next step would be to file charges against the parents of the bully if the school has done all they can. Take the parents to court and let the judge decide the fate of the kid and his parents if they can't control him. Also, I have to say to fellow parents at wits end, you don't have to take your children out of school because of the bully's. I was told this by my son's guidance counselor who helped in apprehending my son's bully. He said if your child is the victim they have every right to stay in school or on the bus. It is the bully who must leave, be taken out and be void of the benefits of an education and getting to ride on the bus. The bully's are to be punished for their actions. The victim is not the one who's suppose to leave or be punished or banned.

    April 14, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  8. Vickie Show Me State

    No matter where we leave our children, school, babysitter, daycare, etc. We expect the elders to watch over them. To, "deal-with" whatever that child may need. If, the school neglectes to pay attention, they lack much more than communication. To allow any one to bully someone this much is, unacceptable!!!!! The staff needs more training in self-confidence. They can stop this from occuring. Maybe there should be guard's placed in every schools hall-way.

    April 14, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  9. Tracy R

    I find it interesting that 95% of these posts blame the school system, administers, and teachers. None of us know every detail about the situation and as much as some would like to believe that the kids being harassed in some of these types of situations are innocent there are always TWO sides to the story, we are only hearing one.

    Put yourself in the shoes of anyone in the school system for a split second and you might get another view...you get paid in most states a very minimal salary at best and then are (according to some of you) supposedly responsible for being a mom, dad, friend, mentor, disciplinary figure, nurse, counselor, and of course teacher (since that is what you are being paid to do by the way). Don't think that you can just drop your kids off at school and then do nothing but talk on your cell phone in the car on the way home from school, try talking to your kids first...you'll learn a lot!

    Yes I would agree that a teacher or administrator should be of assistance and have training for cases such as this and always try to do what is right but when a typical public school has thousands of students taking classes not only in the building but on the school grounds in make shift classrooms, we can't then expect our teaches to see, understand, and follow through on everything that goes on in those rooms and hallways. The minute the teacher suggests that someone is bullying and harrassing others and is wrong there will be another lawsuit and will be said to be "picking on the poor kid".

    What happened to that young boy is terrible and there are many people to blame. But thinking sueing the system and possibly ruining the life of a teacher/administrator is going to make it right is very wrong, the money they "win" is then not in the very place that this whole situation started...the school....less training, less help, and less caring.

    It is always easier to blame others to make yourself feel better but at the end of the day it doesn't change the outcome of this situation. We can only look towards the future, strive for change, and be involved parents.

    God Bless the boys family and the school system, I'm sure they are all mourning the loss and looking for ways to prevent it from happening again....but it will, and by choice or not we all allow it to happen.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  10. Kweku

    Firstly, my heart goes out to the Walker family – no one should have to live to see their child die.

    To the issue of bullying – it is normal that in every group of kids, there are one or two bullies. However, we need to take the attention off the children and look at soceity as a whole. When you have parents that cannot discipline their kids at home, and schools that cannot discipline kids that act out of order, you inevitably end up with kids that think they can get away with anything.

    I grew up in an African country. In my country, we have a saying, "it takes a village to raise a child". This means every adult has a role to play in rearing a child. From the biological parents to the teacher – these adult figures must exercise their right to steer a child’s life in the correct direction, and this includes being able to discipline the kids in a school setting. I was cained daily for the several offenses i committed and no, i did not grow up to be an angry kid, nor did any of my friends. American society has taken away to right of adults to aid in the upbringing of the communities children by revoking their right to discipline these unruly kids!!!!!!!!!

    April 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  11. Lampe

    All the blame, can not fall on the school's shoulders. I agree with alot of others who are saying that parents, need to be held responsible for their children's actions. I thinl alot of the blame lies with them. If their child is acting out, or bullying someone, then they need to take steps to help stop this. If not, then they should be taken to court, and charged with whatever wrong their child is doing. And, why is it necessary, no matter what the blog is about, for some to bring one of The Obamas into the mix? This has nothing to do what so ever with them.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  12. Jacqueline

    My cousins and I grew up in a small town in southern Vermont and being french canadian we were teased and tormented by certain kids in school. While walking home after school we had rocks thrown at us and we were spit on and called names. I used to wonder why since we didn't look any different than the other kids, we all spoke english and dressed the same etc. One day I walked into the school and some boys were dangling a snake around the head of my oldest cousin and they were spitting in her hair. She was sitting in her desk with her head down in her arms and not fighting them off. She was outnumbered and it would have done no good for her to try. Thankfully my presense was enough to make them stop. Anyway... that was years ago, and we all survived. The lessons though, have lasted a lifetime. It taught me not to judge others because they were different, whether they had different beliefs or different skin color etc. I taught my daughters the same lessons and I never heard a disparging remark from either one of them because of someone's different beliefs or color etc. I feel so sorry for kids in this situation, mostly because I can relate to their sorrow. When I see the kids I grew up with as adults they are no better than me and have done nothing really grand with their lives I still wonder about why people treat others with so little respect. I know the teasing is done out of view of others so even with the authorities making laws or "talking" to the tormenters I just don't think it would help. It begins long before that and if it hasn't been delt with I am not sure what can be done. You can't escort everyone all the time. If my child were being bullied I wouldn't leave them alone from the time they leave my door till they go through the school doors. And I would be there to pick the up after school as well. And there is also the option of home schooling. If you can live through it all you will be able see that these bullies are the ones with the problems and are no better than you.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  13. kevin

    No, the son make that decision to kill himself...He had other options then to commit suicide...The school could have done thing different and also the mother...Did she talk to her son about suicide? Did she see signs of depression in her son? If yes, did she seek medical help? I understand the mother is hurting right now and want someone to blame but suing the school is not the answer. The child could be held for any abuse but not for the her son suicide...Again, he make that decision to commit that act...If the son had enough self love, no matter what ANYONE saying about him suicide would never to an option...

    April 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  14. Kim

    Actually Marty , you can preach and preach to your children all day at home. But when they are at school they are on their own. they make their own decisions when the parents are away. now yes you are suppsed to teach children right from wrong, at the same time the school system and the parents should be a partnership. If the school does not take actions such as informng parents when their child is being bullied or bullying some one else than its impossible to correct the problem. We are dealing with children here. We were all children once upon a time and I know I didnt always listen to my parents. so you have to remeber children have not changed times have. The school should have informed the parents of the bullies of their behavior, so they could've been given a chance to handle it before it came to this.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  15. Aurelia Boucher (canada)

    It is everyone's responsibility to ensure the safety of our children, if my child was to be hurt by another and I was not able to help but somebody else could in my place I would be very grateful and thankful and would immediately do something about the situation. We must always protect children even if not our own. Everybody and anybody who know's of somebody being harmed and turned there cheek the other way shame on you all!!

    April 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  16. k barclay

    I'm sorry, I don;t mean to seem insensitive, but I was bullied almost my whole life. Up to the age of 18 at least was the worst part of it. Has it gotten so bad that our kids can't handle losing, can't handle bad news without grief counseling, and now can't handle bullies. What have we gotten to. We have turned so soft it's embarassing.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  17. logan

    Im 13 and i think it is just wrong for kids to that to someone. When i was younger i used to get bullied, and i had to put up with it. But when the school system dosnt do anything and it goes that far, something is wrong with all the ADULTS working there. I hate bullying and what he thought he had to do went that far I think that the teachers should ask each and everyone of those students if they ever bullied him or anyone. and focus on the kids that are easy to profile. I feel extremly bad for what the mother must be going through and i give you the best of wishes. And make sure that school knows what to do after you win that case.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  18. logan

    Im 13 and i think it is just wrong for kids to that to someone. When i was younger i used to get bullied, and i had to put up with it. But when the school system dosnt do anything and it goes that far, something is wrong with all the ADULTS working there. I hate bullying and what he thought he had to do went that far I think that the teachers should ask each and everyone of those students if they ever bullied him or anyone. and focus on the kids that are easy to profile. I feel extremly bad for what the mother must be going through and i give you the best of wishes. And make sure that school knows what to do after you win that case.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Annette

    I didn't read all of the comments and this may have been stated, but let's not put all of the blame on the schools. They have enough to deal with trying to teach the bullies. Let's start at the beginning. Mama and Daddy. What a child learns at home is what he/she acts out in public. The parents may have been bullies or there could be domestic violence in the homes of these bullies. If all they have been taught at home that bullying is the only way to get what you want, that's what they are inclined to do.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  20. St. Louis

    Coming from a teachers aspect, I think it would be horrible to lose a student, I don't even want to think if I lost a child. I agree the typical bully now is not the huge student, it is often the popular child. These students are not physical with their peers, but they are more emotional abuser. These bullies are the hardest to pick out b/c they often do everything behind your back or when you are out of the room.

    This is why it is so important to tell your students/ children if they see another students getting bullied or if they themselves are being bullied that it's okay to tell someone. They are not tattling on kids. The best solution is prevention and intervention.

    Keep your eyes open. The bully is most often the unlikely child/ student.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  21. Margaret in OH

    Bullying is a big problem in today's society and schools- I think that bullying has always been around- but it is worse today and far more cruel than in the 60's and 70's- Teachers need to be aware and spend time creating a community in their classrooms and a climate of acceptance of differences- and also the idea that bullying will not be tolerated. I think teachers also need to have more training and a better understanding in this area- they are called upon to do so much these days and really never get instruction or training in this area. It is all well and good to say that parents need to teach kids to be tough- but you can't really change the personality/sensitivity level of certain children- and we cannot assume that all parents will take on this responsibility when we cannot even get some parents to make sure that their child does their homework. Schools need to make this part of the professional development of their teachers so that teachers can recognize it and do things in their classroom to create a community that is accepting of differences and stands up for the rights of others.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  22. Andrea

    I can't stop crying about this poor, sweet, young man. When will we realize that fear and homophobia create these terrible tragedies? Why are we so slow to embrace our differences and teach our children to respect and love one another? It seems so simple. This little boy, gay or not, should never, ever have been treated with such little respect and humanity- no child should ever be treated this way. Children are not born racist or homophobic or intolerant- adults teach it. We all need to take a good look at ourselves and make sure we are doing everything we can to treat our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and strangers with dignity and kindness.

    April 14, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  23. JB

    Parents...take the necessary time to engage and communicate EVERY DAY with your kids. Heaven forbid we share a meal or two with them and just talk. Ask them how their day was or what they have planned. Ask them who they play with on the playground. You will learn a TON about their lives and what's important to them. You will learn about the social fabric of their world. They will be excited and strengthened to know you care about THEIR lives. This will build a strong bond for now and the future.

    What does this have to do with bullying...everything. By communicating you will know what's going on in their lives, then you'll know what to do. Your kids will not feel alone in the world. In fact, they will be more confident knowing that you "have their back."

    If you kid is being bullied, don't hesitate to contact teachers, principals, school administraters, parents of bullies, other parents, law enforcement. It's that simple. Your kid's health is paramount to anything else you have going on. Don't be proud!

    April 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  24. Amy Lephew

    I'm of 2 minds on this (and many other) subjects. While this is a tragic story, I believe that our country has blurred the lines of responsibility. Teachers and Schools are here to educate our children on subjects such as History, Maths, Literature, etc, not to teach morality of any kind.

    Morality, manners, and common sense are the responsibility of parents/guardians and them alone. It is my opinion that when your child is being bullied, you should contact that child's parents about their behavior AND you should talk to you child about how to handle being bullied. Let's face it, bullying IS a fact of life, whether as a child or an adult. If you don't learn how to correctly and effectively respond to bullying as a child, it will be much more difficult as an adult.

    On the other hand, if his teachers knew about what was going on, especially if they had noted the obvious depression this child had, they do need to communicate that to the parents of ALL of the involved children. A hostile environment is not conducive to learning.

    April 14, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
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