The stories of two 13-year-old boys - one in Texas, the other in California - are the latest tragic outcomes of school bullying.
On Thursday, September 23rd, David Truong arrived home to find his 13-year-old stepson shot to death. While his parents were at work, Asher Brown came home from school and shot himself in the head.
Brown's parents say he was "bullied to death," picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes. Though Brown recently told his parents he was gay, it's unclear as to whether he disclosed this information to any of his peers at school. What is clear, according to Brown's parents, is that he was accused of being gay, and some of his peers went so far as to mock performing sexual acts on him in his physical education class.
Brown attended Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
Amy Troung, Brown's mother, says she and her husband complained about her son's bullying for 18 months up until the time of his death. She says that despite numerous phone calls, e-mails and visits to the school, administrators never responded.
Fox affiliate KRIV-TV also covered the story of Brown's death. Numerous comments left on the station's Web site by parents and students affirm Amy Troung's statement that her son had been bullied for years and that school officials did nothing to stop the harassment.
"He was just such a sweet boy," says Amy Troung.
School bullying had been a problem for Brown long before attending Hamilton Middle School. His family actually relocated to the Cypress-Fairbanks area to get away from another school district where Asher was also being bullied - a move they say only made matters worse.
"It has to stop. I don't want any other family to have to go make funeral arrangements like I did for my son. He wasn't supposed to die at 13," says Amy Troung.
Services for Brown will be held on Saturday, October 2nd.
In Texas, though school bullying is prohibited, specific categories of protection are not listed under state law. Since the 2007 legislative session, state representative Mark Strama (D-Austin) has been working to pass more inclusive anti-bullying legislation with provisions for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Texas legislative sessions meet every other year, so the 2011 session will be the third consecutive session in which Strama's anti-bullying legislation has been introduced. Chuck Smith, the deputy director of Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT-advocacy organization, said Equality Texas is working closely with Rep. Strama's staff to make sure the legislation proposed in 2011 is "the best possible to take seriously this problem and deal with it."
Meanwhile, in California, a 13-year-old boy remains on life support after attempting to take his own life on September 19 by hanging himself from a tree. According to friends and neighbors, the boy, whose name has not appeared in the media, is openly gay and has been bullied for years - even after being put on independent study earlier this year.
GLAAD urges the media to continue covering stories related to school bullying, as well as stories that highlight the need for anti-bullying legislation that's inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity in those states where it's still lacking.