A Denver mom is grieving the loss of her 9-year-old son, who killed himself on Thursday after he was reportedly bullied at school.
Jemel Myles told his mother, Leia Pierce, that he was gay this summer, Pierce told local station KDVR TV.
“And he looked so scared when he told me. He was like, ‘Mom I’m gay,’” Pierce recalled. “And I thought he was playing, so I looked back because I was driving, and he was all curled up, so scared. And I said, ‘I still love you.’”
His mother’s supportive reaction apparently made Jemel feel comfortable enough to tell his classmates when the school year started on Aug. 20.
“He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce said.
But Jemel’s positive feeling changed after some other kids at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School allegedly told him to kill himself, his mother said.
“Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him,” Pierce told KDVR. “My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I’m just sad he didn’t come to me.”
On Thursday evening, Pierce found her son’s lifeless body and unsuccessfully tried to revive him. Jemel died by suicide at 11:17 p.m., according to a report from the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner obtained by local station KUSA.
A team of crisis counselors met with students, teachers and school staff at Jemel’s school on Monday. School principal Christine Fleming also sent letters to families about the tragedy and opened a classroom for parents to come in and speak with school officials about the incident.
Meanwhile, Pierce is remembering her son, who she says was so considerate that when he was cooking, he would separate the yolks from the egg whites because of her allergy to egg yolk.
“He said, ‘Mom, I want to be a famous YouTube star so I could buy you a new house,’” Pierce told the Denver Post on Monday. “He was the kindest soul.”
She plans to honor Jemel’s memory by spreading awareness about the effects of bullying.
“We should have accountability for bullying,” she told KDVR. “I think the parent should be held [responsible], because obviously, the parents are either teaching them to be like that, or they’re treating them like that.”
A study released last December found that lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning teens are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.
“My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself,” Pierce told the Denver Post. “He didn’t deserve this. He wanted to make everybody happy even when he wasn’t. I want him back so bad.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.