By MIKE PLAISANCE & PATRICK JOHNSON
SPRINGFIELD - Two days after the worst day of her life, when she found her 11-year-old son had committed suicide by hanging himself, Sirdeaner L. Walker said on Wednesday she wants the bullying to stop.
She found Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of their 124 Northampton Ave. home Monday night after he had endured another day of taunting at New Leadership Charter School, where he was a sixth-grader, she said.
"I just want to help some other child. I know there are other kids being picked on, and it's day in and day out," said Walker, 43.
|11-year-old's suicide brings bullying to forefront|
She spoke in her living room surrounded by family and friends. They had just returned from a church service.
Photos of a beaming Carl - he played football, basketball and was a Boy Scout - peered from the top of the television.
Walker went upstairs to check on him Monday night.
"It was the worst experience of my life, and I'm a breast cancer survivor. Four years, it was four years ago I had breast cancer," Walker said.
She phoned the school repeatedly since Carl began attending in September but the bullying continued, she said.
Other students made him a target, daily calling him gay, making fun of how he dressed and threatening him, she said.
Carl had attended Alfred M. Glickman Elementary School up to fifth grade, but few of his friends accompanied him to New Leadership Charter School, she said.
|Vigil for Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover|
On Monday, she said Carl told her that he accidentally hit a TV at the school with his backpack and the TV bumped into a girl, who shouted at him and threatened him with harm. He called his mother after school and said he had gotten a five-day suspension, she said.
School officials denied the incident had prompted a five-day suspension, said Walker, who nonetheless remains upset at what she said was the school's pattern unresponsiveness.
"I called there every week," she said.
School officials told her they had decided that the mediation of Carl's dispute with the female student was to consist of the two students eating lunch together all week, she said.
It belies the school's failure to address suffering wrought by bullying, she said.
"If anything can come of this, it's that another child doesn't have to suffer like this and there can be some justice for some other child. I don't want any other parent to go through this," she said.
Henry M. Thomas III, chairman of the school's board of directors, failed to return repeated calls seeking comment.
Walker said she was upset with Thomas for failing to return her calls, as well.
The New Leadership Charter School, 180 Ashland Ave., is offering grief counseling to students and staff in light of the death of a six-grader on Monday, according to the school's Web site.
Donations can be made to help the boy's family by contacting the school, the Web site said.
"The NLCS family has suffered a major loss," said the Web site.
Walker works as director homeless programs at the Massachusetts Career Develop Institute here. She will turn 44 on April 23, and she said she and Carl would joke of how their birthdays were so close, as he would have turned 12 on April 17, she said.
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center, nearly one in three youth nationwide reported either being bullied, having bullied someone, or have done both.
According to the center, one recent study of grades 6-10, showed as many as 13 percent reported bullying others, and 11 percent said they were victims of bullies.
Victims of bullies become anxious, insecure and cautious, suffer low self-esteem and rarely defend themselves or retaliate. Often they feel isolated and withdrawn.
The most common reason cited by youth for why someone is targeted for bullying is because the person does not fit in.
The Center also notes there can be long-term effects for both the victim and perpetrator of bullying.
Victims as adults suffer from depression and poor self-esteem, while 60 percent of bullies in grades 6-9 had at least one criminal conviction by age 24.
The National School Safety Center defines bullying as physical confrontations and direct threats of violence, but also indirect forms such as rejection and exclusion, humiliation and name calling, manipulating friends, and more recently, hurtful messages sent by e-mail or posted on Web sites.
I oughta know. I was bullied...from first grade straight through senior year in high school. There was an isolated incident in college when, as a photography student, I was photographing my usual muse, a male, and a bunch of black guys walked through the area near the Faculty Center where we were shooting. I was quickly put on defense, but it was my model who managed to take control, and defuse, the situation.
I'm tempted to name names, name schools, name teachers who let it go on in class, and, even, name the teacher who said, when he saw the red mark I'd made on my neck due to nervousness "what's that on your neck? Your boyfriend give that to you?" Let's just say it was Spanish class.
We have long memories, and no matter where these "bullies" end up in society, as doctors, lawyers, policemen, firemen, mechanics or whatever, we, rather I, remember.
And to this day, I'll drive by a certain place of business owned by a bully of the past. I'll drive out of my way to get what I need, because in 7th grade I didn't need what I got.
Oh. And the other "reminder" crops up every time I go and have my very incisive eyes examined. Every single doctor who's examined my eyes asks about the retinal scar on my left eye. "How'd you tear your retina?" they ask. "My head was pushed down on the sidewalk in the back schoolyard when I was in 7th grade." "Wow. Must've been a really rough situation. You have a scar. Oh, and you know you can't wear contact lenses because of this."
Don't think I don't know your name, Mr. Retinal Scar.
Because I do.
I know all of them.