Bullied 9-year-old killed himself after coming out as gay

Posted at 2:44 PM, Aug 27, 2018

DENVER – Psychologists and social workers from Denver Public Schools were on-hand at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School Monday morning after a fourth-grade student died as a result of suicide late last week.

The Denver County Coroner’s Office on Monday confirmed the boy, 9-year-old Jamel Myles, died as a result of hanging shortly after 11 p.m. on Thursday.

On Friday, Shoemaker Elementary School Principal Christine Fleming sent a letter home to families at the school that Jamal had died. Fleming did not discuss the manner by which the boy had died, but shared a guide showing signs of stress that students might be showing in the wake of the boy’s death.

“Our thoughts are with the student’s family at this time,” Fleming wrote. “We will continue to process this sad news as a school community, and again, please feel free to reach out as needed for ongoing support.”

Jamal's mother Leia Pierce told the Denver Post that the suicide was a result of being bullied after the boy came out as gay. 

“My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself,” Pierce told The Denver Post on Monday. “He didn’t deserve this. He wanted to make everybody happy even when he wasn’t. I want him back so bad.”

Pierce went on to say, “He was scared because he is a boy and it’s harder on boys when they come out. I smiled at him and said, ‘I still loved him.’ This world is missing out.”

Denver Public Schools spokesman Will Jones said Fleming did not name the boy or the manner of his death out of respect for the family’s privacy.

In addition to having crisis team members on hand Monday, there is also a phone line and a room at the elementary school set up for families who have questions about the incident.

Jones said fourth- and fifth-grade teachers would be calling the families of their students at the end of the day Monday to check on the kids and that additional support would be available if necessary.

“We are deeply committed to our students’ well-being. That commitment is at the core for all educators in DPS, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” Jones said in a statement Monday. “Our priority right now is to look at all the concerns raised in this case, to keep our students safe and to do a fair and thorough review of the facts surrounding this tragic loss.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. Counselors are available to provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.