Ronin Shimizu was the subject of taunts and intense bullying for years before the 12-year-old finally broke down, killing himself last week.
Now Shimizu’s death has become a rallying point for online activists, who are trying to use his death to draw attention to the dangers of bullying.
Shimizu was subject to teasing and bullying so intense that his parents switched schools several times in an attempt to escape it. When new bullies showed up each time — making fun of Ronin for being on the the cheerleading team and calling him “gay” — his parents eventually decided to home school the boy.
“His family was supportive 100 percent. They knew he wasn’t the typical, average boy – football, wrestling,” said Josh Meixner of Folsom, a Shimizu family friend. “They wanted to take him to a school where he could be accepted, but it never happened. They tried to shield him from the bullying.”
This week, students at Folsom High School gathered to remember Ronin Shimizu, releasing light green balloons — his favorite color — and vowing to stand up to bullying.
The school district has vowed to take action as well.
“Any allegations bullying related to this specific incident, we’re certainly reviewing how we responded to those and we’ll use that as an opportunity to always take a look at how we respond to future allegations,” said Daniel Thigpen of the Folsom County School District.
Experts say social media can sometimes hurt matters, making it easier for bullies to target victims without having to actually face them, while also allowing supporters to distance themselves.
“Social media can be an effective tool, but it’s easier to write your support than to show it in person and at school, and I don’t like that,” Donna Clark-Love, a bullying-prevention expert and educator based in Houston, Texas, tells Yahoo! Parenting. “Oftentimes I’ll be speaking at a school and someone will ask me, ‘Did you see my [supportive] tweet?’ And my question is, did you stand up at school? Because if you’re going to do social media, then speak out in school, too.”
But supporters of Ronin Shimizu have vowed to continue their work, making sure that his death was not in vain.