Before his death, Jamel Myles said children at his Colorado elementary school told him he should commit suicide, Myles’ mother Leia Pierce revealed to local news reporters.
The 9-year-old boy had recently told his mother that he was gay, as reported by BBC News and other news outlets. When he returned to school from his summer break, he told Pierce, he intended to come out to his peers.
He was “proud” to be gay.
On Thursday, the same week Jamel started the fourth grade, his body was found at his Denver-area home after police were called to respond to a “medical incident,” the Washington Post reported. Jamel was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead. Police are investigating his death as a suicide, according to the BBC News report.
School had just started on Monday, and Jamel’s death comes after he endured four days of bullying at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School, according to Pierce. The mother intends to speak about her boy’s death to raise awareness about bullying, and how damaging it can be to a child’s self-esteem.
“Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him. 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,” Pierce told local news, as cited by the Washington Post report.
Jamel was anxious to go back to school and face his big decision to come out, but Pierce gave him support, the New York Post reported.
“And he looked so scared when he told me. He was like, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ 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,’ ” Pierce said, as cited by the New York Post.“He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” she added.
Authorities and the school district have not commented on whether they believe bullying contributed to Jamel’s death, adding that the case is still being investigated. Denver Public Schools (DPS) says crisis counselors have been made available to students at Jamel’s elementary school, according to BBC News. In a letter addressed to Shoemakers’ families, a DPS spokesman said that Jamel’s death “is an unexpected loss for our school community” and advised what signs of stress parent should watch for in their children.
“Our priority right now is to look at all the concerns raised in this case, to keep all our students safe and to do a fair and thorough review of the facts surrounding this tragic loss,” the spokesman said in a statement, as cited by BBC News.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.