LA GRANDE, Ore. — Speaking before a crowd of about 200 people Wednesday, the father of an Oregon teen who died Sunday after he hanged himself two weeks earlier, said that he loved his gay son, and accepted him for who he was.
“I think we need more of that,” said Joe Bell, whose 15-year-old son, Jadin, had been bullied before trying to take his life.
“I don’t want Jadin’s death to be in vain,” Bell said, in a voice choking with emotion. “I want it to stand for something. I think we need to look at people for who they are and not who we think they should be.”
Jadin, who who hanged himself on Jan. 19 after complaining of bullying, died Sunday afternoon at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on Portland. He had been taken off life support a week earlier after tests showed no brain activity.
Joe Bell’s remarks Wednesday ended the family’s weeks-long silence about their son’s attempted suicide, as he announced the launch of a non-profit foundation to help combat bullying called “Faces for Change.”
Bell remained silent on the forces that motivated his son to hang himself, but family friend Bud Hill, who had been acting as a spokesperson, said that Jadin and his father had gone to a school counselor the week prior to Jadin’s attempted suicide to report that he’d been bullied.
Neither family members nor school district Superintendent Larry Glaze have disclosed whether the bullying was physical or online. Nobody has confirmed whether it triggered Jadin’s suicide.
“I don’t know that anybody knows what was really in his head,” said Hill, adding that he wasn’t surprised Jadin would be bullied, given that he was openly gay in a rural northeastern Oregon community.
In a separate memorial service held Tuesday evening at the high school Jadin attended, close to 300 people, many of whom were La Grande High School students, remembered Jadin as a person who never missed an opportunity to extend a kind word to others.
“Jadin’s greatest motivation was to see the people around him laugh and smile,” Galvez said. “Jadin himself was always smiling and it is difficult for me to imagine him not smiling.”
Meanwhile, educators in the district said they had been working for years to reduce bullying, and have implemented programs to address bullying in all of the district’s schools.
“We have been actively engaged in trying to prevent bullying for some time,” said Glaze. “This is not new.”
Glaze said he believes that bullying is pervasive throughout schools in the United States.
“It is a societal problem. We are not immune to the issues of hazing or bullying,” Glaze said. “We don’t think we are alone in this challenge.”
Glaze added that the district wants to be a partner with the new foundation to circulate the anti-bullying message. “We want to be a player and come out of this better than we went in,” he said.
Editor’s Notes: The foundation may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. A memorial service for Jadin will be held Friday, Feb. 8 at 10:30 a.m. at the Lighthouse Church, 10501 W. First Ave., Island City, Ore. The “Jadin R.J. Bell Memorial Fund” has been established at Sterling Bank to help his parents offset bills for his week at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.