Seth Walsh, a California teen who spent 9 days on life support after attempting suicide over relentless bullying because he was gay, died Sept 28. He was 13 years old.
Now, Seth’s mother, Wendy Walsh, has teamed up with the ACLU to help make a difference in the lives of LGBT youth facing harassment, and is speaking out publicly to tell her son’s story.
“Schools need to take harassment and bullying seriously when parents or students tell them about it, and when they see it in the halls,” she told the ACLU.
Seth’s story is not uncommon — he endured years of relentless bullying and verbal abuse at his Tehachapi, Calif. school. On Sept. 19, Seth Walsh hanged himself from a plum tree in the family’s backyard after being bullied, threatened and assaulted by at least three teenage boys in Tehachapi’s West Park earlier that afternoon.
Seth’s mother and close friends report that teachers and school administrators were aware that Seth was being harassed and, in some instances, participated in the harassment. One teacher allegedly called Seth “fruity” in front of an entire class, and students regularly called him “fag” and “queer.”
Seth was one of more than 10 teens who committed suicide between September and November of this year, all allegedly a result of harassment or bullying because of their sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation.
In September, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, revealed that its 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school, and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.
By speaking out, Wendy Walsh is on a mission to change these statistics.
On Thursday, the ACLU sent a letter to Tehachapi Unified School District officials urging them to take immediate and affirmative steps to make their schools safe for LGBT youth to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
The U.S. Department of Education is also investigating the district, and federal legislation — the Student Non-Discrimination Act — is expected to come up early next year in Congress and would extend additional protections for LGBT students nationwide.