Nigel Shelby was a 15-year-old a high school student in Huntsville, Alabama. A freshman at Huntsville High School, Shelby had faced homophobic bullying from classmates – bullying that let to Shelby taking his own life.
“We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th grade students,” read a statement from Aaron King, the principal of Huntsville High School. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”
The school has provided teachers and grief counselors for students and has asked parents to also assist their children deal with the loss.
Shelby was not alone. According to the Center for Social Equity, 74% of LGBTQ youth report not feeling safe in their schools.
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“Suicide in Black youth is on the rise and has reportedly reached twice that of white youth,” said Nadia M. Richardson of No More Martyrs on her Facebook page. “Unfortunately, for evidence of this, you don’t have to look much further than the state of Alabama. I graduated from Huntsville High. I am still processing this loss.”
“We have so much to understand and so much work to do,” added Richardson. “Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism; all of this plays a part. Bullying is a byproduct of a world ill-equipped to include that which is deemed different.”
“As a result, psychologically damaging othering occurs and leaves many isolated, self-loathing, and depressed. Don’t shy away from the necessary conversations around this. The cost is too high.”
The local community has come together to support Shelby’s family, a GoFundMe set up in his memory has pulled in over $15,000. The Rocket City Pride Drag Brunch, a regular event held by Rocket City Pride, raised an additional $800 for Shelby’s family.
“We are heartbroken over the death of Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old freshman at Huntsville High School,” read a post on the Rocket City Pride Facebook page. “Nigel took his life because he was bullied for being gay. There are no words that can be said to make sense of this devastating news.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of suicide, please consider reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 (you can also text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200), or to Trans Lifeline at 1-877-330-6366.