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Denver Mom Says Her Nine-Year-Old Boy Killed Himself After Homophobic Bullying at School

2 minute read

A nine-year-old boy in Denver, Colorado took his own life last week after being bullied by classmates for coming out as gay.

Leia Pierce found her son, Jamel Myles, in their home on Thursday, just four days after he had come out as gay to his classmates at the beginning of the new school year, Denver-based KDVR reports. Jamel reportedly told Pierce’s older daughter that his classmates had reacted to his disclosure with cruelty, telling him to “kill himself.”

“My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself,” said Pierce, The Denver Post on Monday. “He didn’t deserve this.”

Pierce said that her son had recently come out as gay to family members over the summer. “He went to school and said he was gonna tell people he’s gay because he’s proud of himself,” Pierce told KDVR.

Read more: How to Support Loved Ones Who May Be At Risk of Suicide

Grief counselors were made available to students, teachers, and staff at Joe Shoemaker Elementary School, where Jamel was a fourth grader, the Post reports, while principle Christine Fleming sent letters to families addressing the tragedy. On Monday, Fleming held a classroom meeting with parents to discuss the incident.

“It’s always tough when a little one takes his life,” Denver Public Schools spokesperson Will Jones said. “We have our crisis team there.”

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the number of American children hospitalized for contemplating or attempting suicide has doubled in less than a decade, with the most significant jump among adolescents and during the school year.

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here for more resources.

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Write to Eli Meixler at eli.meixler@time.com