April 10, 2009

Why Did 11-Year Old Carl Walker-Hoover Hang Himself by an Extension Cord?

There are some stories that turn my stomach. This is one of them.

An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself earlier this week after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. She said she found her son, a sixth-grader at the school, hanging by an extension cord upstairs at their home.

This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year. The other three known cases of suicide among middle-school students took place in Chatham, Evanston and Chicago, Ill., in the month of February.

Carl, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on April 17, the same day hundreds of thousands of students will participate in the 13th annual National Day of Silence by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying and harassment at school.

Vigil for Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover

Villagers, does this story bother you as much as me? According to the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide among 10-14 year olds has more than doubled in the past twenty years. "Although suicide among young children is a rare event, the dramatic increase in the rate among persons aged 10-14 years underscores the urgent need for intensifying efforts to prevent suicide among persons in this age group."

I encourage villagers to learn some tips for teens to prevent suicide. And we should keep the Walker-Hoover family in our prayers.


Karen Swim, Words For Hire said...

In answer to your question, Yes! this bothers me. My heart broke when I read the headline. It bothers me that a human being (child or adult) could be in so much pain that they see no other way out than suicide. My heart aches for this child and his parents. We cannot dismiss bullying as "just what kids do." Even if it does not result in suicide the pain of taunting can scar a child's soul for years to come. My thoughts and prayers are with Carl's family today. Let's work together to embrace our children and prevent this from happening to anyone else.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hello there!

Thank you for covering this story.

Where was Carl Walker-Hoover's father?

Where was the protection of his father from the bullies at school?

If this mother noticed that her child was not being treated fairly by the school administration, WHY did she keep him enrolled there?

There are just sooo many unanswered questions....

I am deeply saddened by this tragedy...

SjP said...

My heart aches. We must protect our children. Everyone is responsible for our children.

Regina said...

I am so deeply saddened and disturbed by this story. I also have a lot of unanswered questions...Where were the men in this child's life? Where was the balance, if you are getting torn down and beat up and bullied in school where is the outpouring of love, reinforcement and encouragement that should be happening outside of school to balance out this life?
Very disturbing...
I hope you do not mind if I link to you, because this is definitely worthy of an entire blog post...

MacDaddy said...

Bulling is such a problem. And it's made worse in schools today because kids finds ways to bring them into the schools--guns as well as knives.

The bigger the schools, the worse it is. And it happens in all of the schools.

Villager said...

Karen & Sojourner - A tragedy like this does encourage me (and hopefully others) to keep an even closer eye on what is going on with my children in their classroom and on the playground.

BWBTT - I don't know where Carl's father was. I assume that there was a marriage (based on the hyphenated last name). However, the father wasn't in the articles that I've read to date...

Regina - You have permission to link to anything on this blog anytime you like. I think that this story resonated with me even more because of the photo. My son plays football and that photo haunted me...

MacDaddy - I wonder if this school is accepting any responsibility for the suicide?

Hey Shae! said...

Wow, bless his little soul. When are people going to realize that bullying really affects some people to the core? We as parents need to add this to the long list of things we talk to our children about... repeatedly.

Monica Roberts said...

yes it did. Brought back memories of my own elementary school days.

msladydeborah said...

What a sad way to resolve a problem that has become all too common in our communities.

My prayers go out to the family of Carl.

I have mixed feelings about how to resolve this particular issue. It is one I deal with in my own preschool classroom setting. It is often easy to trace when the seeds are sown for this type of behavior.
Many of the parents of bullies start them on that path by how they interact within their families.

For the parents of the child being targeted it is really a difficult situation to handle. What is going to be best for their child in a situation like this? What happens when transferring is not an option? Or the school personnel has exhausted all their avenues for dealing with this problem? In some cases the children reside in the same neighbohood. So they can still have the same encounters off of school property.

I don't know if this young brotha has two parents at home. Or if the relationship between his parents is good or non-existant. Could his father have protected him from this moment? That is a question that we will not have an answer for in this situation.

Hopefully the children who attended school with Carl will be in the forefront of a non-bullying momvement. Not only in school but throughout their life times. This is definitely an active learning situation for them. They have the opportunity to work within their peer group to help each other. If their parents are intelligent and caring they will be right there with them. Helping them to develop a different mindset and tolerance for this type of situation.

Villager said...

Shae - Amen!

Lady D - Thank you very much for sharing your insights. You raise a number of issues for us to consider. I have 3 youngsters in school. This is something that I hadn't truly thought about before. I guess I never worried about them being bullied. I hope that they aren't on the other side of that equation either...

sevencitieschick said...

Its a sad and tragic event but the 1 thing that's not being addressed is the homphobia part. As a AA lesbian I dealt with this kind of bullying as a teenagers. Thank God I made it through. Now I'm not saying the young man was gay but if he was, why would it be so bad that it would mean he had to get bullied. Maybe if we didn't pass anti gay messages to our children through our private conversions, our religion, and our actions, this young man would be alive today. Now please don't beat me up because I'm not saying he was gay but you know in our community how quick we'll label a young man gay just because he likes to hang out with girls or jump rope or dress nice. Look @ how the world does kanye west.

Villager said...

SevenCitiesChick - I hope you noticed that I did address the homophobia element of the story in my post ... including a link to the National Day of Silence. In any case, it is unconscienceable that an 11-year old would be forced to think that his world had no future in it...

sevencitieschick said...

I totally agree with u. And what I meant was, homophobia wasn't being addressed in the comment section by the other readers.

wisdomteachesme said...

so tragic is this situation that has yet happened again.
we have 2 daughters-they will be 12 and 11 in the next few months.

one of our daughters is a special needs child and has to endure through harrassement daily from some ignorant child or another. I spend a lot of time at the school and in daily written communication with her ecp teacher, her hr teacer, the principal and anyone else i need to keep in touch with.

usually this bullying happens during time spent with her hr class during 'specials'.

There is not enough teaching to respect differences in many black familes. most of the harrassment that my daughter encounters comes from the black children. When it begins to escalate, i walk her to hr or go early to pick them up and have her point them out to me. I say nothing-but i truely give them the 'eye'-then go right to see the principal if the hr teacher does her 'smiling routine'--(i've got a car older than she is). And it helps that i have a pretty good repoire with the principal.

While i know a lot of parents do not have such inside knowledge as i do of school systems, it is not hard to connect and create a good relationship with your childs school personnal.

The point that this child was taunted daily with accusations of being gay at a11 is really terrible.

And if he thought he might be gay so what. that is the problem there.
i understand what SCC is saying in her comment and i know what monica is saying.
I know many kids, myself included that were called all kinds of names and endured the ignorance of bullies as we grew up. From teaching i have defended many children from such hate filled others. some teachers also. i can agree with and know the points that mLD made.

I have taken up for straight female students when thier boyfriends jacked them up agaisnt the lockers for some insane reason that only made since to the boy. Not all teachers would do so. teachers are suppose to do so no matter 'what/who' the student is.
I would expect all students to be defended and protected--but they are All not.
i'm waiting for the day when one or both of our daughters comes home telling of being harrassed/picked on because they have 2 mothers.

we have been teaching about the respect for difference--not just a tolerance for differences. we also provide them with many opportunities to know that differences in any area of a person's life are nothing to hurt anyone over or to be picked on.
One daughter learned to stand as a friend with a girl that is always called 'ugly' and other thoughts in that direction of societal beauty acceptance. And this daughter also learned how to be more compassionate and forgiving because this girl never had a true friend, so did not know how to be a good true friend.
both learned a lot through this situation.

Hopefully more people in the world will see the need to stand up for All people that endure oppression-harrassment-bullying, etc...I have HOPE, Faith and I know Prayer Works!
I pray Much Good comes from this young boy's life in order that his live was not in vain.

Villager said...

WisdomTeachMe - We have missed your village voice. Thank you for taking time to share your personal insights. This story about the 11-year old in Massachusetts appears to have hit home for many us ... myself included ... in ways that are more personal than most news stories. We all hope that our young 'uns will successfully navigate these early years without undue harm. I imagine that your strategy ... strong lessons at home; close relationship with educators at school; and the evil eye when necessary ... may be the best we can do.

samanthaw said...

I take a 7th grade health class, at my school and today we talked about this in class. Personally, I have a lot to say: 1) I think Carl went a little too far, hanging himself. I mean, I completely understand that he was being bullied and called "gay" to the point where he just couldn't take it; trust me, I'm 13, and I'm in middle school. I see bullying everyday. However, Carl should've thought about his family and how much they (his mother and his sister) would miss him, and how much it would hurt them to see him gone. Although, don't get me wrong, he deffinetely shouldn't have been bullied, and it's deffinetely terrible that he was called gay, and made fun of for being "dramatic" and outgoing for a young boy. 2) Also, I have one more thing to add. In class, we watched AC360 about this, that aired Monday night. They kept saying, over and over again, "His mother never asked him if he was truely gay." Well, seriously, does that really make a difference whether or not he really was gay? No, it doesn't. I was just so angry that they kept saying that!

Villager said...

Samantha - It is remarkable to read your insights as a 7th grader. I hope that you and your classmates will not tolerate bully tactics at your school. It is not funny and it causes people much pain. Anyhow, keep doing well in school!

Trisha said...


You can't say whether Carl went too far or not. You were not in his shoes. You didn't feel or go thru the same things that he went thru. Don't judge until you've walked in someone's shoes.

Trisha said...

I'm just sitting here thinking about when Oprah interviewed this woman yesterday (Sirdeneay Walker, the mother of the 11 year old boy who committed suicide because of the daily taunting and bullying that he endured at school) and from what I've seen and what I've read, I think this mother failed her child in the worst way.

I'm so deeply hurt by this that I just have to express myself.

This woman knew of everything that was happening to her son and she ignored his depression signs and chose not to do anything. They were a public school he could’ve gone to. This mother knew of her son sitting at the lunch table with a guidance counselor to prevent children from throwing things at him, she was aware of the picking, teasing, bullying and only God knows what else was done to that boy. This happened daily since the beginning of school.

Did she ever stop to think “what else could be happening to him that he’s not telling me about?”? That’s why she kept trying to work with the school to stop the bullying because she persuaded and probably forced this poor child to stay at this school. He told her he hates the school. He was seeing a therapist because of this and was still going to the same school after all of this? What kind of mother would not pull her child out of the school if she knows all this is going on? This is why he killed himself because he had no options left, she wouldn’t change schools. A child is not going to kill himself if he thinks there are other options.

She said that she called(You can’t always call, you have to visit these people to show them you mean business, tell them you will press charges if nothing changes) every week to the school to stop the bullying. If after incessant calling and meetings, the bullying has not stopped since the beginning of the year, what are you waiting for? You can’t wait sometimes, you have to act immediately and this was the case for it. Don’t wait to change school next month or next year, if your child is being abused by a parent, do you want them to stay in the abusive environment?

Either this mother didn’t have the backbone or did not give much importance to what was happening to her child. You have to have backbone when it comes to your child. You have to fight for your child. If you don’t, no one else will. You are leaving your child out to the wolves. Oh goodness, I feel so sorry for this little boy and other children who doesn’t have parents who have the backbone, or the knowledge or knows where to gain the knowledge to help their children.

This story sickens me to my stomach. She can sue the school, the bullies' parents and everyone else but what it comes down to is the parent acting on the behalf of her child and she didn't. Everyone failed this poor child, I mean even his own mother!

For an 11 year old to contemplate suicide, he had to really be suffering and desparate to escape the situation. Then to turn to his mother for help only to not be offered a solution. His spirit must have really been broken, by the school, the bullies, the bullies' parents, his mother (all of these people contributed to this boy's suicide). No wonder he killed himself, at 11 year old he was dealing with this, to have everyone fail you, not to have one single person to turn to?

I'm angry at parents who are in denial when it comes to their kids, who ignores their childrens' cries for help because to take action would be too inconvenient for the parent. I'm mad at parent(s) who don't chastise their kids when they are wrong or fight for their kids when they are right. Children suffer the consequences of their parent's actions. I feel sorry and I pray for children of ignorant parents all over the world.

I'm so glad that I have learned to stand up for myself and my children in life. I pray to God that I remain on this earth at least until I see my children grown so I can be there to fight for them when they can't fight for themselves.

Please mark my words "If you don't, no one else will!"