LGBT teen suicides continue — and so does harassment of Asher Brown’s parents

The It Gets Better Project project has helped a number of teens who are bullied in schools and churches. Legislation to stop bullying has passed in a number of states including Texas.

Amy and David Truong at Texas Capitol

But the bullying continues and so does teen suicide. Here are four gay teens who took their own lives in January. Others may have gone unreported as LGBT-related.

• Jan. 1 — Jeffrey Fehr, 18, hanged himself at his family’s home in Granite Bay, Calif.

• Jan. 11 — Eric James Borges, 19, an intern at The Trevor Project, committed suicide after being bullied, tormented and terrorized for most of his life. His religious-extremist parents did not to attend his memorial.

• Jan. 20 — Phillip Parker, 14, of Gorndonsville, Tenn. committed suicide. His parents said he was constantly bullied because he was gay.

• Jan. 29 — Rafael Morelos, 14, of Wenatchee, Wash., who was openly gay, hanged himself after constant bullying.

But the bullying doesn’t stop there. Dallas Voice reported in March 2011 that Asher Brown’s parents, Amy and David Truong, were being harassed for speaking out against the Cy-Fair Independent School District and pushing for anti-bullying legislation.

Asher was one of the teen’s whose suicide brought national attention to the issue. His parents lobbied Texas legislators and testified before the Senate Education Committee about the bullying Asher endured.

Fox News in Houston reports that the Truongs continue to be the victims of bullying and vandalism at their house. Watch the Fox video here.

—  David Taffet

Asher’s parents respond to abuse allegations

Amy and David Truong

As we mentioned last week, David and Amy Truong have filed a federal lawsuit against the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and Hamilton Middle School. The Truongs are the parents of Asher Brown, the 13-year-old who committed suicide in September after reportedly being bullied at school.

The Houston Chronicle noted in its report about the lawsuit that the Truong’s older son had been removed from the home by Child and Family Protective Services because of alleged abuse.

The Truongs believe the school district has been raising child abuse allegations since Asher’s death to deflect blame from school officials. The Truongs also questioned how the Houston Chronicle got a copy of the abuse allegations even before the case had gone to family court.

Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for CFPS in the Houston area, said the agency doesn’t release case files. She said the reporter from the Houston Chronicle obtained a copy directly from the judge. A judge is allowed to release files in open investigations.

Olguin said CFPS normally investigates a home when there is a death of a child, especially if a suicide is involved. Her department cannot, however, investigate and charge a school if bullying was involved — even if negligence by school personnel is found.

CFPS also investigates when someone refers a case.

Olguin could not tell us whether someone referred the case after Asher’s death and if so, who it was. She also could not tell me whether it was referred or it was a routine investigation triggered by the suicide.

The Truongs believe the school district may have asked CFPS to open the investigation.

In their lawsuit, the Truongs accuse school district officials of publicly stating on several occasions that there was no evidence Asher was bullied. Evidence such as David Truong’s signed visitor sheets that show he met with school officials about the problem is missing and, the lawsuit alleges it was destroyed by the district.

David answered the abuse allegations in an email to us. We’ve posted the full text of his email below.

—  David Taffet

Annise Parker on Asher Brown’s suicide

Mayor Annise Parker

Our old friend Michael Petrelis has been making a big deal of the fact that Houston Mayor Annise Parker hadn’t said anything about the suicide of 13-year-old Asher Brown. On Monday, Parker issued the following statement:

“What happened to Asher Brown, his family and friends is a tragedy. This situation is being investigated by the proper authorities, but it is a sign that bullying of any kind can have deadly consequences. It reminds us that young people who are targets of bullying need love and support.”

Asher, who was an eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School in Cypress in northwest Harris County, is one of six known suicides nationwide over the last few weeks related to anti-gay bullying and harassment.

—  David Taffet

Gay teen Asher Brown laid to rest in Houston

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle
Cross-posted from Unfinished Lives

HOUSTON — Asher Brown’s uncle told a big gathering of mourners and family supporters on Saturday, Oct. 2 that school bullies “ripped him up and tore him down everyday.”

A crowd of hundreds blanketed a Houston park beside Moore Elementary School to express grief over the death by bullying of 13-year-old gay boy, Asher Brown.

Bright balloons floated in the air as the line of friends patiently waited to sign the memorial book and get a chance to speak to David and Amy Truong, Asher’s parents. His uncle, a Christian minister, MC’ed the memorial service.

”The bullies picked on my nephew because of the way he dressed, how he talked, and the fact he was small. He was a David among Goliaths,” Rev. Truong told the large crowd. ”But Asher’s heart was so big! His heart made him a giant.”

Asher’s school friends, the few who stood by him no matter what, were present and spoke. One of them said there was a “Bully Free Zone” sign at Hamilton Middle School where Asher faced torment every day for being different, for being gay, and for being vulnerable. His friend said that the sign meant nothing. Nothing was done by anyone to protect Asher, himself, or any other target of ridicule at Hamilton. The Truongs had repeatedly tried to get school officials to help their son, but the school basically ignored their calls and emails.

Initially, a spokesperson for the school district denied that any appeals had come to the school about Asher and the severe bullying he was facing there. Now the Cy-Fair Independent School District is acknowledging that “some communication” concerning Asher did indeed come from his parents.

The gay teen shot himself in his Dad’s closet on Sept. 23 after bullying became unendurable for him. When David Truong, Asher’s Dad, found Asher lying on the floor of his closet, he thought at first that his son had fallen asleep reading a book–and then he saw the blood.

Referring to Asher’s six friends who spoke at the outdoor memorial service, David Truong said, “These kids are the true heroes of this whole thing. They are speaking out, and we need to support them.”

Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones told the crowd that she and Mayor Annise Parker are taking this senseless killing in Houston as a “call to action” for passage of a zero tolerance anti-bullying law that will be named “Asher’s Rule” as a fitting memorial to a good boy who just wanted to live his life–though bullies wouldn’t let him.

Many supporters from the LGBTQ community came to show their support for safe schools for all children, and to support Asher’s family.

Asher’s uncle declared that “gay and straight alike are perfect in God’s sight. God doesn’t make any mistakes.” What happened to his nephew was not going to be dismissed as simply a “gay issue.”

”This is a hate issue, and we are not going to rest until all children are safe from hate at school,” he said.

For more photos of the Asher Brown Memorial Service, click here.

Stephen V. Sprinkle is director of field education and supervised ministry, and sssociate professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.

—  John Wright