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