Updated: 15-year-old in Alabama dies by suicide after anti-LGBTQ bullying by students at his school
A 15-year-old has died by suicide in Huntsville, Alabama. Nigel Shelby was a student at Huntsville High School, where he had been bullied for being gay. But you wouldn’t know about it, especially that last part, if you were relying on local mainstream media in the city of Huntsville or in the state: As of this writing, almost no stories about the bullying were to be found among those outlets.
Reports had started to circulate about the bullying Shelby had endured and about his death over the weekend on social media. The news was picked up by Tennessee Valley Rocket City Pride, which paid tribute to Shelby at its Easter Drag Brunch this past Sunday and discussed bullying and the resources available to kids who are marginalized and bullied because of who they are.
The state of Alabama has no laws protecting LGBTQ people of any age against discrimination. It has no laws protecting LGBTQ children from the kind of treatment Nigel Shelby suffered. In fact, in reaction to Shelby’s death, the principal of Huntsville High School posted a note on the school’s PTSA Facebook page that made no mention at all of either the bullying the child had endured or the fact that he identified as gay. “We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th grade students. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time,” principal Aaron King wrote. As of now, there has been no response from the school or the PTSA to the many comments on the Facebook post demanding recognition of the bullying that children such as Shelby endure because of their identities.
This comes as no surprise in a state in which the laws on education mandate, with regard to sex education, that the curriculum for such a program must include “An emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” (Alabama codes have not been updated, apparently, to reflect that “homosexual conduct,” as of the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, is no longer considered a crime.)
Nigel Shelby was bullied for who he was. His identity and what he suffered should not be erased.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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