Friday, June 1, 2012

Joel Morales, 12, Suicide Because of Bullying

It happened late Tuesday night in East Harlem, New York.  Twelve-year-old Joel Morales had told friends just hours earlier that he was "...sick of all this bullying".  Hours after making that declaration, he took matters into his own hands.  And, sadly, the bullying ended along with his young life.
Joel was reportedly a very intelligent boy, one of the things his tormentors "mercilessly" teased him about.  The bullying was so intense, says his mother, that she had to file a police report and get an order of protection taken out against his bullies.  She transferred him to another school to get him away from the boys who were taunting him.  That wasn't good enough since they lived in the same neighborhood.  She went to the New York Housing Authority in an effort to move her family to another housing project to get him away.  Her request was denied.  Joel's distraught mother tried everything a parent could try in order to protect her child.
Unbeknownst to Joel, his own father had committed suicide when Joel was 4-months-old.  It was the taunting about his dead father that proved to be the last straw.

According to reports, the young pack of bullies was consistently the same boys.  They bullied him because he was apparently small for his age.  They bullied him because he was smart.  They bullied him because his father was dead.  In the end, they bullied him to death.  They were relentless.
Angelica Babilonia, Joel's aunt, said that around December or January her nephew switched to PS 57 after four boys knocked on Joel’s door and threw sticks and a pipe at him when he opened it.  She added, "he said that a bunch of kids from his old school jumped him and chased him.  He would ignore them, but there were too many to fight back."
Joel's sister, Richeliss, and aunt Angelica

Once again, we're left to wonder when the matter of bullying is going to be taken for what it is.  How is it that when a mother takes all of the right actions to protect her bullied son, that child still continues to be tormented to the point of ending his life?  Here's a clear-cut case of known bullies, police-documented bullies, pushing a person, Joel Morales, so far that he felt his only way out was the permanent way out.  Because there was no way to stop the "boys being boys", the world will never know what contributions this "brainy" boy would've made.  Because of their actions, there's one more family who is devastated and will feel the effects of Tuesday night for the rest of their lives.  Because they were so relentless in their bullying, the young friends of Joel are left to try and make sense of why their friend is no longer with them.
Joel's best friend at a makeshift memorial

There is a solution for this.  It's incumbent upon us to find that solution.  This school year is almost over and, statistically, the summer months have proven to be incident-free, as it pertains to teen suicides.  That means we have a three-month window to find that solution and implement safeguards so that September 2012 will not be a repeat of September 2010.  Talking about it, raising awareness...that's all well and good.  Necessary, even.  However, what we need now is solid and effective action.  Anything short of that is merely an exercise in futility.  

Rest in peace, Joel Morales.