A 9-year-old Denver boy who killed himself last week was severely bullied after he came out to his classmates as gay, his mother says.

Leia Pierce told The Denver Post that her son, Jamel Myles, came out this summer and began wearing fake fingernails on the first day of school.

Jamel was in fourth grade at Joe Shoemaker School in Denver, said Will Jones, spokesman for Denver Public Schools. Classes began Aug. 20 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, the school’s website says.

Jamel died by suicide Thursday. The means of death has not been disclosed.

“My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself,” Pierce told The Post. “He didn’t deserve this. He wanted to make everybody happy even when he wasn’t. I want him back so bad.”

The school district sent a letter home to parents Friday and provided resources — including a team of crisis counselors — to students and staff who were grieving and processing the news, Jones said.

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“At DPS, we are deeply committed to ensuring that all members of the school community are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status,” a district statement says.

“It is critical that our students receive all the supports they need to learn and thrive in a safe and welcoming environment. Our formal policies and practices reflect this commitment to ensuring that our LGBTQ+ students can pursue their education with dignity — from policies and training to prevent and stop bullying to formal policies and guidance materials that fully respect gender identity (including use of preferred pronouns and restrooms).

“Our priority right now is to help all students and adults with the grief they are experiencing and to better understand all the facts surrounding this tragic loss.”

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths are less likely to feel safe at school and more likely to be bullied, said Jessie Pocock, executive director of local nonprofit Inside Out Youth Services. They also are less likely to feel like they have a trusted adult they can go to with a problem — a key factor that helps prevent suicide regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, Pocock said.

She pointed to data from the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which show that LGBTQ youth in El Paso County have seriously considered suicide at twice the rate of their heterosexual peers. They have attempted suicide at three times the rate of their peers.

“One of the best thing we can do as adults to protect LGBTQ youth from several disparate health outcomes, including death by suicide, is to build relationships and strengthen our connection with them,” Pocock said in an email to The Gazette. “Part of building this connection and relationship is accepting, honoring, supporting, and affirming their sexual orientation or gender identity. Just like Ms. Pierce did for her child when he came out as gay and gender questioning.”

Pocock also stressed the importance of connecting LGBTQ youths with LGBTQ organizations and events, supporting their identity and advocating for them when they are mistreated because of their identity.

The risk of health or mental health problems is increased by blocking access to LGBTQ friends, events and resources, pressuring children to be more or less masculine or feminine and making children keep their identities a secret, she said.

Inside Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs provides a wide variety of resources for LGBTQ youth, as well as support groups for their parents.

The Pikes Peak Safe @ School Coalition, facilitated by Inside Out Youth Services, offers training to help build relationships and understanding between LGBTQ youths and teachers, administrators and school counselors in the areas of bullying, why vocabulary matters and how to make spaces safe for LGBTQ youth.

For 24/7 crisis support, call Colorado Crisis Services’ toll-free number at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.


(c)2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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