Many of us who live in Florida are familiar with 17-year old, Zachery (Zach) Gray’s attempted suicide by hanging last year. Zach’s nearly fatal suicide has left him brain-damaged and never to walk again. It has been suspected that Zach had been a victim of allegedly anti-gay bullying by his Zephyrhills High School classmates for sometime with little to no support or protection from the school’s staff, which may have motivated his suicide attempt. Just recently, Zach’s parents released Zach’s hospital photos and treatment. Now, more than ever, Zach’s parents seek answers that influenced their son’s nearly fatal decision.
Adapted from: MARK DOUGLAS | News Channel 8
Only Zachery Gray can say what made him try to take his own life a year ago. But brain-damaged and paralyzed from the attempt, Gray can no longer speak. His parents insist they have the answer. They’re convinced Gray, then 17, walked into a shed behind their home, fashioned a noose from a dog chain, and hanged himself from a rafter because bullies tormented him every day at Zephyrhills High School.
He couldn’t walk down the hallways without somebody saying something toward him,’ said his father, Tony Gray. His mother, Lynn ‘Sissy’ Gray, said bullies wrongly branded her son a homosexual and hurled hateful names at him: ‘Gay Zach, fag, queer, it was nonstop.’
The latest incident came just hours before the suicide attempt. Gray was rescued from that rafter on May 18, 2011, thanks to neighbors, his mother and paramedics. Now, the teenager who aspired to be a traveling nurse requires around-the-clock care at a medical center in Pinellas County. His injuries raise questions about the role schools play in helping identify and stop bullying. For the past four years, they’ve been required under Florida law to report bullying incidents and develop plans for ending harassing behavior. Gray’s family and friends said Pasco schools fell short.
Read more of this story HERE.
VIDEO – Parents: Bullying put son through ‘pure hell’ before suicide try.
Guest blogger, Dr. Harry Rotter weighs in on bullying:
As an educator for over 35 years and an educational psychologist, I can definitely see the dilemma for the schools, students, and parents. As many of you realize, the State of Florida does have a plan regarding bullying. You can access the following DOE site to review the Department of Education‘s view pertaining to bullying HERE.
The key to this situation ultimately involves education and training pertaining to bullying. There needs to be more teacher training on what constitutes bullying and how it can be reduced.
As an educator, I have received some training on bullying, but this needs to be ongoing and not just a part of an in service that occurs at the beginning of the year. The same is true for students and parents. Schools need to incorporate such training that is supported by the community. The topic of bullying should involve the entire community – Superintendent, School Board Members, Administrators, Teachers, Students, and Community Leaders to include the business community, law enforcement, and our legislators. Enough said, each situation will inevitably be determined on an individual basis. For many years, teachers have always been required by law to report student abuse issues. The issue of bullying should be no different. However, each school should have a system in place to deal with this issue and especially students should be required to receive intense training in this area. Nonetheless, reporting incidences of bullying will ultimately be the responsibility of the individual whether it is the teacher or student. In fact, I am not even certain if we can completely eradicate this problem, especially if we begin discussing the subject of cyber bullying. However, we must make an effort on developing an awareness of this issue along with teaching tolerance of others.
On the other hand, it may not be an easy task for the school system to implement an intensive program to combat bullying as this involves time constraints and funds. This is especially true of today’s educational initiatives where we are currently involved in the “Race to the Top.” The current emphasis is on academic achievement as we strive to meet the Common Core Standards that will someday be adopted by the entire U.S. (Refer to the following: Ed.Gov and Core Standards).
This is one reason why I believe that the issue of bullying needs to be a community-wide effort and not just a school initiative with an emphasis on establishing an environment that promotes emotional safety and healthy interpersonal relationships.
Message from iNKBLOT‘s blog master, Dr. Shannon Farris:
I’ve known Dr. Rotter for over five years and have worked closely with him on many projects for Saint Leo University. Dr. Rotter is a LEAD and Annual Contract faculty member for the Psychology Major at the Tallahassee Center in addition to his ”day job” as an Educational Psychologist. He was eager to respond to this story and I had no doubt that his response would be done with the sensitivity and objectivity this story deserves. It’s not easy to discuss a story like Zach’s and remain objective on the systematic challenges that exists within schools that directly impact the lives of our children. I’m happy to call Dr. Rotter a colleague, and more importantly my friend. Thanks, Dr. Rotter!
I’m certain there will be much more to this story, so please offer comments and questions. We would love to hear them and continue to offer information and education on the effects of bullying.
- Dr. Harry Rotter, Small Town, Big Heart Celebrate Veterans Day (madisonfloridavoice.com)
- Bullying ended in suicide try for Pasco teen (tbo.com)
- Parents: Bullying put son through ‘pure hell’ before suicide try (tbo.com)
- Bullying ended in suicide try for Pasco teen (tbo.com)
- Straight Tampa Teens Attempt Suicide After Enduring Anti-Gay Bullying (queerty.com)
- Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention (education.com)
- What Should I Do If I’m Bullied? (education.com)
- Twitter and Student Bullying (drapestakes.blogspot.com)
- “How to Protect Your Students From Cyberbullying” (saintleoinkblot.com)
- Dr. Zacchilli Recieves 2011-2012 SEPA Mentor Award (saintleoinkblot.com)
- Psychiatrist apologizes for flawed research that “gays can change” and giving ammunition to anti-gay groups. (Graphic video) (saintleoinkblot.com)
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