A Florida teen is suffering from brain damage after attempting suicide a year ago -- a victim, his parents say, of being subjected to anti-gay bullying in high school.
Gray's parents told News Channel 8/Tampa Bay Online that their son tried to kill himself at home after being tormented "nonstop" by bullies at Zephyrhills High School in Pasco County, Fla. "Gay Zach, fag, queer -- it was nonstop," Lynn "Sissy" Gray said, describing the taunts her son used to receive, even though he was not actually gay and had a steady girlfriend.
The latest incident of torment came just before Gray, then 17, allegedly tried to hang himself with a dog chain in a shed behind his home. Together with neighbors and paramedics, Gray's mother was able to save him by administering CPR, but sadly, the teen is now unable to walk or talk, requiring 24-hour care at a local medical center.
Gray's girlfriend Keylee Harris, who reportedly dated the teen for five months, says she noticed the bullying as well. "I really didn’t start paying attention until we started dating in January," Harris is quoted as saying. "And then I started noticing people calling him 'fag,' 'gay' in the commons area - writing notes, treating him bad, just saying things."
EDGE Boston cites an investigation conducted by the Pasco School District after the suicide attempt, which found that Gray had complained to teacher Brenda Carlson that other students had called him “Zach Gay” during a field trip. Carlson told the school investigators she responded by asking Gray, “If someone calls you a tree, are you a tree? And if someone calls you gay, does that make you gay?”
"Her job was to come to me, tell me, go to the principal, go to authorities," Sissy Gray told Tampa Bay Online. "She did nothing."
Gray's parents said they were never notified about the taunts their son received, which Patch Editor Keli Sipperley notes in a column about the case -- also pointing to the death of Kiefer Allan, another straight 15-year-old who reportedly took his own life after being subjected to bullying.
Noting Pasco County's "questionable" bullying statistics (only 28 reported bullying incidents in 2011), Sipperley asks, "Are teachers, administrators and schools reporting incidents as they should, or are they turning a blind eye, maintaining the 'kids will be kids' status quo?"
Need help? Visit TheTrevorProject.org or call 1-866-488-7386. In the U.S. you can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or visit stopbullying.gov
Take a look at other teen suicides and anti-gay bullying cases below:
Though details of the 17-year-old Reese's April suicide are scarce, his boyfriend Alex Smith spoke frankly about the repeated bullying the teen had experienced at school. As one official is quoted as telling Ogden OUTreach off the record: "It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn't happen here."
Kenneth Weishuhn jr.
The 14-year-old took his own life after friends and family say that classmates sent him death threats on his cell phone and made him the subject of a Facebook hate group. "People that were originally his friends, they kind of turned on him," sister Kayla Weishuhn, a sophomore, is quoted as saying. "A lot of people, they either joined in or they were too scared to say anything."
Eric James Borges
In January, just one month after filming an "It Gets Better" video in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, 19-year-old Eric James Borges took his own life. Borges, who went by EricJames among friends, worked as an intern with The Trevor Project, and as a supplemental instructor at the College of the Sequoias, according to Queer Landia blogger Jim Reeves.
Jacob Rogers had been bullied at Cheatham County Central High School for the past four years, but at the start of his senior year, it had become so bad he dropped out of school before taking his own life. "He started coming home his senior year saying 'I don't want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a faggot, they call me gay, a queer,'" friend Kaelynn Mooningham said.
Eighteen-year-old Jeffrey Fehr, who was known as a skilled athlete and previously served as the first male captain of his high school's cheerleading squad, hanged himself on New Year's Day in the front entrance of his family's Granite Bay home after enduring what his parents describe as a lifetime of anti-gay bullying.
The disturbing rash of LGBT teen suicides began receiving attention last fall. Among those who took their own life was Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York after his roommate allegedly filmed him having sex with another man.
Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California teen, hung himself in September 2010 after reportedly being bullied because he was gay.
Raymond S. Chase
Gay Rhode Island-based student Raymond S. Chase, 19, became the fifth in 2010's disturbing spate of teen suicides last fall.
Obama's Anti-Bullying Video
In October 2010, President Obama released a video in support of LGBT youth who were struggling with being bullied.
In November 2010, Jim Swilley, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch, revealed to his congregation that he is gay. The 52-year-old father of four said the recent spate of teen suicides, particularly that of Clementi, prompted him to change his mind. "For some reason his situation was kind of the tipping point with me," Swilley told CNN's Don Lemon this weekend.
Daniel Radcliffe Honored
In June, "Harry Potter" actor Daniel Radcliffe was honored with the Trevor Project's "Hero" Award for his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/26/daniel-radcliffe-speaks-o_n_478960.html" target="_hplink">ongoing suicide prevention efforts</a> for LGBT youth.
In September, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, N.Y., took his life Sunday after what his parents claim was years of bullying because of struggles with his sexuality, months after posting this "It Gets Better" clip on YouTube.
Lady Gaga's Dedication
After vowing to stop bullying and make it illegal, Lady Gaga -- a longtime advocate for LGBT causes -- dedicated a performance to Rodemeyer at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. "I wrote this record about how your identity is really all you've got when you're in school," Gaga told the crowd. "So tonight, Jamey, I know you're up there looking at us, and you're not a victim. You're a lesson to all of us."
Bachmann Speaks Out
Days after being faced with a petition that urged her to publicly address gay bullying in her district, Rep. Michele Bachmann noted, "That's not a federal issue," according to CBS News. Previously, Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, a gay teen in the Anoka-Hennepin school district who committed suicide after having been bullied in area schools, delivered petitions to Bachmann's office asking her for support.
Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old from Ottawa, Canada, committed suicide Oct. 14. In this clip, the teen performs Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me."
Hubley Tribute Video
Friends created a poignant tribute video to Hubley, the Canadian 10th grader who committed suicide on Friday.