HuffPost Greatest Person Of The Day: Sirdeaner Walker Honors Son's Death By Fighting School Bullying
When Sirdeaner Walker found out her son was being bullied and called homophobic slurs, she told his school about it.
"I thought they would handle the situation," she said. It turned out, "the school just didn't know how to or they weren't equipped to handle it. I thought it had stopped, but it continued and escalated."
Her son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover completed suicide in 2009. He was 11 years old. As she grieved, Sirdeaner received letters and cards from parents all over America whose children were also bullied.
"It just seemed like something needed to be done," she said.
Sirdeaner is now a board member and spokesperson for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). She has also testified before Congress, advocating for the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would provide schools with resources to help deal with bullying in the 21st century, Sirdeaner said.
"This is a national health crisis that is facing our young people," Sirdeaner said. "They say 'kids will be kids', but kids today are exposed to so much more than when I was a kid. Now with the Internet and social networking sites, bullying is taking place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
The bill would require schools to report incidences of harassment and bullying to the parents of the victim and to the parents of the student doing the bullying.
The legislation has received criticism from conservative groups like Focus on the Family for promoting what they say is a gay agenda.
Sirdeaner bristles at the notion that the bill is about anything more than keeping children safe.
"It's very frustrating for me as a parent who's lost a child," Sirdeaner said. "This is what our children are saying in schools. They're not necessarily calling people derogatory names based on race or religion. This is the new sort of 'N word.'"
Sirdeaner said addressing bullying will help keep students in school.
"If they don't feel safe, they won't go to school," she said. "If they don't go to school, they won't graduate and if they don't graduate they will end up in the criminal justice system."
Sirdeaner speaks around the country, telling people her story and hoping it will change how students are treated.
"When they hear my story and they hear Carl's story, I just hope they don't think this is part of an agenda for some particular group," she said. "I do this because I don't want any family to suffer the way I have suffered."
Though she said there is much work to be done, Sirdeaner remains determined to make her son proud.
"My faith keeps me going," she said. "My belief that God will turn this event that happened in our lives into something that's positive and that Carl would be proud of. He would know that I'm fighting and, even though I failed him in life, I refuse to fail him in death."
WATCH Sirdeaner speak before Congress.