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: