Family of Boy, 12, Who Hanged Himself Points to Bullying
they had charged three students with crimes including robbery, making threats and lying to authorities after, the authorities said, they picked on a 15-year-old student who then killed himself.
A spokeswoman for the New York City Education Department said Thursday that she could not comment on a specific case. The New York City Housing Authority said that written consent was required from the boy’s family before it could discuss the matter, and that no such consent had been communicated.
But children who knew Joel in his compact world — just blocks from school to home — say he was a victim of prolonged bullying.
Dorian Lawrence, 11, a classmate at Public School 57, said Joel did not report the times he was bullied.
“Just walk away,” Dorian said. “The day before he passed, I was with him. We were playing basketball. He was happy. But the kids came and bothered him, so we left and went to the park. They followed us there. Then we went to my house and waited for them to leave. They stayed 20 minutes outside, then left. We had to keep looking around to make sure they didn’t come back.”
Destynee Lewis, 11, a former classmate, said Joel was picked on for being short. “The bullies are a group of boys — 12, 9, 10, 11 — all different ages,” she said. “They told him he was ugly, and he’d tell the teacher, and the teacher would tell the parents” of the children who picked on Joel. “But it didn’t help.”
“People really picked on him, both inside and outside the school. I can’t say it, what they said, they were bad words,” Destynee said. “I felt angry and sad, because he was a nice kid and I’d stick up for him. They’d say, mind your business.”
Dave Ortiz, 38, a parent who lives across the street from P.S. 102, said that he did not believe bullying was a big problem at the school and that his 8-year-old daughter knew Joel to always be in low spirits. Once, “she said he was holding five pencils and was trying to stab himself,” he said.
Donald McGrier, 18, a neighbor of Joel’s, said he often saw the boy on his bike. “You could tell that something might have been wrong with him, but he wouldn’t really show it,” Mr. McGrier said. “He was very reserved.”
The anecdotes belied the smiling photographs of Joel published in The Daily News and The New York Post in the first reports of his death on Thursday. “I go to school, play video games and ride bikes,” the boy wrote on his Facebook page, The Daily News reported.
“My brother was loved, my brother was an angel,” Joel’s half-brother, Richard Salazar, 25, said on Thursday. Once, he organized a meeting of parents whose sons were bullying Joel, he said. They all pointed fingers at one boy. The day after the suicide, that boy showed up at a memorial of candles and scrawled messages of grief. “I told them to get out, not as nice as that,” he said.
Francisco Babilonia, 65, said Joel, his grandson, spoke to him about bullies. “He’d say, ‘Grandpa, they bother me and chase me. I don’t know what to do,’ ” Mr. Babilonia said. “I feel so bad. I’d say, ‘Call me if you have a problem that you can’t handle and I’ll help you.’ ”
Joel was a very young child when his father, Jose Morales, died. “We talked about his dad, good things, but not about how he died,” Mr. Salazar said. “He only knew that he was in heaven.”
The father, Mr. Salazar said, had jumped off a building to his death.
Aaron Edwards contributed reporting.
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