ATLANTA — Editor's note: This story contains graphic descriptions of death by suicide involving children. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.
While schools are meant to be safe learning spaces for students, it can be a different story for some children. Bullying has become an issue for many students, whether it is online or in a classroom setting. For some families, they said their children were "bullied to death," with their sons and daughters dying by suicide.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that at least 3,600 children under the age of 13 died by suicide in the last two decades.
According to experts, suicides are also regularly undercounted, especially among people of color. Jeffery Taylor's family said on the night of Dec. 20, 2019, he grabbed a gun out of a Bible case. The next morning, his mother found him dead with dried blood on his face. Lakeshia Chaney said her 7-year-old told her before he died he was being bullied. His death "appeared to be an accidental event," according to the autopsy. She doesn't believe that was the case.
A team of investigative journalists with 11Alive looked into suicide rates and found research from the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates young Black children are dying by suicide at rates two-times higher than their white peers. Research also shows bullying and racism are tied to many of these suicides. However, this is a topic impacting children of all ages and races along with families across the nation.
Below are the names of at least 12 other children whose deaths were within the last two decades. The heartbreaking fact is that there are thousands more missing from this list -- and thousands more could be added in the years to come as youth suicides continue.
Kendrea Johnson, 6
Kendrea Johnson was found hanging by a jump rope tied to the support post of her bunk bed in 2014 at her Minnesota foster home. She was 6 years old. KARE reported that authorities said her death was either a suicide or a tragic accident. The family reached a $1.5 million settlement with Hennepin County in 2018.
Gabriel Taye, 9
Reports indicate that in 2017 in Cincinnati, Gabriel Taye hanged himself after being subjected to constant bullying at school. According to USA Today, Taye’s family filed a lawsuit citing a cover-up of the bullying that took place on school grounds. The New York Times reports an agreement was made to pay a $3 million settlement last year. He was just 9 years old.
McKenzi Adams, 9
McKenzi Adams died by suicide in Linden, Alabama in 2018. Her grandmother told local news outlets she was being bullied during the school year. She said the 9-year-old was told "kill yourself," and that "you think you’re white because you ride with that white boy."
Jamel Myles, 9
A 2018 report from 9News shares how Jamel Myles died by suicide after coming out to his classmates as gay. His mother wrote online, "My son died because of being bullied please tell ur kids to love everyone we all need to love each other." The 9-year-old Colorado native was in the 4th grade.
Madison “Maddie” Whittsett, 9
Madison “Maddie” Whittsett's family found her hanging in the closet in Nov. 2018, according to AL.com. Days later, she died. Other children had previously called her “stupid” and “dumb.” But after her parents met with the principal, they thought it had been taken care of. She was 9 years old.
Jamari Terrell Williams, 10
Jamari Terrell Williams of Montgomery, Alabama, died by suicide in 2017. His mother said that her son was targeted and bullied for loving to dance. Others also called him "different." He was 10 years old.
"In the weeks leading up to Jamari's death, he would ask me why he was darker than his brother and me. He wanted to know if I loved him because his classmates would say his head was big or he was dark-skinned," his mother, Monique Davis said.
Seven Bridges, 10
Seven Bridge's mother said he was just 10 years old when her son died by suicide. School started in August 2018 and for the first time in Seven's life, so did bullying. Tami Charles said in different incidents, her son was called the N-word and even chocked on a school bus. The Kentucky mother also made complaints to the school and went public with their story. She found her son dead in Jan. 2019. She said, "he died of being bullied to death."
Ashawnty Davis, 10
Ashawnty Davis was just 10 years old when she died by suicide in 2017. Her story made national headlines. Her mother told local outlets in Colorado that Ashawnty confronted a girl that was bullying her at school and got into a fight. 9NEWS reported that video of the fight posted online. After that, she said her "daughter couldn't face another Friday." Davis reportedly hanged herself two weeks later.
Kevin Reese Jr., 10
Kevin Reese Jr. was found hanging from his closet in the home in 2019. His mother told reporters he died by suicide after bullies told him to do so. The Texas 10-year-old was found by his 13-year-old sister.
Carl Walker-Hoover, 11
Carl Walker-Hoover died by suicide 2009 after he faced homophobic bullying though he did not identify as gay, according to reports. Despite numerous complaints to administrators and teachers, his mother said little was done to curb the bullying. He was 11 years old when he died. His story made national headlines, including on Oprah Winfrey's show.
Jaheem Herrera, 11
Also on Oprah's show, was a story about the death of Jaheem Herrera. He hanged himself in closet in DeKalb County, Georgia at 11 years old in 2009, CNN reported. His mother said she complained to the school about the bullying her son experienced multiple times. The district pledged to perform a thorough review, according to Oprah.com.
Michael Martin friends said he was relentlessly bullied about his weight, glasses and his braces. The Michigan boy's mother had reached out to the school repeatedly to try and get help for her child, according to the Lansing State Journal. At the age of 13, he attempted suicide. Reports indicated he was hospitalized and died two days later in 2019.
Some families shared their children's stories with the hopes of helping other youth. Learn more about this topic in the series, "A Different Cry."