When Words Can Kill: 'That's So Gay'

Anti-gay taunts in school lead to 11-year-old's suicide and calls for change.

ByABC News
April 13, 2009, 6:00 PM

April 14, 2009 — -- Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was 11-- hardly old enough to know his sexuality and yet distraught enough to hang himself last week after school bullies repeatedly called him "gay."

The Springfield, Mass., football player and Boy Scout was ruthlessly teased, despite his mother's pleas to the New Leadership Charter School to address the problem.

Sirdeaner L. Walker, 43, found Carl hanging by an extension cord on the second floor of the family's home April 6, just minutes before she was going to a meeting to confront school authorities again.

"I am brokenhearted," she told ABCNews.com. "We worry about the economy and about Iraq, but we need to be worried about our schools."

Walker, who works as a director of homeless programs, said Carl -- a slight child who loved his schoolwork -- had endured endless taunts since he started sixth grade in September.

School officials did not return numerous calls for comment from ABCNews.com.

The boy had been active in his church, taking communion on the recent Palm Sunday and playing a wise man in the Christmas play. He helped the needy and a black history program.

"That's the type of kid he was," Walker said. "You could rely and count on him."

Walker said her son's 11-year-old tormentors were worse than the breast cancer she had survived four years ago.

In an ironic twist, the boy would have turned 12 on April 17 -- the same day students in thousands of schools across the country will participate in the annual Day of Silence to bring attention to anti-gay harassment in schools.

"There was no reason for the mother to believe he was gay," said Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network spokesman Daryl Presgraves. "It just happens he was someone his peers targeted, calling him, 'girlie,' 'gay' and 'fag.' According to the mother, it was a daily occurrence."