Another Death Caused by Senseless Bullying

‘Happy kid’ kills himself over bullying at two NYC schools

NEW YORK CITY — A 12-year-old boy harassed by school bullies about his intelligence, his height and his deceased father killed himself in the New York City apartment he shared with his mother, according to relatives and those who knew him, reported.

“I want to remember him as a happy kid,” his anguished sister told NBC 4 New York on Thursday.

Joel Morales, of East Harlem, moved to a different school after enduring incessant taunting for months, but the bullying persisted, the fifth-grader’s family said.

Kids chased Morales, threw sticks and pipes at him and teased him for his smarts and his 4-foot-9 stature, his family said.

Morales’ anguish reached a breaking point when bullies taunted him about his father, who died when he was four years old, according to relatives.

His mother, Lisbeth Babilonia, found him hanging in their apartment at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, hours after she had organized a search party when he didn’t return home on time from an after-school club.

An occupational therapist who worked with Morales at one of the schools because of his diminutive size told NBC 4 New York the boy only reluctantly talked about his problems.

“It was very difficult, especially with a child like Joel who wants so badly to please everyone, to see that he was really in pain, that he was struggling,” said Maria Ubiles.

Arlene Gago, a youth minister from a church group, said she spoke with Morales regularly at the Jefferson Houses where he lived but never knew of his distress.

“I always asked him, ‘How you doing? How’s school?'” she said. “We talked but he’d never tell me what was going on.”

A classmate told Morales’ family that the boy had said he was tired of the bullying and told them the details of the remark about his father that sent him over the edge.

School officials declined to comment on the alleged bullying, citing privacy issues.

Police said Morales left no suicide note.


This is appalling! Suicide due to being bullied is really and truly an epidemic, and now the kids who feel there is no other option are getting younger and younger. Not only does the bullying need to stop, but parents need to communicate more with their children. Show them how drastic bullying can be to the victim  to help their kids better understand to what extreme it could go; and also make a plan for them in the case that they themselves are be bullied. If they know who to talk to and what to say, they will more likely have the courage to ask for help before giving up entirely.

Please, parents, teachers, neighbors, coaches…TALK to the kids in your life. They need to hear it from the trusted adults that they see everyday. They may even seem not to be listening or not to care, but when the time comes when it is important, they will remember. Sometimes the ONLY reason kids do what we prepare them to do is because they trust and respect the adults that take the time to care and will do the right thing for that very reason!

Please, do not fool yourself by believing that it could not be your kid who is the bully or that when your child seems fine that he or she must be doing okay. Ask them, share with them, and create a link between you and your children that is consistent, so when trouble arises, it will be the natural thing to do to discuss it with you. We talk to our kids about smoking, drinking, drugs, and the dangers of unsafe and irresponsible sex, and because bullying is more and more is ending in suicide, we need to prepare them for that too. No, we cannot protect them from everything and everyone, but we can create a dialogue that will help them make the right choices in how they treat others and how to ask for help by insuring them that they will be respected and kept safe. Come up with a plan, such as a code word, that the child can blurt out to alert you that they have something to say and that it is difficult to find the words. Then you can help them along by asking gentle, simple, yes or no questions and giving them your full and uninterrupted attention. Once the “secret” is out and they realize that you are on their side, the remaining details will come.

What you must understand is that for most, the bullying is not only very intimidating and frightening, but can be brutal (even when it is just words) and very traumatizing. Even when the individual weathers the storm and does not chose to end their life, the effects of bullying can last throughout their life and can affect them in so many ways that not all have been fully identified.  Pay attention to things your child says. They may try to talk to you, and it may be the only chance you get. Do NOT blow them off or minimize their experience or emotions. Because if you do, it may be the last interaction you, or anyone else, will have with your child.


17 responses to “Another Death Caused by Senseless Bullying

  1. Stories like these are the norm today and that makes me so sad that yet another child has taken a precious life for cruel and demeaning bullying. I have been thinking of writing a post about bullying myself as it is more frequent than we hear about. But then look at the world. The anger that exists, the warring, the oppression and brutality. The future seems bleak at best for many young people. Parents are divorcing, children are raising themselves with no guidelines and discipline and love.
    We are reaping what we have sown and it is so heartbreaking. What a good post as tragic as it is.
    I think it was aluded to that James Holmes the shooter at the Aurora movie theater had been picked on a lot too. But I am preparing to write a post about that.
    Thank you for visiting me at my site. And I applaud your voice and work to help eleviate by education the many horrific ills of our world.

  2. This is such a heartbreaking tragedy. Bullying might have its grey areas, but adults need to be more on top of situations than they are. How a child can have sticks and pipes thrown at him, and nothing be done at that moment is appalling. I refuse to believe that no one really knew how bad it was until his suicide.

    • I have to agree with you there. With a few rare exceptions, it is hard to believe that something like this can go on long enough to push the child to even consider suicide and that no one noticed anything was wrong. If he truly was a very happy child then serious bullying would have affected his mood at some point or his appetite or his grades. And, if he did not leave a note, how did they know that bullying was even happening to him if they didn’t know beforehand and then, why was nothing done? What kind of example are the adults setting for the kids? Even keeping silent is a bad influence. Thank you for reading and for your comment!

  3. Hey Cindy, once again you hit the mark. Some great ideas – the code word is genius, I reckon. Are you specialising in child/adolescent psychology? My mum always told us to fight back – she is diminutive, so this is an obvious strategy for her. My strategy was always to start making a lot of noise, to draw attention from teachers. This used to at least sort the problem at the time and after a few times the bullying just petered out. Anyone who is perceived as slightly different from the majority runs a risk of being picked on, and thank goodness there are lots of people. I wonder if because of the media reporting, more children are becoming more aware that suicide is an option. It’s just dreadful. There seemed to be more going on in Joe’s life than the bullying alone.

    • Hi Sakina! Thank you so much for your comment and for your support. I have touched on a few of the things you have said here in previous comments, so please do revisit the post and scroll through the responses I have posted. You are the second to bring up that maybe the media is partly to blame for showcasing the option of suicide. I intend to do some research. I am not studying child psychology per se, but have leaned more toward adolescents. My original goal was to help young teens and young adults face ans succeed in accepting their sexual orientation, gender identity, coming out, and dealing with prejudice in a way that they will be able to move on and to grow from the experience rather than allowing themselves to fall victim and struggle with their own quality of life due to others’ lack of knowledge and sense of humanity. However, the more I read about the bullying, and because it is a lot of times due to sexual orientation or gender identity, or like you said, anything that makes them different and stand out a little, the more I want to fight this cause and make some changes. It is a big fight and I cannot do it alone, but with the support of others and the realization that it may have to be accomplished one person at a time, I am ready to do my part and to continue to raise awareness so other scan strengthen our forces. Please understand, when I say fight, I am referring to the behaviors and not the individuals who are behaving in unacceptable ways. I want to dig in, find the causes, and come up with effective and long lasting solutions in which everyone wins and no one gets hurt.
      I just re read the last sentence of your comment and it occurred to me that it has to be considered that the media only reports what it chooses to and that you are right. What else was going on? He did not leave a note, so how do they know that it was his last option to stop the bullying? And if his mother searched for him for hours, why was he not found sooner when he was found in his own bedroom? Wow! Lots of questions. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I am going to be honest here, I couldn’t get past the first paragraph. To any person reading this with a heavy heart wondering what is wrong with the world, I implore you to stop reading about these tragedies and start doing something about them.

    Go volunteer at a local school. If you are financially able, make a contribution to one of the countless charities that are doing really amazing things in the world. If you are a parent, uncle, older sibling, godparent or whatever – drop what you are doing and take that child to a baseball game or just spend some time with him/her.

    Tragedies like this can never be blamed on one person, but all it often takes is one person to prevent it. And I guarantee you that any effort, time or money you invest will come back to you with interest.

    • I agree with you to a point. People need to do something about this, however, some are truly not aware until they read the reality of what is going on in the world. If if we tell people to stop reading, then others will stop writing and it will appear that the problem has gone away. Reading the stories such as this one is a good way to let people know that not enough has been done and that this battle is still going on and needing all the reinforcements we can get. It measures what we have accomplished and what is working and what is not. The information being available is very important, but I do agree that we should stop with the OMG and Can you believe it and begin putting actions behind those words. Thank you for sharing your point of view. I really appreciate it!

  5. So heartbreaking, but thank you for bringing attention to it. I like your idea of a code word to help kids try to discuss their feelings. It can be difficult to get kids to open up, so that’s a good way to break the ice. This is just so tragic.

    • When teaching my boys not to talk to or to believe anything a stranger has to say, we used a code word. If a policeman were to approach them and say, your mom has been in an accident and wants me to bring you to her, they are to ask for the code word and if it is not immediately given to start screaming, run if possible and to get the attention of another adult. I was so concerned that I even had my youngest son practice his scream. A little over zealous maybe, but I knew he was prepared and it made me feel better. I have a vague recollection of us using a code word another time, but the details elude me at the moment. The important thing is to have specific terms that apply and to stick to them no matter what. For example, my son and I may agree that once he says the code word to me that I am to ask no questions, but to trust that he will give me the details one at a time and in his own time. If he gives the code word and I ask one single question, the security of telling has been broken and he would never trust me to be the one to talk to again. They have to feel safe and be able to be sure that in the telling, they are in control and that they themselves will not be doubted or hurt. There will always be cases in which this doesn’t work or that it is abused, but for the most part, I believe it is a good start in trying to protect our kids without smothering them or pushing them away. Whew! OK, I am shutting up now. 🙂

      • All good points. I’ve role-played with my kids, too. Had them do the screams and all. We teach our kids to be kind to others, so we also need to teach them how to respond to a situation where they’re safety is threatened.

        • Yes, so very true. We cannot always fight their battles for them or be by their side every second to protect them, but it is our responsibility to prepare them to stand strong and survive any given situation, especially the ones we know are occurring everyday in our kids school, i.e. bullying. I am so happy to hear that you spend time helping your children learn these valuable lessons. So many parents just don’t want to deal with it and then wonder why their child became a victim of something so ugly and unnecessary. I truly believe our children hear us more than we give them credit for and they do store away in their memories the important messages even when they seem so very disinterested. I know I have seen that with my kids, and have been very proud to hear that they remembered what I said and made the right choice. Good for you! 😉

  6. I was so sad when I read this story. The world, well us humans, need to get our priorities right. Children need to be taught respect for their self and for others. Bullying is never okay.

    • You are absolutely right, but the sad truth is, bullying occurs at all ages. And the worst part is, the ones who do bully had to learn form somewhere. Is this how their parents behave to the kids or to others in their life? Or some other family member that the kids spend a significant amount of time with? Or are they watching way too much of the wrong influence on television? These are the things I wonder about and would like to know. I DO NOT condone bullying for any reason, but I would like to know what the reasons are and what thoughts are going through the bullies’ minds. It just may shed some light, but so far, the research that has been done shows that in most cases, the kids who bully, do so for the joy of being mean. That is a problem and a disgusting one at that! The more I learn the more I will post. This subject is very near to my heart. I was not personally bullied, but have seen others being bullied and found myself cringing as if it were me who was being victimized. How many kids are like I was and do nothing because they are too intimidated or even to some extent traumatized by what they see? This problem spans many more than the bully and their victim and that needs to also be recognized.
      Yikes! Time to get off my soap box, but thanks for your comments and your support.

  7. Truly disheartening and sad. Beyond sad, a true tragedy. And it is an epidemic. I was bullied as a kid for being poor (beyond my control) but never once did I think of suicide. I wonder how much the social media is playing this up, this “option” kids are choosing. I dislike the media reporting this stuff and I wonder how much harm rather than good it’s doing. Or maybe it’s been there all along but now it’s in “vogue” to emphasis it?

    • You make a very good point and I will be sure to put a lot of thought into it. However, my first thought was that if kids see how upset everyone is due to the choice of suicide, I would think it would give them reason to give pause and think and possibly find the courage to tell someone first. I could be wrong and like I said, I will give some serious thought to your point of view. I think it is important to consider every angle when trying to make a difference in an epidemic such as this one. Thank you for reading and taking the time to post your thoughts. I really appreciate it!

  8. After I clicked on “Like” I thought about it. I liked what you had to say, but I did not enjoy reading the report about what happened to the little boy. Things like that always make me angry.


    • And it also makes me angry. That is why I post these stories to raise awareness, but also why I study psychology to try a find a way to get this kind of thing under control, even if it is one kid at a time. Thank you for reading!

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