The Joel Morales Story

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Stopping hate-filled violence and creating a better society by Bette Dewing What if your two sons were bullied and, when transferred to a different school, the harassment continued and your request for housing in another district was denied? Of course you know this happened to a 12-year-old East Harlem boy, Joel Morales. Finally, this beloved son of Lizbeth Babilonia could not take it anymore and hanged himself in the family bathroom. Would it were an isolated tragedy, but you know it is not, as more and more boys and girls are committing suicide to escape hateful harassment by their peers. How to overcome this awful epidemic of kids tormenting other kids? Well, we need prime-time, front-page stories and outraged editorials and columns-not only about the resulting tragic suicides but the longtime suffering of the majority of these young victims. The New York Times ran a story June 1 with three needed visuals. One was Joel's smiling Facebook photo, which, along with the page's happy messages, belied what so damaged his life. Another photo showed his grieving half-brother, Richard Salazar, 25, bending over the memorial outside the family home. But the one that needs airing again and again shows Joel's anguished mother sobbing, "I want my son back! I want my son back!" Yes, we need these true stories and photos out there in public, but songs may impress even more. One should be titled "I Want my Son Back" and tell the Morales story. But back to his story; only now do we learn how his tormentors, ages 9-12, came to his door and threw sticks in his face. And how these junior terrorists followed him and a friend to a basketball court, and when the boys retreated to the friend's house, they waited outside. These are just two of many stories that needed to be told publicly. Ironically, school authorities knew, the little sociopaths' families knew, everyone knew-including his grandfather, who offered to help with any problems, but Morales was a shy child. What may have well triggered his final despair were reported taunts about his father, who committed suicide when Morales was a baby. The family kept this from him, and maybe he found out about it the day before his lifeless body was found, by his mother-can you imagine? Infinitely more needs to be said (and I will) and done to stop this terrible, wrongful loss of young life and its hate-filled behavior causes. Now most young tormentors just get a slap on the wrist-if that. No more! And we can overcome, if enough of us try!

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