DA to look into suicide of teen said to be bullied

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By JUAN A. LOZANO
The Associated Press
Friday, October 1, 2010; 11:08 PM

HOUSTON -- Prosecutors said Friday they will look into what led to the suicide of a 13-year-old Houston boy whose parents say was relentlessly bullied at his middle school for two years because of his religion and sexual orientation.

Asher Brown's parents, who claim school officials ignored their pleas for help, said they hope "justice will be served" by the investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

"Once they find out what's been hidden, we would want the people responsible to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Asher's stepfather, David Truong.

Asher shot himself in the head with his stepfather's handgun on Sept. 23 at his family's home.

Truong said his son, a straight-A student who loved to read, had been ridiculed by students at school because he was small, a Buddhist and didn't wear designer clothes. This summer, Asher converted to Christianity in the hope students would no longer make fun of his religion, Truong said.

"What my child went through was not normal in any capacity," Truong said. "It was relentless. It was just day after day and nothing was done and now my son is dead."

Truong said students also made fun of Asher because they believed he was gay. Truong said while he and Asher's mother, Amy, suspected their son was gay, the teen didn't confirm this to him until the day of his suicide.

"I told him, 'We'll talk about it when you get home.' I told him, 'You know your mother and I support you," Truong said. "He told me, 'Have a good day.' I said, 'Have a good day son.' That was the last time I spoke to my son."

Truong found the teen's body when he returned from work later that day.

The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District has previously said no one - Asher's parents, fellow students or school employees - reported the eighth-grader was being bullied. In a statement released Friday night, the district said "some student information indicates a perception that Asher was mistreated by classmates, but those concerns were not reported."

The district said it is conducting a thorough investigation into the bullying allegations.

In the statement, the district said that, upon enrollment, Asher's mother reported his personal history, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Asher made contact with both his sixth- and seventh-grade counselors.

The district said his mother contacted his counselor about two weeks before he died asking for help in monitoring Asher's behavior "due to a significant emotional struggle within the family." The statement said his counselor alerted all his teachers and assistant principal of "their family's situation." The following week, an assistant principal followed up with Asher's mother by phone, according to the statement.

Truong said he and his wife repeatedly called, e-mailed or visited with counselors and other school officials about what was happening to their son but their concerns "fell on deaf ears."

Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney's Office, confirmed her office was looking into Asher's suicide but declined to comment further. Truong said he and his wife had not asked for the investigation but were grateful it was being conducted.

The announcement from prosecutors comes the same week as officials in New Jersey said they're examining whether more charges are warranted in the case of a college student who committed suicide after images of him having an intimate encounter with another man were surreptitiously streamed online.

Child Protective Services is also investigating Asher's death and whether factors either inside or outside his home might have contributed to his death, said CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin.

Asher's family planned to hold a memorial service for him Saturday.


© 2010 The Associated Press

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