The loss of a child to suicide is unimaginable, yet on October 8, a 13-year-old boy from Georgetown, Texas, Peyton James, went to his bedroom and hung himself from the ceiling fan. This was the result of years of bullying by peers and classmates.
He was found by his mother Jacki James. He was rushed to a nearby Round Rock hospital.
Peyton’s father David James told The Woodlands Villager, “By the time his mother found him, he wasn’t breathing and had no heartbeat. She called 911 and began CPR. As emergency responders arrived, they continued the CPR; and after 25 minutes were able to restore his heartbeat.”
However, Peyton was not breathing on his own and they inserted a breathing tube. He remained in a coma, according to the Montgomery Courier.
On October 13, his parents, who divorced eight years ago, made the heart-wrenching decision to take their only son off of life support, the UK Globe & Mail reported.
Peyton was a Hopewell Middle School student and had a long history of terrible verbal and physical abuse from his peers. On that last day before hanging himself, Peyton reported being ridiculed for his Christian faith at school, according to the Globe & Mail. Being new to Hopewell, Peyton didn’t know the boy’s name and that boy was never identified.
When he got home, he shut himself in his room.
‘I thought he was brooding, being a typical 13-year-old boy, and I found him, Jacki James told KVUE-TV.
Sadly, Peyton had experienced a lifetime of bullying because of his red hair, freckles and ‘sensitive nature,’ David James told the Courier.
‘He became frustrated with other students picking on him,’ James said, adding that ” … he was severely ADHD, so despite his love of learning, school became a struggle for him. He never had much interest in athletics. Instead, he preferred reading, Pokemon, anime, Dr. Who and video games,” according to the Globe & Mail article.
The cruelties of bullies plagued Peyton throughout too much of his short life. He was born more than two months premature and lived the first month of his life in the hospital on pure oxygen which caused discoloration of his permanent teeth when they came in. Kids teased him for that, as well, the Globe & Mail also pointed out.
Even after Peyton graduated from Teravista Elementary School and went to Hopewell, bullies continued to call him ‘loser,’ weird, nerd, geek and gay. His mother said that one bully would even throw rocks at Peyton and trip him in the stairwells. Peyton would come home from school every day nearly in tears.
Jacki James is a Georgetown ISD teacher. She made several unsuccessful attempts to help her son by contacting the school’s principal and other officials and even giving them a letter for one of the bully’s mothers, also according to KVUE-TV.
In 2013, Peyton began making comments to his mother about how much better off she would be if he were not around and David even recalled his son saying ‘I should just kill myself,’ the Globe & Mail stated.
The years of schoolyard abuse took its toll. Peyton was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Jacki James tried to instill in him his specialness and how smart and kind a son he was. Through her grief, she said, “I wish he would have come in and screamed or punched the wall or something, so I could help him.”
Tearfully, she told KVUE-TV, ‘If throughout those years, if these certain people had just been kind to him and maybe if Payton had more self-esteem, he would have recognized his value.
She is trying to find solace by launching Kindness Counts, a campaign to prevent this kind of tragedy again. The Facebook page has more than 10,500 likes.
To ease the pain, his dad David, Woodland College Park High School Assistant Swim Coach, started Products for Peyton, a drive to collect travel-size toiletries for the Ronald McDonald House, where he and his second wife stayed when Peyton was in the hospital those five days, the Courier reported.
There has been an overwhelming community response to Products for Peyton. James hoped that those who heard Peyton’s would not only think about donating products in his memory, but would learn to address and help prevent suicide.
Following the tragedy, district spokeswoman JoyLynn Occhiuzzi addressed anti-bullying and character building curriculum and spoke on Round Rock ISD’s open-door policy for students and parents to report bullying, according to the Globe & Mail article.
Ironically, several weeks after Peyton’s suicide was Texas Safe Schools Week. October 24 was Bully Prevention Day.
In the Texas Education Agency (TEA) news release, it read: “Bullying remains one of the most prevalent and widely discussed topics pertaining toschool safety and security. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that,among Texas students, 19.1 percent of students had been bullied on school property and 13.8 percent of students had been electronically bullied (what hasnow become commonly known as cyberbullying) during the 12 months before the survey. In both cases, the CDC reported that the prevalence of bullying was higher among females than males.
The Texas Education Code defines bullying as “engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student,” according to the release.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1942 mandating that schools make campuses safer for all students, specifically in cases of bullying and cyberbullying.
The elementary and middle schools Peyton attended were both No Place for Hate campuses in 2013-14. To earn that distinction, schools had to commit to a “resolution of respect.”
Sadly, all the legislation, school precautions and anti-bullying campaigns did not save Peyton’s life.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.