Today, Melissa delivered this statement at the City Council’s stated meeting in memory of Joel Morales:
Thank you Madam Speaker. This is truly a tragedy. Joel Morales was just 12 years old. That he could be driven to end his young life in this way is truly unfathomable. One cannot imagine the amount of pain Joel must have been feeling in his final moments, as a result of constant bullying, teasing and harassment. By all accounts, Joel was a wonderful young man. Yet he was relentlessly teased and harassed — for being short, for being studious, and even for having a deceased father. He was chased down and jumped after school and he was even met at his door by bullies who threw sticks and a pipe at him.
His mother did everything within her power to make life better for her son — moving him to a new school, requesting a transfer to a new housing development, obtaining a restraining order against one of the bullies. Still, the cruel and painful sting of bullying drove him to take his own life. My heart truly breaks for Ms. Babilonia, as well as Joel’s entire family and his friends. I am currently reaching out to the family to offer my support and condolences.
In memory of Joel and in an effort to prevent another tragedy like this one from taking place, my office will work with our local schools and youth groups to send a message that bullying will not be tolerated in our community and that there is help out there for young people who are feeling overcome with pain. We need all of our youth to play a role, even if they are not the bullies or the ones being bullied. We need our young people to stand up for one another, and also to know the signs of when a friend might need some extra help, and how to get that help.
I am proud of the work we in the Council have done around both bullying and suicide. Tragedies like this one underscore the importance of these efforts. Thank you all.