SAMSON, Ala. (WDHN) — Kelly Fulford is looking for justice for her nephew Javier Sanchez who recently took his own life after he experienced bullying at Samson High School and she says he didn’t get the proper help.
“The bullying needs to stop and it’s gotta stop for these kids’ sake,” Fulford said. “They need to be heard when they are being bullied, it’s just crazy that this has taken place, all lives matter.”
Fulford said her nephew had been dealing with the bullying for at least a year.
He was previously dealing with family-related issues at home and then when he got to school it was hard to escape it as friends and family say he was verbally abused by some students.
“Most of the things were homophobic because he was openly gay,” his best friend Sofia Ruiz said.
“That little community did not like that and for one he wasn’t a popular name and if you’re not popular you don’t matter,” his Aunt said.
Superintendent Becky Birdsong said unfortunately bullying takes place in nearly every school and her schools have a zero-tolerance policy as stated in their handbook along with the consequences.
Right now, she’s investigating the rumors by talking to students and administrators about what’s going on in the schools to find out what needs to be addressed and if there should be changes.
She said she hasn’t heard if Sanchez reached out for help or not.
“I’m investigating. I don’t have any knowledge of that but if we find that to be true it will be handled,” Birdsong said.
She said in the meantime, the schools have licensed professional counselors ready to listen to students although not every student will reach out.
In order to prevent a tragedy where bullying played a factor, she’s working with schools to ensure each student has a mentor they can go to discuss problems in a safe space without being judged.
“We realize that mental health is such a big issue for students nowadays,” she added.
Monday night, around 50 students and staff gathered around the fountain for a balloon release and candlelight vigil to remember Javier.
“He was a great friend and was always there when I needed him,” Ruiz said.
Family and friends of Sanchez say they want all parents and school administrators to step up and listen to children seriously about bullying.
All Samson schools will dismiss at 1 p.m. Tuesday so students and staff can pay their respects to the family of Javier.