An elementary school community is mourning the loss of one of its students after a Denver mom said her 9-year-old son died by suicide last week. According to the mother, Leia Pierce, her son came out as gay over the summer and was bullied by his peers.
"I lost a reason to breathe... my heart, my sunshine, my son... he was being bullied and i didnt know," Pierce wrote on Facebook. "Not till it was to late.. i wish i knew everything so i could've stopped this."
The boy had just started school on Aug. 20, NBC reports. His mother found him dead four days later days later.
"i want justice for my son and the only way to get that is to touch peoples hearts and tell them if we love more it will be harder to hate.." Pierce wrote in another Facebook post. "if you speak on my son speak with the same compassion he had.. he wanted everyone to feel loved cause i taught all my kids we are all the same and he treated people as equals because he was taught love.. so teach your kids love please.. stop bullying.."
After coming out to his mother, Pierce's son wanted to tell people at school, Pierce told KDVR-TV, an ABC affiliate. She says that her son's peers bullied him after he shared his news.
"Four days is all it took at school. I could just imagine what they said to him," Pierce told KDVR-TV. "My son told my oldest daughter the kids at school told him to kill himself. I'm just sad he didn't come to me."
The school district sent out a statement after the boy's death, saying that people within the "school community are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status," according to 4WWL, a CBS affiliate. The statement continued:
It is critical that our students receive all the supports they need to learn and thrive in a safe and welcoming environment. Our formal policies and practices reflect this commitment to ensuring that our LGBTQ+ students can pursue their education with dignity — from policies and training to prevent and stop bullying to formal policies and guidance materials that fully respect gender identity (including use of preferred pronouns and restrooms).
Pierce has told several medial outlets that after telling her that he was gay, her son expressed a desire to wear more feminine clothing. On the first day of school, she said, he wore fake nails.
"I know you buy me boy stuff because I'm a boy, but I'd rather dress like a girl," Pierce said her son told her, according to CBS.
The coroner's office confirmed that the boy's death was a suicide, The Denver Post reports. Crisis counselors were scheduled to meet with children at the boy's school on Monday.
"Fourth and fifth grade teachers at Shoemaker [Elementary] are creating a space for students to share how they are feeling and to process their emotions after hearing this news," Denver Public Schools spokesperson Jones told the Post. "Teachers are also letting students know about the DPS crisis team members on hand to meet their social-emotional needs."
Pierce's family, along with their community, are left reeling after their loss. Both say they are encouraging bullying prevention moving on.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.