A 12-year-old boy from Folsom, Calif. committed suicide Wednesday night, Dec. 3, after schoolmates had bullied him for being a cheerleader, according to his friends and family.
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ABC News10 reported that Ronin Shimizu, a former 6th grader enrolled at Folsom Middle School, was taken out of the school to be home-schooled after intense harassment from fellow students. According to Ronin's friends and family, the harassment centered around Ronin being the only boy cheerleader for the Vista Jr. Eagles squad.
"He was bullied very badly," Folsom student Riley Coleman told News10 as she teared up. "It's not okay to bully people."
The night after Ronin had taken his life, many families gathered at the Shimizu home to pay tribute. There were so many people that had showed up to mourn Ronin in the street that cars were unable to pass, said News10.
"So sad to know that people can hurt you that way," student Allie Flahive said.
"I was devastated when I found out. I started crying," said Ronin's friend Grace Velander. "I've known him since 6th grade. Me and him had classes all last year together."
Local parents showed empathy at the Shimizu home, as well as concern for their own children.
"He was just a sweet child. For him to feel that hopeless is heart-breaking," said parent Cynthia Brown.
Another concerned parent, Stephanie Doherty, said, "I can't imagine a child taking it to that level. I've had a son that's been bullied. It's so scary."
Folsom Middle School Principal John Bliss emailed parents about Ronin's death:
"Dear Folsom Middle families: I'm writing with a heavy heart today. By now you have heard about the tragic death of one of our former students. Ronin Shimizu briefly attended Folsom Middle last year as a sixth-grader, and this news has deeply saddened many of our students and staff who knew him.
Today we have and will continue to provide counseling and support to students and staff who need assistance dealing with their grief. And while do not know all of the circumstances surrounding Ronin's passing, we will continue our work to maintain a safe, caring and positive school environment free from bullying and harassment.
I encourage you to talk to you child about how they are processing this news, what feelings they may be experiencing and if they need any help. In the meantime, please keep this student's family in your thoughts during this difficult time. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Principal John Bliss
The school district also released a statement:
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by this unspeakable tragedy, and our hearts go out to Ronin's family during this difficult time. Many students, teachers and staff who knew Ronin remember him as a positive and outgoing child, and our school communities are truly grieving this loss today. We are moved by the outpouring of support from families and community members asking how they can help."
Daniel Thigpen, Public Information Officer, Folsom Cordova Unified School District
News10 spoke with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Andrew Mendonsa, who explained that there is an increase in suicides among young people.
"Unfortunately, what people don't realize is that the younger you are, you don't have a reference point that adults do. 'Things get better. That's just a bump in the road. Trust me life will get better.' We have that as adults. As children, you don't have that," said Mendonsa.
Mendonsa went on to state that social media has only made matters worse for the latest generation of young people battling against bullying.
"Once it gets out there, it can be retweeted, or reblogged, or reposted numerous times, and it's almost exponential that one person because ten, becomes a hundred, becomes a thousand."