Vigil for Teen Bullied to Suicide - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Vigil for Teen Bullied to Suicide

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by Phil Prazan

pprazan@myabc5.com

@PhilPrazan

Just weeks before the school year starts at Southeast Polk High School, there was news of the death of junior AJ Betts. He attempted suicide one week ago and his mother eventually had to make the decision to pull him off life support.

Friday was his funeral and a vigil.

AJ's sister spoke about how her brother was a role model to her and a couple close friends; but also how bullying about his homosexuality forced many talks with his mother about committing suicide.
 
"So many people actually did care about him and he didn't see the people who cared about him.  He only saw the bad things that a few people said," says his sister Lexi Betts.
 
If AJ ever felt alone in school the people at the vigil holding balloons and lighting candles think differently.

Well over a hundred came to Haines Park in Altoona to remember the young man who touched their lives in many ways. Friends, family and supporters from the LGBT community spoke to the crowd and shared their thoughts.

AJ's mother Sheryl Moore told us what hurt her son the most was not the teasing by other students, but the silence of kids he knew well after he came out.

The vigil's goal was organized by his sister to stay positive.

His mother hopes this display and AJ's death can help the situation at Southeast Polk High School.  His is the 5th suicide in five years.
 
"If I can make it so that nobody puts the name "Suicide High" over SE Polk again then that would be a wonderful thing and I think my son would be very happy cause he loved the students who attended," says Sheryl Moore, AJ's mother. "Does that mean I'm going to be rallying on Capitol Hill next week? No.  I don't think so.  But that doesn't mean I'm dropping this issue because my son was buried today.  I'm not.  I'm going to make sure something's done about this.  It may not be immediate.  It may take a long while.  I'm going to make sure things change at Southeast Polk," she said.
 
At the end of the vigil all the balloons held by supporters were released in the air, saying a final goodbye to their friend who the community lost far too soon.

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