In 2011-2012 school year at Southeast Polk High School, nearly 30 cases of bullying were reported to the Department of Education, but students say it’s a much bigger problem.
Students at say a beloved classmate, 16-year-old Alexander Betts Junior also known as A.J., took his life over the weekend.
Monday evening friends and family members met to remember the good times they shared.
“I`m going to miss all the good time we had all the smiles,” says friend Belinda Kinkennon.
A.J.’s sister, Aaliyah says, “His smile and how when he walked in a room he could make anyone smile and brighten up their day.”
Another classmate said A.J. always knew how to make her smile.
“He was just so happy and whenever I was having a bad day he would be there,” says Payton Thompson.
Friends say even though A.J. had a positive attitude and was always looking out for everyone else he did struggle with bullying at school.
About a year ago, they say A.J. came out as gay and the torment got worse.
On Friday, A.J. decided it was too much and attempted suicide, he was taken off life-support Monday.
People met at the school to meet with counselors and have time to start the grieving process, the gathering was not open to the media.
A.J.’s family and friends want his life to be remembered and hope to bring light to the problem of bullying.
“I think he was struggling and he kept it inside too long and he needed to talk to people but he couldn`t. I hope that people will remember him and that he won`t be forgotten and that bullying does stop,” said his sister Aaliyah.
Other friends say they saw what was happening and wish they would have done something.
“I really think something needs to be done, I’ve seen him get bullied and I always wished I had the confidence to stand up but I never did and something happened and I think something needs to be done,” says Thompson.
A family member said A.J.’s organs were donated and doctors say it will help at least six people.
School officials at SE Polk said they are going to plan for another time for students to get together before school starts back up to make sure everyone is doing okay.