PLEASANT HILL, Iowa — Alexander (AJ) Betts, a 16-year-old gay teen, took his own life over the weekend, becoming the fifth student from a suburban Des Moines, Iowa, high school to do so in the past five years.
His mother, Sheryl Moore, is hoping her son’s story will put an end to the bullying that she said ended his life.
“It must have been really horrible, if my son got to the point where he would hurt my husband, my daughters and I to take his own life,” said Moore.
Moore told KCCI-TV that she will never know exactly how horrible the bullying was. She said AJ kept a tough exterior and a smile on his face, despite what she is now learning from his friends as they pay their respects.
“We had no indication that anything was wrong. He is the happiest kid I’ve ever met. Everybody who meets him says that,” said Moore.
“About a year and a half ago, AJ was outed as gay at Southeast Polk High School. Everyone got a long with my son very well until they found out he was gay,” she said.
Moore said AJ was constantly ridiculed not only for being gay, but also because he was half African-American and was born with a cleft lip.
The Des Moines Registerreports that AJ’s death renews the sting of tragedy for Southeast Polk. The suicides of four teenage boys within seven months in 2008 spurred town hall meetings and a task force to study a so-called “suicide culture.”
Another 17-year-old student took his own life in December 2009.
Steve Pettit, principal at Southeast Polk High School, said he could not say if AJ had reported being bullied.
A hospital spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Monday morning that AJ was being kept on life support to repair damage to his organs in order for them to be donated.
AJ’s mother said candidates have been selected to receive his liver and kidneys, and doctors planed to take him off life support today.
Editor’s Note: If you or a young person you know is LGBT and thinking about suicide, call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. For adults over 24, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.