Last April, we shared with you the unfortunate news of Nigel Shelby. The 9th grader from Huntsville, Alabama decided to take his life after being the target of homophobic bullying.
At the time, Christie Finley, the Superintendent of Hunstville City Schools, released the below statement to address Nigel’s death.
“I want to take a brief moment to speak about the recent loss of a Huntsville high school student, Nigel Shelby. I spent most of the weekend really processing this loss and I’m sure many of you have as well. And we will for a while to come. It’s clear to me that the simple word of the golden rule has really become more difficult for many to understand and to practice and it is time as a society to value, respect and uplift one another.”
“It is time for us to come together. Now is the time for us to teach our children and our students the values of acceptance, kindness, generosity, helpfulness and basically just being a human being.”
Aaron King, the principal of Huntsville High School, also wrote a statement saying, “We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th grade students. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”
But now, Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, says the school is partially responsible for her son’s suicide.
Earlier today, Camika released a statement through the National Black Justice Coalition that school administrators helped to worsen Nigel’s mental health.
“After my son passed, I learned that he had several discussions about homosexuality with school administrators and was told that being gay was a choice,”
“I was never contacted by the school and informed that my son was struggling with his sexual identity and regularly having discussions with a school administrator,” she added. “Several hours after my son died, a school administrator called me and told me to look for a suicide note in his backpack. People at his school knew that [he] planned to take his own life. I need to find out who knew and why nobody told me until after he died.”
Camika Shelby is being represented by Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand, the duo that represented Trayvon Martin’s family after the teen was shot and killed by neighbor George Zimmerman.
Camika is also being aided by the National Black Justice Coalition in pursuing justice for her son.
“Suicide rates of Black gay boys are on the rise as they are struggling with the matrix of oppression presented by being both Black and gay,” wrote David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, in the statement. “We will work with Nigel’s mother and his attorneys to determine changes that can be made within his school, and other schools in the community, to support culturally competent and intercultural awareness through sex education and other inclusion and anti-bullying policies.”
Hopefully, Camika will find the answers she’s looking for.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, you can contact the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1(800)273-8255.
In addition, you can contact the Crisis Services of North Alabama at (256) 716-1000, text the crisis text line at 741-741, or download the SPEAK suicide prevention app for free.