Josh Pacheco was a junior at Linden High School in Fenton, Mich., where he loved theater, his Advanced Placement history class, and his friends and family, his mother Lynette Capehart told Michigan Live. But the "sensitive" teen was also the target of relentless antigay bullying, which his parents believe led the 17-year-old to commit suicide on November 27.
Pacheco came out as gay to his mother just two months before he died, Capehart told MLive. Capehart and her husband, Pacheco's stepfather, didn't know the extent to which their son was bullied, being shoved into lockers and harassed both in and outside of school. Their first indication was when Pacheco returned from a homecoming dance on October 6 in tears, but wouldn't elaborate on why he was upset.
"He was having problems with bullying," Capehart said. "He didn't really want to tell us very much. It was very disheartening to me."
MLive reports that Pacheco questioned his life and his future in conversations to his siblings, which prompted his mother to make him an appointment with a counselor. But Pacheco never made it to the counseling appointment, posting on Facebook near lunchtime on November 26, a quote from J.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."
When a neighbor checked in on Pacheco at his stepfather's urging, the neighbor found the teenager unresponsive in his truck, which had been running inside a closed garage. Pacheco left a note in the truck which said, "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."
Capehart says that since her son's death, students and teachers have approached her, telling her they knew that Pacheco was being bullied. She told MLive she was upset that school officials never notified the family about the problems.
"We weren't aware of any specifics," Superintendent Ed Koledo toldMLive. "There's been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into. We are trying to put new programs into place, so [students] feel more comfortable [talking to administrators.]"
In response to Pacheco's death, school officials accelerated plans for an antibullying hotline called the Eagle Hotline.
These stories always make my heart hurt. I wish that I could tell every young gay man and woman that it is okay. Suicide is never the answer. I have always had the firm belief that the bullies of this world will meet their punishment, if not on this life, then in the next. Never, ever, give them the satisfaction. If you have a problem with bullying, TALK TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST! There are teachers who will help, find that teacher, and a good teacher will fight for you like no one else has ever fought for you. If you are a young LGBT person struggling with depression, isolation, or suicidal thoughts and feel that you can't talk to a teacher, your parents, or someone in authority, then you can call the Trevor Lifeline and speak confidentially with a trained counselor 24 hours a day at 866-488-7386. Please just get help, your life is worth so much. You are the generation that will eventually see more equality for LGBT people than the world has ever known. Just live to see it. PLEASE!!!