Phillip Spruill Jr. was only 11 years old when he committed suicide a week ago today. After being bullied for months at Benjamin B. Comegys Elementary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fifth grader took his own life.
Spruill’s grandmother, Linda Lash-Smith spoke on Sirius XM’s “The Clay Cane Show” about how her grandson was treated, “He was a very sensitive little boy. He loved to laugh. He loved to play. He wanted to make friends with everybody he saw. He was a very kind little boy.”
She continued, “Because he was overweight, children made fun of him… he was very sensitive on the inside. Those comments would really hurt him. He would try and not show the kids he was bothered but he would come to his mom, dad and to me and cry…. They were also making fun of his next youngest brother who was six, in 2 weeks he’ll be 7, calling him gay because he likes to dance and twirl around. They would make hurtful comments on the school bus and school saying, ‘Here comes fatty and faggot.’”
Lash-Smith added, “Those comments cut him deep” and “I wish he wouldn’t have been failed by the system.” Listen to the clip below:
Lash-Smith also explained she and her family tried to stop the bullying but the school did not do enough. Between September and March he was suspended 15 times for interacting in fights. “That should have been alarms, red flags,” the grandmother said. “Everything going off that this little boy needs help. … it shouldn’t have been put off.” The 11-year-old also struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was labeled a “troublemaker” because of the fights, which his grandmother said was to defend himself.
Lash-Smith also said on Friday, April 5, Phillip was trying to get the attention of the support staff at the school, however, the staff member was dealing with someone else. He was told he had to wait but he was afraid of missing the school bus because his little brother would have been on the bus alone. Phillip went home and took his life. Lash-Smith said the little brother is heartbroken and told his father, “My protector is gone.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said the chair of the Black Caucus in the Pennsylvania House has introduced legislation to get anti-bullying into the curriculum. Kenyatta also said if you or someone you know is being bullied “get connected with an anti-bullying organization as soon as possible… and reach out to your school districts and ask, ‘What is your policy around bullying? Is it included in your curriculum?’”
Kenyatta also discussed the needed for a “cultural shift” about weight and gender expression, “The fact that someone sees dancing as a negative thing, that speaks to the culture and the messages that they are hearing with loved ones. So we also have to talk a look at the message we are sending to our kids.”
We home some changes come with this unnecessary loss of life.
Rest in power, Phillip Spruill Jr.