A week ago today, 11-year-old Phillip Spruill, Jr. died by suicide after being bullied for months at Benjamin B. Comegys Elementary in Philadelphia.
Now, Spruill’s grandmother is speaking out. During an interview with Clay Cane of Sirius XM’s The Clay Cane Show, Linda Lash-Smith revealed how her grandson was treated prior to his untimely passing.
“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 said.
“Because he was overweight, children made fun of him… he was very sensitive on the inside,” Lash-Smith continued. “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 two weeks he’ll be seven, 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 f*****.'”
Lash-Smith says her grandson’s school failed to attempt to end the bullying. “Those comments cut him deep… I wish he wouldn’t have been failed by the system,” she remarked. “There should have been alarms, red flags. Everything going off that this little boy needs help. … it shouldn’t have been put off.”
Spruill reportedly suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and was involved in many fights in school, most of which he was defending himself.
At the time of her grandson’s death, Lash-Smith said Phillip was trying to get the attention of school administrators, however a staff member he asked for help was dealing with someone else at the time. Afraid he’d miss the school bus, Phillip decided not to wait, concerned his little brother would have been alone on the bus. Phillip took his life after arriving at home. Lash-Smith tragically relayed that since Phillip passed, his little brother is heartbroken. He told his father “My protector is gone.”
Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta is working on a bill named “Phillip’s Law” to overhaul the way IEPs are done. The “individual education plan” is how school provide services to students with mental health issues like Phillip. In addition, Kenyatta was able to secure donors to pay for his funeral services.
Rep. Kenyatta also discussed the need for a “cultural shift” about weight and gender expression. He says, “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.”
Our thoughts are with Phillip Spruill Jr.’s family and friends. If you or someone you know have had thoughts of suicide, there’s hope for you! Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Photo: Provided by Spruill Family
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