It seems like we hear about bullying and cyberbullying in schools a lot more these days, but one case is hitting close to home because it ended with the death of a 13-year-old boy. Asher Brown's parents believe the eighth grader was bullied to death, and they claim his school and the Cypress-Fairbanks school district did nothing to stop it.
The 13-year-old's parents claim that the bullying went on for two years, ever since he got to the middle school. They claim that during that time, they had gone to complain to coaches, an assistant principal and anyone who would listen. They say nothing was ever done.
Now some other parents have come forward, seemingly supporting that claim.
"I told him I loved him and I hoped he had a good day," said Amy Truong, parent of Asher Brown. "He said, 'I love you too.' He seemed fine."
Just a few short painful days after their son, Asher Brown, took his own life, there are questions whether people at his school did enough to protect him.
"We never had any indication that those children were disciplined at all," said Amy.
She and her husband David Truong claim Asher was bullied to death, taunted by other students at Hamilton Junior High School. They say he was ridiculed over his appearance, his religion and his sexual orientation.
The final blow, they believe, came just a day before he committed suicide.
"They literally tripped him down one flight of stairs; then when Asher got up to collect himself, they tripped him down a second one," said David.
The Truongs claim for months they had complained to the school about the bullying, calling and showing up at least six times. But it was always the same response from the school.
"We gave the names to the school and nothing was done. Nothing," David said.
"I said, 'Sir' -- I don't remember their names, the coaches -- 'Asher Brown or Killian Brown, our other son, they've been harassed, or they've been ganged up on.' I would use different words of what was done to them," recalled David Truong. "'We need to talk.' And there were no returns. Or I would go there, and when I would go there, I would even sometimes dress in a full suit to try to get a different response. No. They said, 'You don't have an appointment.'"
Amy Truong said, "They were just hoping we would leave it at that and go home."
Cy-Fair district officials say they have no reports from students, staff members or parents that Asher was ever bullied. If he was, they say, the case would have been investigated.
Another parent, however, doesn't find the response surprising.
"I talked to the teacher, her teacher, several times," said Nancy Brown, who claims her daughter was bullied.
She pulled her daughter out of Hamilton last year, claiming she too was bullied.
"They never called us to the school; they never met with us," Brown said.
The Truongs say it's claims like that is the reason they're coming forward.
"I can't do anything to save my child anymore, but if I can help somebody else, I want to," Amy said.
The Truongs have hired an attorney and will likely file a lawsuit.
The Cy-Fair school district issued a statement late Wednesday that read:
"The district together with the Hamilton community is saddened by the death of Asher Brown. Knowing that Hamilton Middle School students may need support, the district's counseling and psychological teams are expanding crisis services.
A district administrative team is conducting a thorough and involved investigation into the allegations of bullying that have been made since the death of Asher Brown. Although the investigation is not completed, the initial findings indicate that Asher's personal and family histories were very complicated."
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization in America, released a statement regarding Asher Brown's suicide.
"This young man had a wonderful life ahead of him, but he was 'bullied to death' because he was gay. This tragedy was preventable. We urge school districts and state legislatures everywhere to implement anti-bullying policies and laws that protect all students."
Forty-two states including Texas have adopted state laws on bullying prevention. However, an Associated Press review last year found that most of those laws are ineffective. Part of the problem is that bullying can be hard to define.
Another problem is that many state laws do not include provisions for punishing bullies.