A Dallas mother is hoping her 11-year-old son’s tragic suicide will inspire other parents to pay closer attention to their children’s complaints.
Julio “Junior” Ortiz took his life on March 8.
Just days earlier, his mother Mayra Rodriguez said her son told her he was being bullied at school.
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Ortiz was a sixth-grader at L.V. Stockard Middle School in Dallas.
According to the Dallas Independent School District, no formal complaint was filed. Rodriguez said she wished she had listened to the warning signs and taken her son’s complaint more seriously.
“I never thought this would happen in my house,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said just days before his death, she saw signs of aggression that she had never seen in her son. She said he told her that kids at school were trying to bully him into selling drugs.
Then, three days before Julio committed suicide, Rodriguez said he asked her if she would be mad if he fought at school.
“My kid was not a fighting kid, he was always loveable,” Rodriguez said. “And for him to say fight, I should have listened, but I didn’t listen.”
Rodriguez’s message to parents is to pay close attention to any changes – and any complaints.
"I just never thought it was that serious. That’s why I’m bringing it up. If you think something is not that serious, pay attention to it. Don’t ignore it," she said. "Because if I would have paid attention to that little thing, he would have been here."
It is a similar message from Dallas ISD counselor of the year Norma Wright.
“If it initially comes across your mind, go ahead and act on it and talk to your child because you want to make sure they’re open to you at all times,” Wright said, adding that people would be surprised at how many instances of bullying are reported by both parents and students.
“We will listen,” Wright said.
Grief counselors were on hand at L.V. Stockard Middle School after Julio’s death and there is now an effort on campus to provide guidance for students to speak up and report any cases of bullying, according to a Dallas ISD spokeswoman.
Parents are encouraged to contact their school principals and counselors and Wright emphasized that no issue is too insignificant to bring to their attention.
Julio was one of six children in a close-knit family that hopes bringing attention to their tragedy will help save lives. The family hopes to start a campaign to raise awareness against bullying in the future.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicides in children ages 10 to 14 have doubled since 2007.