Mom of Bullied 12-Year-Old Sues Over His Tragic Suicide

Heartbreaking 20

Joel MoralesTwelve-year-old Joel Morales was a fragile, intelligent boy who sometimes stuttered. He had problems with fine motor skills, and he was small for his age. For over two years, he endured relentless bullying for his physical size and braininess. The teasing got so bad, his mother even had him transferred to a different school, but his tormentors continued to chase him in his own neighborhood. Joel was even mocked for the fact that his father died when he was just a baby.

On May 29, 2012, Joel Morales told a friend that he was tired of being treated so badly. Hours later, Joel's mother discovered his body hanging from a shower rod in their apartment.

Joel's mother is now suing New York City, the Board of Education, and the bullies who picked on him. It's a legal act that obviously cannot bring back her beloved son, but if what she's saying is true, I cannot blame her one bit for taking this step.

The details of how Joel's mother, Lizbeth Babilonia, found her dead child are almost too horrific to comprehend. It was around 11:30 p.m., and Joel's family had been searching for him for hours. When he didn't turn up, she finally returned to their East Harlem apartment, where she made the grisly discovery that Joel had hanged himself in the bathroom.

Babilonia screamed and cut him down with a knife, then had to be restrained from stabbing her own body. A neighbor had rushed from her next door apartment when she heard Babilonia's cries, at which point she knocked the knife from Babilonia's hand and attempted to give Joel CPR, but it was too late.

The bullying Joel endured was so reportedly so bad, Babilonia complained to the Department of Education "multiple times per week." She had him transferred to a new school, but the teasing continued when kids followed him to his after-school club. The family filed a police report, received an order of protection against one of the bullies, and even met with parents of the boys involved -- but nothing stopped what's being described in the lawsuit as the "severe, brutal physical and emotional abuse and harassment" he suffered.

Despite all of Joel's mother's attempts to put a stop to the bullying, the school never disciplined anyone. Babilonia even begged New York Housing Authority officials to move her and her son to another housing project, but her request was denied.

His grandfather said Joel was a sweet boy who didn't want his mom to worry:

We never had a problem with him, he was such a nice kid. He kept everything inside, he didn’t want to burden his mother.

It's an unspeakably tragic story that's becoming all too common these days. I don't know how it would help Joel's family to win the lawsuit, but I can imagine the sense of utter helplessness and rage that would haunt you as a parent after something like this happened. Who's truly to blame for Joel's death? The city, the Board of Education, the bullies themselves, the bullies' parents? If he were an adult, I'd say that Joel's decision to end his life was his own, but it's so much more complicated when a child commits suicide.

I hope at the very least that this lawsuit brings some changes that encourages schools to work harder to put a stop to bullying, particularly when a family makes multiple complaints. The kids who tormented Joel Morales should have been disciplined long before things got so bad the police were involved -- and the fact that they never had to account for their actions is every parent's nightmare.

Do you think Joel Morales' family is doing the right thing with this lawsuit?

Image via New York Daily News

behavior, bullies


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nonmember avatar Steph

I can't imagine her pain. I think she is doing the right thing and I hope she wins and then some. It's not like she did nothing and then started suing out of anger. She tried. And tried hard.

As for the little pieces of trash that bullied him. In this case the parents are to blame just as much as them. If I was told my child was bullying someone I promise it would be the last rude thing they ever did. These parents appearantly did nothing. And even if they may have tried it obviously wasn't good enough. Disgusting "people". Both the kids and the parents.

Daisy Haverstock

I would agree that suing the parents of the bullies is one of the better solutions. Those parents will now have to pay lawyers, maybe they will better control their child now that there are financial consequences. If my child was bulling someone like that she would be grounded for the rest of the school year and all her electronics would be taken away, no ifs, ands, or buts.

NatAndCo NatAndCo

Sometimes watching the people who made your kid suffer get away with it without a care in the world is just another hurt to carry around. I don't blame her one bit for wanting the people who failed/hurt her child to suffer in some way.

abra819 abra819

SUE AWAY GIRLFRIEND.  I hope you get every fucking cent. Rest now, sweet boy.

ingri... ingrid198

i can't even begin to imagine her agony :( i lost an uncle to suicide but your own be trying to stab myself too honestly. :( hope she gets some restitution. i cant believe the lengths these kids went to in order to harass him. id be in jail for attacking the little shits myself. I fear for my kids in school

nonmember avatar P. Ghómez

Both sides of this story are my worst nightmares. I would die if I were in Mrs. Babilonia's place. I can't even imagine the pain she must be facing.
But I would be equally devastated if my child was one of the bullies and was responsible for a tragedy like this.
He's been always the tallest, heaviest, strongest kid in the class room and since he was in preschool I told him God made him bigger so he could help and protect others. He's 16 now and every time a neighbor tells me "your son is so kind" or one of his girlfriends tells me what a gentleman he is, I feel so much pride... and a little bit of relief too.

Andre... Andreamom001

YES, she is doing the right thing!  If the city and schools get slapped with a big payout, they will actually do somethign to help the next kid suffering from tormentors.  A meeting should have been had by the school and the parents and kids doing the bullying, and they shoudl have been severely punished if they kept it up.  The after school program should have banned them.

And the city should have let them move.

I hope she wins millions and uses some of them to start a scholarship or program for bullied kids in honor of her son.

Sally... Sallybose

I think she is doing the right thing. I would very much hate to be in that position but I can however relate a little. My daughters have been bullied at school and even though the school puts up a nice No Bullying act,in reality they dont care or try to enforce bullying rules. What parents dont realize is that sometimes teachers and school staff are as bad if not worse than students. I had to threaten to go to all local news stations and tell the principal that the comment made by the male teacher could be a sexual harrassment lawsuit. That settled it pretty quick, we had no more issues with the coach and that teacher.

 Anyways in this case the mother did all she could and no one helped her. They didnt do their job to protect the child, so they should be punished along with the parents of the bullies.

Sue Monk Jackson

God Bless this family and god forgive me I hate bullies

ktobin2 ktobin2

How can you sue someone's parents for their actions? It's not against the law to be mean and it's not against the law to be the parent of a bully. I feel very sad for her though, he left far too soon.

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