PARENTS of a 12-year-old say their son endured anti-LGBTQ slurs and other bullying before he took his life.
Debbey Fritchley experienced the unthinkable on November 28, when she found her son Eli dead in his room.
12-year-old Eli Fritchley was called anti-LGBTQ slurs before taking his own life Credit: Facebook
His mother, Debbey Fritchley says that sending him to school that Monday was the 'biggest mistake I've made' Credit: Facebook
The seventh-grader died of suicide, and Debbey believes the thought of returning to school the next day was the breaking point for her son.
Eli was expecting to miss school for a doctor's appointment that Debbey had to cancel because of car trouble.
“He was thinking he wasn’t going to school, then all of a sudden he was,” she said.
“I just figured it wouldn’t be a big issue to reschedule it, and now, unfortunately as it turned out, it was probably the biggest mistake I’ve made.”
Eli attended Cascades Middle School in Wartrace, Tennessee, where his parents say he was bullied for being gay.
In one instance, Eli told his mom he was walking out of a classroom when a girl followed him shouting an anti-LGBTQ term.
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“I was absolutely fuming. Because to me that word is just one we don’t use in today’s society,” she said. “We just don’t. So I called the school and I spoke to them and they dealt with it.”
“He told me that they regularly told him he was going to hell. But he would just laugh it off and say, ‘Well, Lil Nas X is down there, it can’t be all that bad.’”
Debbey said while Eli often made light of the situation, it's now clear it really got to him.
“He was telling me some things that they had done and said that really kind of got to me. So I said, well, after Thanksgiving we’ll go in and talk. We were ready to go in.”
The Fritchleys didn't get the opportunity to address the latest rounds of bullying.
“I do ask myself, ‘If we’d had that appointment, would he still be here? Or would he just have postponed his actions?' I don’t know anymore. I just don’t know.”
Despite the immense loss she and Eli's five brothers are feeling, they aren't surrendering to their grief.
They plan to use thousands of dollars raised on a GoFundMe for Eli to create a foundation to help other children experiencing bullying.
“Hopefully I can keep advocating for him until I take my last breath,” Debbey said. “That’s what my goal is.”
The family plans to use thousands of dollars raised on a GoFundMe for Eli to create a foundation to help other children experiencing bullying Credit: WHNT ABC 19 News
'Hopefully I can keep advocating for him until I take my last breath,' Debbey said Credit: FacebookInternet Explorer Channel Network