bullying and hazing – 9th grade Key West High School student takes own life

Jesus wept
Tim Gratz emailed me yesterday morning, asking if I had heard of the Key West High School student who had killed himself?
I replied:
I had not heard of it.
I hope I am not drawn further into this case and given information via the unusual usual channels, which tends to disagree with just about everyone else’s view, not to mention seriously upsetting just about everyone else.
Later, I wrote to Tim:
Having had a child die suddenly and unexpectedly, I cannot imagine a worse trauma for a parent or surviving sibling. Perhaps suicide would make it worse, I don’t know, not having had that experience.
Despite what I wrote to you earlier today, and despite my lament at the end of today’s school board free speech post, that if I never had to deal with FlaKey school stuff again, that wouldn’t be a long enough vacation from dealing with school stuff, it seems I might be getting drawn into this.
What do you recall about the boy’s Facebook farewell to his friends?
By then it was coming to me really strong that FCAT pressure was in play. Click this link:

Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)

Then, I reached someone by phone in Key West, who had spoken with a KWHS 9th grader who knew Matthew Gelleran but was not in his 9th grade class. This person said Matthew shot himself, and word around the high school was Matthew was being bullied for a while, and on that terrible day he was bullied all day in class and at one point broke down crying.
This person said it seemed Matthew had two Facebook accounts, and on one he was putting out that he didn’t know if he liked boys or girls. This person wondered if Matthew was being hazed because he might be gay? This person wanted to know where the teacher and other school officials were? I said I wondered the same thing
This person said Matthew’s father owns the 801 Club, a gay hangout, and Matthew was brought up in that environment, hung out with drag queens, etc. This person said he had heard there might be several KWHS students who had made a pact to kill themselves if the bullying continued.
I said I was reminded of a gay KWHS boy in 2010, who experienced ongoing hazing for being gay, despite his mother’s repeated efforts to get the school officials to intervene. She finally wrote a letter to the editor which appeared in The Citizen. She was on my email list for some time, I knew she was a conch, a lawyer, and former US Military. She told me her son was presenting suicide ideation, she got nowhere with KWHS, school officials blamed her son for bringing it on himself and said he was lying about being gay. The last group of hazers were required to come to school on a Saturday to take sensitivity training.
I tried to get the School Board to intervene, but they sided with the school officials. I tried to get the boy’s mother to bring State Attorney Dennis Ward into it, but she didn’t want to do that. I tried to get Dennis to get into it on his own, but he didn’t. I tried to get the mother to move her son to the charter high school, but she said he was an honors student at KWHS, taking advanced classes not offered at the charter school, and he wanted to stay where he was.
I published several posts about that awful situation.
Later yesterday, Tim Gratz wrote to me about Matthew’s last Facebook entry:
“Could not get a picture of it but I had it read to me.  Here is all it said: good bye everyone I am going away for good now. matthew gilleran”
Then, Tim sent me copies of several Facebook entries, three from the same person took me back to FCAT pressure being in play. Unable to copy and paste the entries, I transcribed them:
Friday 8:59 p.m.
Luna Cumberdale:
Noooooooo!!! :'(
Luna Cumberdale
Luna Cumberdale
ill learn how to spell if you do -_-
Then, at 9:03 p.m.
Arina Alaska Jones
I’m worried that he did something drastic. Or that his parents found out about his account …
Found this on Facebook this morning:
Judy Jack … heavy hearted today, and I think I can speak for a few Key Westers…I never liked “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as a child growing up, because it dealt with what was being said and what was real..I hate that, of all accepting communities, ours was the victim of a bullying incident that hits too close to home…my love, light, and strength goes out to the Gilleran family…I lived in a time when being called “sissy” was enough to make me run home and have solace in the fact that I wouldn’t have to see the bullies until tomorrow at school…we live in a different world, now….there’s going to be an vacant seat in the classroom tomorrow…my one hope is that the bullies involved will feel accountable rather than entitlement…I love our town, and I love the families involved…it’s tragic beyond belief…I’… See Morem heartsick…it’s lasted all day…our “One Human Family” is flaking away in it’s meaning…parents, educate your children–they are the product of your half in the bag conversation…I go to sleep tonight hoping I’ll awake to the Key West that I fell in love with 20 years ago…I’m still an island boy with lofty aspirations…RIP, Matthew…I feel as a community, we failed you…as a Fresh Water Conch–14 years running–I’ll make it my goal to have it never happen again…light and love, Jimmy–to you and all of your family…there are no words…there’s only tomorrow…. from mark w…jj
Yesterday at 3:50am

Ryan North The human condition is a sad state of affairs…

Yesterday at 4:06am


Ryan North Ps i love the keys. my son was concived on big pine. a night i wil never forget. my prayers are with u all.

Yesterday at 4:11am

Doug Bittner not sure what happened but it doesn’t sound good, sadness

Yesterday at 4:43am

Homer Champagne My condolences…

Yesterday at 6:14am

Karen Dillon No words….. just sadness

Yesterday at 7:20am

Brenda Cunningham When will it end…My thoughts and prayers will be with all..God Bless..

23 hours ago

East Egg Bill I feel the pain.  My son was sexually assaulted in school by a school employee with a track record of sexually abusing students.  The bastard was arrested but a lot of kids in school started a non stop bulling campaign against my son.  The school did nothing to stop it and in fact said that my son instigated the bulling and turned their backs on him.  Our lawyers were powerless to put an end to it and the police just took down reports and that was all.  My son is now emotionally scarred for life.

23 hours ago

Judy Jack don’t like bill…acknowledging your statement…it is a very sad/unfair world…something’s gotta give…jj

22 hours ago

Kathleen Donavon It is up to us…not waiting until tomorrow…not waiting for any government officials…it’s our voice..our actions..our responses..our actions speak louder than anything..I am offering to come in and speak to a class on bullying… addiction….feeling different…abuse…followed by… Love and forgiveness….I offer my time…my experience strength and hope…

22 hours ago

Judy Jack very nicely worded kathleen…jj’

21 hours ago

Kathleen Donavon Well, I’m putting it out there…I have to follow through with action now…

21 hours ago

Kathleen Donavon Thank you!

21 hours ago

Barbie Pruett-Park 2 days before Christmas my oldest grand daughter’s friend killed herself because of people bullying her ~ my grand daughter always stood up to these brats but she could not be with her 24/7 ~ it has upset my grand daughter so much ~ she has started a group against people who bully in her Jr High ~ this poor little girl was only 13 ~~~~~ something has to be done against this ~~ and yes these kids were turned in at the school office for bullying others also ~~ and nothing was done ~~what has happened to discipline anymore ?

17 hours ago


Barbie Pruett-Park P.S. my love and prayers go to this family <3




During last year’s school board races, candidates were not asked about bullying and hazing at candidate forums, but sometimes I brought it up at forums. And, I published quite a few posts about bullying and hazing in our schools, and what a joke the Florida Board of Education and our School District’s anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies are. Bullies and hazers have to be proven multiple offenders before any serious action is allowed to be taken against them.

Perhaps Matthew’s tragic death will motivate the School Board and School District to finally take bullying and hazing seriously, but what I think will be the most effective thing is for new State Attorney Kathy Vogel to criminally prosecute students who engage in bullying and hazing.

Tim  Gratz asked a very good question yesterday:

What if Matthew had not killed himself, but instead had gone to school the next day and had shot and killed the students who had bullied him, and had shot and killed the teacher for not doing anything about it?

Imagine those headlines in The Key West Citizen, which has yet to report on this horrible tragedy, which has shaken Key West High School and many of its students and Key West to the core.

During last year’s school board races, candidates sometimes were asked about the FCAT at candidate forums. There seemed to be general opposition to it. I published several times that the FCAT was child abuse, and that I had not spoken with one student or parent who was not against it. School Board  candidate Yvette Mira-Talbott emotionally told a candidate forum audience of how stressed out over the FCAT her three daughters had been.

The FCAT is bullying.

Sloan Bashinsky


About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com. Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; spoken for; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days at goodmorningkeywest.com, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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2 Responses to bullying and hazing – 9th grade Key West High School student takes own life

  1. t_lynn99 says:

    Hello, um, when Matt shot himself…I was his current girlfriend of three months at the time. You mentioned me in the article “Arina Alaska Jones.” I’m also the one who gave the idea for blue and green at his memorial (it was his favorite colours)

    I just want to say, while I was taken aback by Matthew’s death, there is one thing for certain.

    He would not have gone to school and shot those bullying him instead. He was too sweet, too caring…he couldn’t take someones life besides his own.

    That and he didn’t reach out for help, not to me at least. He may have shown some signs, but I was too ignorant to see them…but then again, we were all too ignorant to see them until it was way too late.

  2. Sloan says:

    Thanks for commenting, Arina; so very sorry for you, for Matt, his family and his friends. I attended Matt’s candle wake at Key West High School. It was heart-wrenching, so many kids in distress. Personally, I was steamed (understatement) over the way the KW High principal, the school district, the superintendent of schools, and the school board handled it. Swept in under the rug, denied there was any bullying. I don’t know if you feel comfortable sharing more than you wrote to me, but if you can shed light on the bullying allegations/rumors, perhaps it might do some good. But then, perhaps not, and perhaps you would end up being harassed, or threatened. Again, thanks for writing and sharing. Sloan Bashinsky

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