UPDATE on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014
The parents of 12-year-old Ronin Shimizu, Brandon and Danielle Shimizu, released the following statement on their son's death Saturday:
"The tragic loss of our son has and will forever change our life. The love and support that we received from family, friends and the Folsom community has been immeasurable and words cannot begin to express our gratitude through this most difficult grieving process. The people close to our family know exactly who Ronin was, but since the story of this tragedy has spread worldwide, we want to take a minute to let the world know who he was. Ronin was one of the most loving, compassionate, empathetic, artistic and funny kids to grace this earth. Ronin was a child who was not afraid to follow his heart, and we as his parents did everything in our power to allow him to pursue his passions, while protecting him from the minority that could not understand the specialness he possessed. As you already know, Ronin loved to do Cheer, but he also loved art, fashion, being a Scout and most recently crew/rowing. It is true that because of his specialness, Ronin was a target of bullying by individuals that could not understand or accept his uniqueness. Ronin was not just a target of bullying because of his participation in cheer, but for him just being Ronin. We as his parents always knew that he would make an impact on the world, we just thought it would be in something like fashion design or art related. We had no idea that God and Buddha had a more important role for him, and we as his parents will make it our mission in life to turn this tragedy into something positive and hopefully prevent another senseless tragedy. In closing, please remember that education in regards to bullying prevention does not only need to occur in our schools but also in the home.
"Brandon and Danielle Shimizu"
Original Story on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014
FOLSOM - Families gathered in silence in a Folsom neighborhood Thursday night to mourn the death of a 12-year-old boy.
Friends and parents said seventh-grader Ronin Shimizu took his own life Wednesday because of ongoing bullying.
According to a family friend, Ronin had been bullied for years throughout elementary school and middle school. Last year, Ronin was in sixth grade at Folsom Middle School. The bullying got to be so bad, Ronin was taken out of school and had to be home-schooled, according to several classmates and parents.
Friends said Ronin was bullied for being a cheerleader while he was with the Vista Jr. Eagles squad.
"He was bullied very badly," Riley Coleman said as she teared up. The Folsom Middle School sixth grader is on the Vista Jr. Eagles cheerleading team. "It's not OD to bully people," she said through tears.
"So sad to know that people can hurt you that way," student Allie Flahive said.
"I was devastated when I found out. I started crying," Ronin's friend Grace Velander said. "I've known him since sixth grade. Me and him had classes all last year together."
"He was just a sweet child. For him to feel that hopeless is heart-breaking," concerned parent Cynthia Brown said.
Stephanie Doherty, another parent, said, "I can't imagine a child taking it to that level. I've had a son that's been bullied. It's so scary."
The principal at Folsom Middle School emailed parents about Ronin's death:
Dear Folsom Middle families: I'm writing with a heavy heart today. By now you have heard about the tragic death of one of our former students. Ronin Shimizu briefly attended Folsom Middle last year as a sixth-grader, and this news has deeply saddened many of our students and staff who knew him.
Today we have and will continue to provide counseling and support to students and staff who need assistance dealing with their grief. And while do not know all of the circumstances surrounding Ronin's passing, we will continue our work to maintain a safe, caring and positive school environment free from bullying and harassment.
I encourage you to talk to you child about how they are processing this news, what feelings they may be experiencing and if they need any help. In the meantime, please keep this student's family in your thoughts during this difficult time. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Principal John Bliss
The school district also released a statement:
We are shocked and deeply saddened by this unspeakable tragedy, and our hearts go out to Ronin's family during this difficult time. Many students, teachers and staff who knew Ronin remember him as a positive and outgoing child, and our school communities are truly grieving this loss today. We are moved by the outpouring of support from families and community members asking how they can help.
Daniel Thigpen, Public Information Officer
Folsom Cordova Unified School District
Clinical psychologist Dr. Andrew Mendonsa explained there's an increase in suicides among young people.
"Unfortunately, what people don't realize is that the younger you are, you don't have a reference point that adults do. 'Things get better. That's just a bump in the road. Trust me life will get better.' We have that as adults. As children, you don't have that," Mendonsa said.
He said social media has made things even more challenging for kids battling bullying because pictures and text gets re-posted numerous times.
"Because once it gets out there, it can be re-tweeted, re-Facebooked, re-posted numerous times, almost exponentially," Mendonsa said. "One person becomes 10, becomes 10,000."
There is help for families who have kids battling bullying. More information could be found at BraveSociety.org. B.R.A.V.E. Society stands for Bullies Really Are Violating Everyone Society. It's a local non-profit dedicated to stopping bullying.