Ronin Shimizu, a 12-year-old boy from Folsom, California, committed suicide Wednesday (December 3) after suffering a rash of school bullying over his involvement in the Vista Jr. Eagles cheerleading squad.
According to friends and family, Ronin was taken out of Folsom Middle School during his 6th grade year to be home-schooled after peers began tormenting the pre-teen boy for being the lone male cheerleader in the organization, reported ABC News 10.
The tearful community gathered at the Shimizu residence to mourn the loss of his young life, filling the streets and rendering the neighborhood impassable by traffic.
"He was bullied very badly," Folsom student Riley Coleman told News 10. "It's not okay to bully people."
Peer Allie Flahive shared similar sentiments, declaring "So sad to know that people can hurt you that way."
"I was devastated when I found out. I started crying," said Grace Velander, a friend of Ronin. "I've known him since 6th grade. Me and him had classes all last year together."
Shimizu's Vista Jr. Eagles' squad took to Facebook to share their condolences, writing "Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of Ronin. Please keep His family in your thoughts and prayer... Once an Eagle, always an Eagle."
The Folsom Cordova Unified School District also released a heartfelt statement to parents and students:
"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."
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Andrew Mendonsa spoke with ABC News 10, explaining the recent increase in teen and pre-teen suicides.
"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," said Mendonsa, also elaborating on the crucial role social media plays in young people's lives today.
"Once it gets out there, it can be retweeted, or reblogged, or reposted numerous times, and it's almost exponential that one person because ten, becomes a hundred, becomes a thousand."
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) anytime for a confidential conversation with a trained counselor. You can learn more about getting help for many types of emotional struggles at www.halfofus.com.