MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Taylors Falls mother is mourning the loss of her teenage son.
She says he killed himself after kids repeatedly bullied him at school.
Jacob Letourneau-Elsharkawy, 15, was a freshman at Chisago Lakes High School in Lindstrom.
His family believes he was targeted because he was Muslim — and they say the school did not do enough to stop the verbal and physical attacks.
“Jacob was amazing,” said Faith Elsharkawy, his mother. “He was creative, smart, kind, funny, content.”
She told WCCO the problems started when Jacob was an eighth grader at Chisago Lakes Middle School. That is when Faith started to wear a hijab, and Jacob began openly talking about his family converting to Islam.
“He wasn’t afraid to show who he was and what he believed, even if it meant he would get bullied and judged,” she said.
Jacob’s parents and the leader of the local Council on American-Islamic Relations described a series of attacks they say were reported to school administrators.
“He was physically forced into a locker, which resulted in him getting a concussion,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR Minnesota. “In another incident, he was pushed into a metal doorway, which resulted again in a concussion and a broken collarbone.”
His family claims that a student assaulted Jacob so badly on a school bus in ninth grade that he required medical attention.
“Jacob and his parents repeatedly reported these verbal and physical assaults to the school authorities,” Hussein said.
Chisago Lakes School District Superintendent Dean Jennissen issued a written statement, which said in part, “These inflammatory and offensive allegations are untrue … the District investigates all allegations of bullying in accordance with its written policy; and, when bullying is found to have occurred, the District takes prompt and appropriate action.”
“He will be greatly missed and loved forever in our hearts,” Faith said. “We can’t get him back, but we can still fight for him and his name.”
His family is asking the Minnesota Department of Education to investigate how the school district handled the bullying incidents.
They told WCCO Jacob was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety.
If you know someone who is talking about suicide, or showing signs of distress, help is always available.