His life began on Oct. 24, 1995. His name was Josh Pacheco, and he was a 17-year-old junior at Linden High School. He was an artistic young man who enjoyed singing, dancing, drawing and acting. He even landed a few major roles in plays like ‘Annie Jr.’ and ‘Nifty 50s.’ He listened and sang along to ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley. He read books like ‘Dante’s Inferno,’ ‘Lord of The Rings’ and ‘Divine Comedy.’
He was a member of S.A.D.D (Students Against Destructive Decisions), an anti-drug and alcohol group for students and as far as his family knew, Pacheco had no problems with depression.
Pacheco’s life ended the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 27, when he committed suicide.
“He was very sensitive, to others’ needs and feelings but also to his own,” Pacheco’s mother, Lynette Capehart, said. “He gave his whole self fully to any person he could.”
Pacheco’s family said that he suffered from low self-esteem. This low self-esteem, they said, coupled with Pacheco’s problems at school led him to suicide. A goodbye status on Facebook was the last anyone heard from him.
“He told me he felt like he wasn’t good enough. He said if he lost weight he would be happy,” Capehart said. “But he wasn’t. Then he said if he came out [as a homosexual], he would be happy. Then it was if the kids at school stopped teasing him. He came to me and said he still didn’t feel happy. I realized then it wasn’t something, being a mom, that I could fix.”
Capehart said that they scheduled an appointment for Pacheco to talk to a professional. He committed suicide before he could attend.
“Josh would never give us names. He was so intimidated by these kids who picked on him,” David Pacheco, Josh’s father, said. “If he would have given me or the school details, we would have handled it. Don’t be afraid to speak out. You need to tell people what’s going on.”
David Pacheco believes that if his son had spoken up about his bullying problem, he would still be here today. He encourages any person dealing with bullying to tell someone.
“You can’t judge a person on their orientation. You have to judge them by who they are. This is what intolerance and hate leads to. His spirit and his self esteem were crushed,” David Pacheco said. “This is what bullying can lead to.”
According to stopbullying.gov, warning signs that a child is being bullied can be anything from unexplainable injuries, nightmares, a decline in grades, and a loss of self-esteem. They also report that homosexual teens are at a greater risk of being bullied.
“There was never anything wrong with Josh,” Tiffani Pacheco, Josh’s sister, said. “But people acted like there was because he was gay. He was a great person. People are so afraid of something that is different — simply because it is different.”
Keeping lines of communication open and creating a safe place for children and teens involved in bullying to speak up is a major step toward fixing the problem, reports stopbullying.gov.
Don’t be afraid to speak out. You need to tell people what’s going on.”
— David Pacheco
Father of Josh Pacheco
“I want every kid to know it’s OK to be different. There is no mold. Not everyone is the same,” Capehart said. “People need to step back and see how their actions affect others. Take pride in who you are. It doesn’t matter what others say. The world is so much bigger than high school.”
Linden Community Schools Superintendent Ed Koledo said Thursday that out of privacy of Pacheco’s family he could not speak specifically about Josh’s death. He could say though that he has become aware that, “He got teased. I know that. I feel for him and I have a pit in my stomach from just thinking about it.”
As students make claims of other students bullying Josh, staff and administrators are attempting to substantiate those claims and to squash any hurtful rumors. “We haven’t substantiated any yet,” said Koledo.
Koledo said Josh had gone to the assistant principal some time ago for help and he believed that Josh had been helped from that contact. The superintendent said the district does have anti-bullying programs in place at each of the buildings and they have brought in groups and speakers to address the topic.
When asked if the school district had an anonymous tip line for students or parents to call if they are a victim of or a witness of bullying, Koledo said they did not. He added that Russ Ciesielski, the high school principal, however, is in the process of checking with other school districts that do have this type of system to see how effective it is for their students.
Koledo said if any student ever feels threatened or bullied, he or she is encouraged to reach out to whichever teacher, counselor or other adult they are most comfortable talking with in order to let someone know of their situation. He added that teachers are and will continue to remind students to speak up if they witness any such bullying behavior.
Editor Sharon Stone contributed to this story.