A special assembly on bullying at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School is reminding students just how much weight their words can carry. The program comes as students remember classmate Aiden Rivera Schaeff, who committed suicide just one year ago.
Aiden entered the 9th grade as Caitlin, but soon began the transition to becoming a boy. His family said that he started taking hormones and dressing as a boy. He starting going by a boy’s name. One year ago Aiden committed suicide, just one month shy of his 18th birthday.
“The torture, basically of being harassed all the time became too much for him,” said his mother, Patty Spencer. “I'm totally devastated,” said Cathy Schaeff, Spencer’s partner and Aiden’s other mom. “The loss of that will never go away. I will miss him my whole life.”
His former school is hoping to keep Aiden's story from being repeated. Kevin Jennings who heads up the safe and drug free school initiative for the obama administration, spoke at the event Thursday. Administrators hit a nerve with students who say Aiden's agony is still fresh.
“It was just awful,” said Ava Dodge, a high school junior. “In one of his classes, they started calling him ‘she’ and ‘girl’ and all that stuff.”
Anti-gay bullying isn’t just a high school thing. “There are certainly a lot of people who don't see anything wrong with saying ‘That’s so gay’ or using the word ‘fag,’ ” said Spencer Weinreich, a senior at the school.
Aiden’s mothers say they couldn't be happier the school is taking such a stance on the issue that took their son. They have launched their own campaign, selling medallions and bracelets, and plan to use the money to fund anti-bullying programs in Aiden's honor.