Huntsville High School family, community groups mourn student who died by suicide

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Huntsville High School family continued to mourn the loss of one of its students on Monday.

The Madison County Coroner confirmed that 15-year-old Nigel Shelby died by suicide on Thursday, April 18. The freshman's death received an outpouring of attention on social media throughout the weekend.

"We were saddened to learn this morning of the death of Nigel Shelby, one of our 9th-grade students," said Huntsville High Principal Aaron King in a Saturday post to parents and guardians. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time."

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley also addressed it at Monday's school board meeting.

"I want to take a brief moment to speak about the recent loss of a Huntsville high school student, Nigel Shelby," she said. "I spent most of the weekend really processing this loss and I'm sure many of you have as well. And we will for a while to come. It's clear to me that the simple word of the golden rule has really become more difficult for many to understand and to practice and it is time as a society to value, respect and uplift one another."

Family members said Shelby was often the target of homophobic bullying.

"It is time for us to come together," said Finley. "Now is the time for us to teach our children and our students the values of acceptance, kindness, generosity, helpfulness and basically just being a human being."

The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. It provided WHNT News 19 this statement:

“We know how challenging coming out can be at any age, especially in environments that may include risk factors for increased rates of discrimination, rejection, and bullying. At The Trevor Project we hear from LGBTQ young people who have thoughts of suicide, or feel unsafe or unloved at school or home - just for being who they are. We encourage adults who interact with youth to learn more about LGBTQ competent suicide prevention and risk detection, and to remind LGBTQ youth that they are never alone, that their lives have value, and are loved.”

-Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project

Locally, Rocket City Pride said the LGBTQ+ community is hurting.

"We stand with his mom and any kids who feel this way," said associate director Caila Malone. "Whether they're lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual or anything else."

The organization collected donations over the weekend to help Shelby's mother with funeral expenses. A GoFundMe account was also set up to help his family.

Other community groups reached out to the school. Ms. Harvey McDaniel from Montgomery Pride United said she spoke with counselors about educating students about the LGTBQ+ community.

"To move forward the schools must offer the students information," said McDaniel. "They must offer them resources. They must not restrict them."

Huntsville City Schools officials released a statement on Tuesday reading:

"The administrators and counselors of Huntsville High School had a close relationship with both Nigel and his mother during his time at Huntsville High School.  They worked with Nigel to ensure that he felt at home at Huntsville High School. Those individuals are absolutely devastated by Nigel’s passing and are doing everything in their power to support Nigel’s mother in any way they can.  They encourage others to reach out and support her during this trying and difficult time. Prior to his passing, the administration of Huntsville High School and Huntsville City Schools did not receive any complaints of bullying and harassment of Nigel Shelby.  Nevertheless, as is customary when there is a tragedy like this, Huntsville City Schools’ administration is investigating the circumstances of Nigel’s time at Huntsville High School.  The school system will use this information to evaluate its current supports for students who have been bullied and to make changes if appropriate."

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide you can contact any of these resources 24-7.

  • Crisis services of north Alabama at (256) 716-1000.
  • The national suicide prevention lifeline at 1(800)273-8255.
  • Text the crisis text line at 741-741.

You can also download the SPEAK suicide prevention app for free.

For more information on local LGBTQ+ support groups, contact Rocket City Pride, GLSEN orPFLAG to find out where and when they meet in your community.

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