By Steven A. Morelli
A well-known indexed annuity expert is speaking out on bullying after her 16-year-old son committed suicide last week in Iowa.
Alexander “A.J.” Betts was taken off life support Sunday after he attempted to kill himself Friday. His mother, Sheryl J. Moore, said he had been bullied at Southeast Polk High School because he was half-black and gay.
Moore is known for her indexed annuity analysis through AnnuitySpecs and for articles published in media, such as InsuranceNewsNet. AnnuitySpecs.com is one of the tools under Wink Inc., which also includes LifeSpecs.com and Wink’s Sales & Market Report. Betts inspired Moore to start her own business back in 2005, according to Jamie N. Johnson, Wink’s communication specialist.
Along with Moore’s analytic ability, she is recognized for her willingness to speak out on matters important to her. Soon after Betts died on Sunday, Moore talked in an interview with the Des Moines Register about her son and the failure of school administrators to address the bullying.
“A.J. told teachers and told the administration and they did nothing about it,” She said, adding that she believed an earlier cluster of suicides at the same school were related to bullying.
Four boys killed themselves within seven months in 2008 and another in 2009, according to the Register. The school principal said that he could not say if the administration was aware of bullying in Betts’ case, but that the staff takes it seriously when they receive reports.
Betts was insulted for his race and because he had come out as gay about 18 months ago, Moore said. He also suffered from a speech impediment and facial disfigurement caused by a cleft lip and palate, which were treated by several surgeries.
More than 30 teens had visited the hospital and told Moore how Betts had helped them deal with bullying, she said. In honor of her son’s giving spirit, Moore said she wants others to know the pain inflicted by bullying and to step in to stop it.
“His death should not be for nothing,” she said. “I want to leave a legacy for A.J.”
Betts was giving to the end, he was kept on life support through Sunday evening to repair damaged organs for donation, a preference he indicated when he recently got his driver's license, Moore said.
A memorial fund for A.J. has been set up at Valley Bank in Pleasant Hill, Iowa to extend A.J.'s legacy and create awareness for anti-bullying. Memorials can be made to the “One Voice for A.J.” fund and sent to Valley Bank at: 1290 Copper Creek Dr, Pleasant Hill, IA 50327.
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected].
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