One Mom's Efforts Honour Her Son

Sirdeaner L. Walker

Article by Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti.

In a telephone interview to The Springfield Republican last March, Sirdeaner L. Walker said that when she had a moment alone with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House, she used the time to tell the president about her son, Carl Walker-Hoover.

Like any proud mother, Walker even showed the president the class picture of her 11-year –old son dressed up in a suit.

“I told him the story of how on the night of the election, I let him stay up past his bedtime and how when the president was elected, Carl was so happy,” she said about her meeting during the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention also last March.

She told The Republican that she told the president how she held him up as a role model for Carl, telling her son that the new president also came from a single-parent household and how she said “Carl, you can be anything you want to be.” “The president looked at the photo and said ‘he’s a fine looking young man,’” Walker recalled. Unspoken between the two was the tragedy that Carl will not have a chance to grow up.

After being tormented by bullies at school, he hanged himself in April 2009 at their family home in Springfield. Since Carl’s death, his mother has become an advocate calling attention to bullying and to the deadly toll it takes on young people. She testified in support of anti-bullying legislation that passed in Massachusetts that mandates each school district have a policy to recognize and deal with bullying. Carl’s death, and the suicide of bullying victim Phoebe Prince, 15, of South Hadley, helped galvanize passage of the legislation.

Walker has been an advocate for the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would require schools receiving federal funds adopt anti-bullying policies and codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation. The bill would also create uniform policies for dealing with bullying and require states to report data to the Department of Education.

Walker has brought national attention to the issue as she was interviewed by Talk-show celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Degeneres. “Everyone understands it is a real issue,” she said.   Walker told The Republican that when it was her turn to speak at the conference, she noted the diversity of the audience and how all children, regardless of background, race, ethnicity, or income, can be the target of bullies. Speaking on behalf of other parents who lost children because of bullying, she said, “You could be in our shoes if we don’t do something about this.”

Walker’s anti-bullying efforts are now getting a big boost by the arrival of a high-profile national television show to Massachusetts.  The cast and crew from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" rolled into town on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011 to announce they would be rebuilding her Springfield home, with assistance from a locally based contractor and local volunteers.  Walker will get a new house compliments of the hit ABC TV show, which is now in its ninth season. The plight of Walker-Hoover and others who've suffered from bullying is likely to reach a large national audience considering the high viewership of "Extreme Makeover.”  The Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover Foundation was established last year to raise awareness about the "extreme measures" some children resort to because of bullying. 

Links to Source Articles: 

Sirdeaner L. Walker of Springfield, mother of 11-year-old Carl J. Walker-Hoover, a student at New Leadership Charter School, who hanged himself after complaining about bullying at the school, talks with reporters in May about dealing with her son's death. On Tuesday, she testified in front of legislators on Beacon Hill.

Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti is 32-year-old  and was educated in the U.S. and in the Philippines.  She is currently a stay-at-home mother to three toddlers, a contributing writer for the Monza News, the official publication of the Benvenuto International Women’s Club of Monza, and is the social media manager and and English marketer of her husband’s busy chiropractic practice.   She was raised in Western Massachusetts and continues to follow the local news which is how she came to heard of Sirdeaner L. Walker, a local role model and activist.