The King: Community rallies around teenager harassed for sexual orientation

Published: Sep. 13, 2018 at 9:14 PM CDT
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After being harassed and threatened on social media for being gay, students rallied behind an Anamosa High School senior. On Thursday, they crowned him homecoming king.

Joshua Sarabia entered the Anamosa High School gym with his mother Thursday night. As he took his seat on the homecoming court, family members said they were filled with a mix of emotions.

"We didn't have any signs that he was bullied or anything so when something like this came up I was really shocked," said Josh's older sister, Tresha. " I didn't think anyone would do this. I thought everyone was on the same page with equality and all that stuff but I guess not."

A series of Snapchat messages that included homophobic slurs and threats against Joshua spread around the community.

Joshua's sister said the family considered pursuing legal action after they learned of the social media harassment, including threats against his life. Joshua didn't want to pursue legal action because he believes kids are the product of their home environment...and in his house, they believe in second chances.

"We have to express our love and our compassion to others and forgiveness because growing up in Christian household that's what we were taught,” Tresha said.

The family said the students responsible for the bullying were suspended and not allowed at Thursday night's ceremony. At the coronation, there were supposed to be 12 candidates but three of the king candidates were not present.

Anamosa Schools Superintendent Larry Hunt would not confirm that the district suspended any students in response to the situation. He said the district followed policy and legal advice in this investigation. Hunt would not confirm if the students were eligible for extra-curricular activities.

For Joshua, he's choosing to live in the moment and enjoy the rest of his senior year. And Thursday night, Joshua Sarabia - cross country runner and show choir performer - can add another title to his resume: homecoming king.