Posts Tagged As: Bullying
October 26th, 2011
That’s what a Joplin, MO, high school math teacher– or someone posing as him — posted on the Facebook wall of a former student in a debate over fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley’s suicide. According to the Joplin Globe:
A Facebook comment replying to the (Josh) Gonzalez post that appeared under (Jim) Whitney’s name stated: “Moral of the story: Don’t be gay.”
That comment provoked reaction and criticism from others, including this: “How many more kids have to kill themselves before everyone realizes that this is an actual issue?”
That was followed by another comment attributed to Whitney’s account that read: “11-13 ought to do it.”
The Joplin Board of Education is investigating. Whitney apologized in an email:
I do not condone bullying or harassment of any kind and I am very aware and saddened by the negative impact this type of behavior creates. I regret that the posts appeared on Facebook. They do not reflect my personal views and I apologize for any and all offenses caused by the comment.
Whitney wouldn’t explain to reporters how comments which don’t reflect his personal views ended up under his profile. But Gonzales said that Whitney told him later that Whitney’s account had been hacked. Gonzales said the comments appeared out of character for Whitney, which leads him to believe Whitney’s claim of innocence. “The part that got me really fired up was the ’11-13 might do it,'” Gonzalez said “At that point I was like, ‘OK, that can’t be him.'”
October 17th, 2011
Fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley, of Ottawa, Ont., killed himself this weekend after struggling with depression and bullying. Jamie was reportedly the only openly gay student at his school, and he wrote on his blog about the difficulties of being gay and with his struggles with depression:
In a post three weeks ago, he said he was depressed, that medications he was taking weren’t working, and that being gay in high school was so hard — a thousand times harder in real life than on the popular television show, Glee, which he loved.
“I hate being the only open gay guy in my school … It f—ing sucks, I really want to end it,” he wrote.
The blog postings are interspersed with angst-filled quotes and startling images of self-harm — gathered from all over the web, as well as other pictures of celebrities, clothing and men kissing passionately.
Last Friday, he posted his final message:
He thanked his family and his friends, but wrote that he just couldn’t take it anymore.
“Im tired of life really. Its so hard, Im sorry, I cant take it anymore.
“Its just too hard,” he wrote, later referencing It Gets Better, a popular online campaign in which millions of people have posted heartfelt video messages directed at young people struggling with their sexuality and acceptance in the world.
“I dont want to wait 3 more years, this hurts too much. How do you even know It will get better? Its not.”
This suicide comes just three weeks after fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself. Suicide prevention experts, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project, worry that high-profile suicides could trigger what’s known as a “suicide contagion.” It should be noted that Hubley didn’t reference Rodemeyer in any of his posts, and so it’s not clear that this is the case here. But it should also be noted that there were other, clear warning signs in his posts — particularly with the images of self-harm. Huber’s left arm was already scarred from prior episodes of self-cutting. The blog posts over the past several weeks indicate that he has been thinking about this for quite a while.
Suicide is not the natural end result to bullying. But it does leave vulnerable kids who are already struggling with depression with just one more thing to cope with. Some can’t, and they often can’t or won’t directly reach out for help. Telling gay kids that “It Gets Better” is a great start for those who aren’t struggling with mental illness. But for the others, more is needed. For more information on general suicide prevention, research and help-seeking resources, see the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). If you or someone you know needs help, see The Trevor Project’s web site or call the Trevor Lifeline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
October 5th, 2011
A seventeen-year-old senior at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee, was reportedly shoved, bumped in the chest and verbally harassed by the school’s principal for wearing a tee-shirt supporting students’ efforts to launch a gay-straight alliance. In response, the ACLU of Tennessee is calling on the school district to protect the students’ rights to free speech in the classroom.
According to a press release from the ACLU of Tennessee:
[Chris] Sigler wore a homemade T-shirt to school last Tuesday that said “GSA: We’ve Got Your Back.” A teacher ordered Sigler to cover up the shirt in the future. Sigler, knowing he had a right to wear the shirt, wore it again Friday, and resisted an order to remove the shirt. Sigler says that [Principal Maurice] Moser then ordered all students out of the classroom, except for Sigler’s sister Jessica, who refused to leave. According to both students, Moser then grabbed Sigler’s arm, shoved him, and chest-bumped him repeatedly while asking “Who’s the big man now?” Sigler’s mother reported that when she arrived at the school, she saw her son seated in a desk with Moser leaning over him and shouting in Sigler’s face. The Siglers filed a report about the incident that afternoon with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
Students at Sequoyah have been trying to start a GSA during the school year, but have been blocked and threatened with suspension by the school’s principal.
The ACLU says that if the school doesn’t receive an satisfactory answer by October 11, they will explore legal options, including filing a complaint in federal court. Assistant Director of Schools Tim Blankenship responded:
“The Monroe County School System is aware of the alleged accusations. We have received written statements from all eyewitnesses. Our documentation clearly indicated that there are always two sides to every story. We’ll gladly provide more information as it becomes available.”
September 28th, 2011
The parents of Jamey Rodemeyer, the Buffalo-area teen who killed himself following constant bullying, told NBC’s Today that the bullying is still going on even after his death. This time, they’re being directed toward Jamey’s sister:
The parents of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was found dead at their home on Sept. 18, indicated in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday that their daughter endured further taunts at a school function immediately after Jamey’s wake. At a homecoming dance she attended shortly after her brother’s death, a potentially poignant moment turned ugly after a song by Lady Gaga, Jamey’s favorite artist, who recently dedicated a song at a concert in his memory.
“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,” Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.
“My daughter came home all upset. It was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he’s gone.”
“I can’t grasp it in my mind,” said Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s father. ” I don’t know why anyone would do that. They have no heart, that’s basically what it comes down to.”
Jamey’s parents said that he often spoke openly about the bullying at Heim Middle School, but he became more withdrawn at the start of his freshman year in high school. His parents discovered an online post after his death, reading, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so that people will listen to me?”
Amherst police are investigating whether Jeremy was a victim of harassment or hate crimes before his suicide.
September 27th, 2011
First, let me stipulate one thing: Lady Gaga’s advocacy on all manner of LGBT-related topics are powerful and heartfelt. While some might see her advocacy as just another means of self-promotion, I just don’t see it that way. And I don’t even see her advocacy as being “loyal to her fan base,” a poor excuse for advocacy if I ever heard one. It’s another way of saying an entertainer simply knows where his or her bread is buttered. I think Lady Gaga would be a strong advocate regardless of what her “fan base” may be. Her career is built upon many things, including image and self-promotion, but her advocacy seems, to me at least, to be genuine and passionate.
And yet, as I watch this video of her performing “Hair” and dedicating it to Jamey Rodemeyer at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, I can’t help but thinking that, in some small way, Jamey achieved in death something he never had in life: a song dedicated to him from the star performer who he described as a huge inspiration to him. If he were alive — and I’m assuming he was like most star-struck teens who worshiped their musical idols — his thrill at her mentioning his name before thousands of adoring fans would have been unmeasurable. But he’s not alive. He killed himself last week after enduring yet more bullying, even after he himself had made his own “It Gets Better” video last spring.
I don’t think there is a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person alive who hasn’t experienced bullying, peer rejection and torment. For some of us, that experience has been indescribably brutal. But the fact that we are alive is proof that suicide is not a natural response to bullying. If it were, we’d all have killed ourselves. For some, however, there is at least one other ingredient in the mix somehow which leads then to kill themselves while others press on. Those ingredients vary from individual to individual, but suicide research shows that one common denominator is often depression, which can express itself in many ways. It brings an extra vulnerability for teens to carry, a vulnerability which makes it extraordinarily difficult to predict the specific incident which could trigger the next suicide.
As I watch this video, I can’t help but recall moments of darkness and despair in my own life when I imagined the huge wave of grief that would be unleashed by my own funeral. I dreamed of my tormenters’ lives forever ruined by their guilt for having pushed me over the edge. Everyone else would know who they were, and they would shun them the way I was shunned. Who’s sorry now, huh?
Who among us haven’t imagined something like this for themselves? The wailing and rending of clothing as people finally realized that their cruelty and neglect would haunt them for the rest of their days, the outpouring of love in death that we felt was withheld from us in life, and, in the scene’s dénouement, a song in our honor because even the greatest pop hero (in my version, it was either Bobby Sherman or, later, Cher ) would know our names.
I needn’t point out the obvious that I never did try to make my fantasy a reality. My self-esteem was so low that I feared that I was too incompetent to actually kill myself and I’d end up a life-long vegetable. I guess you could say my depression was so deep it actually saved me. But we do know the phenomenon of copy-cat suicides, where the aftermath of one person’s death may begin to look pretty good to others who are watching. Which is what makes watching this video for me so horrifying. Jamey talked about his love of Lady Gaga in his “It Gets Better” video. But to most of us watching that video, we would naturally come to the conclusion that it didn’t get better. And, for most of us, it will be obvious that with Jamey gone, it will truly never get better for him on this earth because he’s not here on it.
But is it so obvious to other Lady Gaga fans? To other teenage, bullied, depressed, and hopeless Lady Gaga fans? A Lady Gaga fan who would kill for that kind of a shout-out, even if it is a posthumous one? The LGBT Movement Advancement Project, a joint effort of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, GLSEN, GLAAD and others, have a very informative 12-point guide for talking about suicide (PDF: 642KB/4 pages). Points 7 and 8 are particularly relevant here:
ï»¿ï»¿ï»¿7. DON’T normalize suicide by presenting it as the logical consequence of the kinds of bullying, rejection, discrimination and exclusion that LGBT people often experience. Presenting suicide as the inexplicable act of an otherwise healthy LGBT person—or drawing a direct, causal link between suicide and the bullying or discrimination that LGBT people often face—can encourage at-risk individuals to identify with the victim (or the victim’s life circumstances) and increase risk of suicidal behavior.
8. DON’T idealize suicide victims or create an aura of celebrity around them. Research shows that idealizing people who have died by suicide may encourage others to identify with the victim or seek to emulate them.
As I look through the list, I see several important points which show that there have been times when BTB did not do such a good job in talking about teen suicide in the past. I do know that we have broken some of the recommendations in this list. Our mistakes were honest ones, but we can ill-afford to keep making them. This isn’t to say that we cannot talk about suicide or report future cases in which teens take their own lives. Not talking about suicide won’t make it go away, and not talking about bullying won’t make things better for gay teens. But there are things we all can do to better respond to our collective grief and anguish when the spark of yet another young life flames out in self-destruction, particularly when we can easily identify with the pain that led to those final moments.
We don’t know what final spark led Jamey Rodemeyer to kill himself. And chances are we won’t know the actual trigger for the next person who reaches that moment of despair where the only option they believe they have is to follow in Jamey’s footsteps. But we do know that we can chose to honor Jame’s life in a way which can be helpful to other teens who might be at a similar point of hopelessness in their lives. If Jamey’s death is to mean anything, it must be found in the commitment to ensure that people like him can find the help that they need when and where they need it, and to surround them with supportive adults to help them — whether those adults are inside their families or outside; in the schools or off school property. Let Jamey’s death be not an occasion for another poignant music video, but a call to action to make sure every teen knows that there is someone they can turn to. And to make sure that when they need to turn to someone, there really is someone there to help.
For more information on general suicide prevention, research and help-seeking resources, see the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). If you or someone you know needs help, see The Trevor Project’s web site or call the Trevor Lifeline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
September 21st, 2011
Fourteen-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer posted an “It Gets Better” video last May describing his struggles with the constant bullying he experienced at school. He expressed confidence at that time that his family and friends could carry him through the difficulties. But when he started a new school year as a high school freshman, the bullying got worse. It turns out that that support wasn’t enough:
Soon after coming home from a family camping trip, Jamey was found dead Sunday. His parents say he was always under pressure because of struggles with his sexuality.
Jamey’s mother Tracy Rodemeyer said, “So he hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay or whatever and that bothered him for many years.”
Now, they want to carry in his message in hopes of preventing another tragedy like this one.
Jamey’s father Tim Rodemeyer said, “To the kids who are bullying they have to realize that words are very powerful and what you think is just fun and games isn’t to some people, and you are destroying a lot of lives.”
September 16th, 2011
Tammy Aaberg, mother of the Justin Aaberg who hanged himself after the Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota school district failed to intervene against persistent anti-gay bullying, met for an hour yesterday with a staffer for GOP Presidential candidate and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Aaberg and five other students and parents met with staffer Deb Steiskal, who reportedly took notes and asked questions and promised to relay their concerns to the congresswoman, along with more than 130,000 petition signatures calling on Bachman to condemn harassment of gay students in her district.
Bachmann was out of state on the presidential campaign trail. Steiskal promised to bring the groups concerns to the congresswoman, but Aaberg said she doubted Bachmann would take a stand. Aaberg emerged from the meeting saying she was “hopeful that Bachmann will either reach out or come up with a positive response for the country.” The congresswoman’s press secretary later said that Bachmann would respond after reviewing Aaberg’s request and the petitions.
In the past two years, eight students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district have killed themselves. The school district is currently being sued over the school board’s failure to address anti-gay bullying. Bachmann represents the Anoka-Hennepin School District area in Congress.
September 15th, 2011
There’s been a lot of attention given to gay teens — or teens whose peers believe they are gay — who commit suicide following years of torment and bullying by their classmates. If one wanted to compose a list, there would be far too many to count. But one web site says we should provide some balance to the story, by listing the names of “straight kids who have been bullied by gays and lesbians until they were driven to take their own lives.” Their complete list is here.
September 14th, 2011
Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said on Tuesday there has been a growing number of reported bullying cases during an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The bullying of kids who are LGBT is probably the largest growth area in our docket,” Perez said. “This is about safety — whether it’s kids who are gay, whether it’s kids who are Muslim, whether it’s kids who speak English with an accent, whether it’s kids with disabilities, and we have in Tennessee a case involving bullying of kids with disabilities — this is an emerging growth area, I regret to say.”
Perez made the remarks on bullying in response to questioning from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who introduced legislation known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act that aims to protect LGBT youth from bullying and harassment in school.
It’s unclear whether the increased reports of bullying are the result if increased awareness or an actual rise in bullying incidents.
Perez voiced his support for the proposed legislation, saying that while current law prohibiting gender discrimination can be interpreted to include discrimination based on conformity to gender stereotypes, “it would obviously be much simpler if you could expand the universe of cases involving people who have been victimized if you were to expand those definitions” to include sexual orientation and gender expression. He compared that with what he called the success of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which was passed by Congress in 2009:
“One of the really remarkable and helpful ways that this has transformed our government is that is has facilitated additional cooperation with state and local authorities,” Perez said. “We’ve trained over 4,000 local law enforcement officers. I have participated personally in many of them. Our message is this: this is not a law simply for the feds, this is everyone’s law.”
Perez also reiterated the administration’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
September 12th, 2011
Students at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, Tennessee, have identified a need:
Just yesterday, students across the room would yell, ‘God hates gays,'” said (SQHS Senior Nathan) Carroll. “There is not going to be a gay club in this school. We don’t deserve it.”
Carroll says he has experienced bullying since the sixth grade, and so he and other students decided to try to start a Gay-Straight Alliance to serve as a support group. He and other students approached school officials about starting a GSA, but they were denied permission. They then decided to circulate a petition to gain support. Opposing students have also started a competing petition. The school’s principal, Maurice Moser, then announced over the school’s P.A. that any student found with a petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and the individual would be immediately sent to his office for further punishment. Another parent says:
“These students have been following policy and they approached the principal,” said Linda Sigler, who has two children involved in getting the alliance started. “They’ve done this petition and now the school is telling them if they continue with the petition, they will be suspended.”
August 31st, 2011
Equality Florida has published comments from students of Jerry Buell, a Lake County teacher and adviser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mount Dora High School, who was suspended two weeks ago over anti-gay remarks posted on his Facebook page. Buell returned to the classroom last week, but the controversy hasn’t died down.
A growing number of students have come forward to describe Mr. Buell’s homophobic behavior in the classroom. Brian Blaise, an honors student who graduated in 2003, described the day Mr. Buell offered his disturbing take on the issue of gays serving in the military:
“I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back,” Blaise said.
Another of his students recounted Mr. Buell invoking the quote “A pig in a tuxedo is still a pig” to declare his disdain for recognizing gay relationships.
Equality Florida is asking supporters to email the Lake County School Board to demand they expand the district’s anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Two weeks ago, Buell was suspended for a week after reportedly posting on Facebook, “‘I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.” Since then, it was revealed that on Buell’s web page hosted on the high school’s web site, he wrote, “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” And on his syllabus, he wrote:
I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
Buell’s statement on his school-hosted web page was removed and he was ordered to remove the references comparing himself to Jesus from his syllabus.
July 21st, 2011
Steven Colbert slowly sheds his character to tell teens that “it gets better”:
July 14th, 2011
In recent years bullying of gay children and those perceived to be gay has caught the attention of the nation. While this is not a new phenomenon, the rise of “new media” has allowed for stories that individually may have received little notice – or may have been intentionally misconstrued – to be seen as a pattern and an ongoing problem. And as the list of names of children tormented to the point of suicide grew, so too did a collective awareness that our culture has a serious problem with bullying.
Secular concern has been consistent and compassionate. Individuals, celebrities, corporations, and the President of the United States have all sought to give kids a message of hope that they should hold on because it gets better.
But the response to this problem from people of faith has been mixed. Some, mostly in Jewish and mainline Christian denominations, have condemned the bullying and expressed acceptance, love, and support for the gay and presumed gay victims. Others have agreed that bullying is not a good thing, but have dismissed its seriousness and resisted anti-bullying programs as being homosexual propaganda.
But generally there has been agreement that slurs are not appropriate behavior for Christian youth.
Yet there are those among conservative evangelical Christianity who don’t just downplay slurs and expressions of contempt but engage in such behaviors themselves. One such person is Daniel Beckworth, youth pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in Opelika, Alabama and regional representative of Youth for Christ.
David Rattigan, at Ex-Gay Watch, chronicles an email exchange between himself and Beckworth which was initiated by a slur that Beckworth left on the site. When David reached out to Beckworth to remind him of the consequences of bullying kids who are “different”, he was met with a particularly telling rebuttal:
Maybe you should speak to the young boys who wish they had someone to help them be manly. You dont need to reply. You have no chance of convincing me that we need to pamper young boys.
David does not see Beckworth as an isolated instance. Rather he traces his views to rhetoric and example from Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle’s mega-church Mars Hill Church. Driscoll too, it appears, practices a religion that values contempt over compassion and arrogance over kindness.
But while Driscoll engages in a pattern of insult followed by pseudo-apology, his example gives cover to those like Beckworth who find virtue in abusing the weak. Go read the entire story at Ex-Gay Watch and keep it in mind for the next time that some conservative Christian tells you, “It isn’t us, it isn’t kids from our churches that are doing the bullying!”
In coming commentaries I’ll be discussing some things I’ve observed about a growing tension in a conservative denomination as well as how some recent correspondence illustrates the peculiar logic and self-deception required to justify cruelty.
June 30th, 2011
Right Wing Watch has the details of a message sent to Tea Party Nation activists from Rich Swier, an activist with TPN and the anti-Muslim group ACT! For America. Swier reacts to an anti-bullying initiative in Florida by declaring that bullying is actually “peer pressure and is healthy.” The money quote:
As MassResistance.org reports, “The homosexual movement in the public schools has always been based on lies and deception. But until the mid-1990s, they were still having difficulty getting into the schools. Then they found the key to their huge success — what they call ‘re-framing the issue'”.
…This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category.
MassResistance is one of a small handfull of groups that are so unhinged that they made the SLPC’s official list of anti-gay hate groups.
May 31st, 2011
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.