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Posts for December, 2010

Ed. Dept. begins to investigate bully schools

Timothy Kincaid

December 21st, 2010

For years Seth Walsh was bullied. For years his mother tried to get the Tehachapi Unified School District to protect him. Finally, in September Seth could take it no more and ended his life.

And, in response, Federal education officials are looking into the circumstances leading to Seth’s death. (Press-Enterprise).

The probe was launched in response to a complaint from Seth Walsh’s mother that Tehachapi Unified School District employees failed to adequately address the years of bullying that preceded her son’s death last Sept. 28, spokesman Justin Hamilton said.

Seth’s mother Wendy Walsh said U.S. Department of Education investigators spent two days in Tehachapi last week interviewing students, teachers and administrators. She said she contacted them when her son, who hanged himself from a backyard tree on Sept. 19, was still hospitalized in a coma.

The school may be among the first to discover that America is sick of reading about children being bullied to death and that old “boys will be boys” attitudes can no longer cover incompetence, callousness, or tolerance of anti-gay bullying.

In late October, the Education Department’s civil rights division responded by reminding school districts and universities they could face administrative penalties and even lose federal funding if they fail to take concrete steps to counter anti-gay harassment about which they knew or “reasonably should have known.”

I think few doubt that the Tehachapi Unified School District reasonably should have known that their campuses were torture to students who are gay or perceived to be gay.

Seth Walsh’s “Daily Gauntlet”

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2010

The mother of Seth Walsh, the Bakersfield-area teen who committed suicide in response to a daily dose of bullying in school, quietly mourns the loss of her son. She is refusing to speak to the public, as are Seth’s friends. But Seth’s grandparents have opened up, and the world gets to see just a bit of the incredible kid that we lost:

Judy and Jim still laugh over his tastes. He colored his hair blond on occasion and wore it with a long swoop that partly covered his eyes. Judy took him shopping once, and he went to the girl’s department to find pants with tapered legs. He added a vest, and a few months later she noticed the style everywhere.

…He was a gentle child, they say, who preferred to “relocate bugs” rather than kill them, who made sure his younger brother got his share of Easter eggs and who once apologized to a bed of flowers when he picked one and placed it on the grave of the family dog.

But the Walshes realize that Seth’s gentleness made him a target, and they recall listening to Wendy (Seth’s mother) as she shared her worries about Seth and what he had to endure.

The teasing and bullying began in fourth grade. At first it was because he was different — more comfortable with girls, not interested in sports, neither aggressive nor assertive — and then it was because he thought he was gay. Once classmates found out and the news spread, the abuse became more focused and cruel.

When Judy learned from her daughter that Seth was gay, she became concerned for the challenges that lay ahead of her grandson.

“Life is hard enough,” she says, “but this makes it harder.”

“Especially in a small town,” Jim says.

The Los Angeles Times’ profile is a must-read.

Bakersfield-Area Teen Dies After Suicide Attempt; No Charges Will Be Filed

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2010

Tehachapi teen Seth Walsh, who committed suicide following anti-gay bullyingAnother day, another gay teen is dead:

Seth Walsh, the Tehachapi 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.

Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime.

“Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”

Seth had been picked on for years because he was gay, but fellow classmates said that the staff at Jacobsen Middle School offered Seth no help or protection. People run red lights without expecting anyone to die in a horrific traffic accident, but they are charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide. Red lights were flashing at Tehachapi just as brightly and a child is dead because of the direct actions of his peers and the negligence of school officials. But they get a pass because, well heck, nobody meant nuttin’ by it. It was all just harmless fun. It just goes to show how seriously too many school administrators take the lives of gay students in 2010.