Weeks after the suicide of an openly gay 14-year-old boy, school officials, police and lawmakers in New York state are grappling with how to prevent the kind of bullying being blamed for his death.
Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer, the parents of Jamey Rodemeyer, are calling for changes in how New York schools handle the kind of chronic harassment that occurred before their son killed himself outside their suburban Buffalo home on Sept. 19.
“It’s the only thing that’s keeping us going, to try and get the word out,” Tracy Rodemeyer said.
Their actions have resulted in proposed state legislation to try to stop online taunts or cyberbullying. It comes in the wake of New Jersey enacting what is considered the nation’s toughest anti-bullying law after the suicide last year of a gay university student.
The New Jersey law requires a uniform response to every incidence of bullying, including corrective action plans and time frames for intervention.
But near Buffalo, a student was suspended for taunting Rodemeyer’s 16-year-old sister at a school dance just hours after she attended a wake for her younger brother Sept. 22.
“It sickens me,” their father said of reports that some students chanted “better off dead” when dance organizers played a song in Rodemeyer’s honor.
Superintendent Scott Martzloff posted a message on the district’s website condemning the dance incident and saying a student believed to be responsible was suspended.
So, not only did students taunt Jamey for being gay, now they’re joyously-taunting his sister cause he’s dead. What the #@%% is wrong with people?!
Bullying Ends with You
The National Bullying Prevention Center has an awesome site packed with information for students, teachers, parents, youth leaders, etc., to use in educating themselves and others. I strongly suggest checking them out.
Here are some stats from the site:
- More than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day from fear of being bullied.
- Bullying directly affects a student’s ability to learn. Students who are bullied find it difficult to concentrate, show a decline in grades, and lose self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.
- Students who are bullied report more physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, than other students.
- In some cases, bullying has led to devastating consequences, such as school shootings and suicide.
- Bullying affects witnesses as well as targets. Witnesses often report feeling unsafe, helpless, and afraid that they will be the next target.
- Bullying is a community wide issue that must no longer be ignored or thought of as a rite of passage. Students, parents, and educators all have a role in addressing bullying situations and changing school culture.
- The two keys to creating change are: increasing awareness that bullying has lifelong impact, and giving people the tools they need to respond effectively.
- Students can be especially effective in bullying intervention. More than 55 percent of bullying situations will stop when a peer intervenes. Student education of how to address bullying for peers is critical, as is the support of adults.
- Silence is no longer an acceptable response to bullying. Adults, students, and educators can no longer look away when they see bullying. Ignoring it won’t work. Everyone needs to be empowered with options to respond.
As their slogan states, the end of bullying does begin with you. The more action you take, the more you stand up, the more you speak up, the more you are willing to do for this cause, the more that will be done. It’s that simple, really.
Bullying in schools, in neighborhoods, and through technology needs to stop – period. It’s not a matter of choice anymore. All of us need to take action NOW.
Cyberbullying is on the rise. Facebook and texting are leading places where cyberbullying takes place. A quote from an article about cyberbullying presents a haunting reality:
“When I was bullied in middle school I could go home and slam my door and forget about it for a while,” said Hinduja. “These kids can be accessed around the clock through technology. There’s really no escape.”
All types of bullying are wrong! Enough is enough already!! How many more kids need to miss school? How many more teens need to take their life? How many more, before we start to take action? To me, the less we talk about this, the less we do something about this, the more we are handing a bullied teen a rope to hang themselves with. It seems that suicide, for them, is the only answer. A wrong answer no doubt, but an answer they turn to nonetheless. And until we present a different answer, a better answer, to them, then suicide will continue to be their only “answer.”
Resources for the Fight