Friday, September 23, 2011

Buffalo Bullies Breed Hatred

A few years ago, a fatal car crash occurred at a dangerous intersection near my town.  One week later, a traffic light appeared.

Had the light been installed when locals first advocated its need, the accident might have been avoided.  Actually, I'm confident it would have been avoided, but that's a discussion for another day.  My question is: exactly how many teens need to commit suicide before laws are passed to protect them?

Jamey Rodemeyer, a fourteen year-old from Buffalo, New York, took his life last weekend.  After years of battling bullies targeting his sexual orientation, Jamey joined predecessors Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, and countless others who lived the same heartache and chose the same outcome.

In May, Jamey posted a video message as part of the It Gets Better Project.  Four months later, he was found dead outside his home.

The news has left Americans outraged and celebrities taking a stand.  Lady Gaga, the recipient of Jamey's final tweet, is advocating for laws against bullying.  Gaga vowed on twitter to meet with the president and continue fighting to end this hate crime.

Jamey's story reminds us this movement is far from over.  Whether a bully, victim, advocate, or bystander, we all participate in this fatal cycle.  If a person fears heights, they can choose to avoid planes.  If one fears the ocean, they stick to pools.  And if someone fears spiders, they find someone else to squish them.

But a teen cannot find someone to attend school in his or her place.  Bullied teens confront their greatest fear every day; we throw them in the line of fire and do little to protect them.  It's hard to learn when you're afraid. Exactly who wins with this system?


  1. My heart aches for the victims of bullying. You are doing a great job Paul in highlighting this. We really have to look after our children better!

    Duncan In Kuantan

  2. This is heart breaking news, especially in light of his "It Gets Better" video.

    EVERYONE seems to excuse harassment and assault saying that "kids can be cruel" and "kids will be kids" and I'm just appalled at this dismissive attitude. It just instills a lack of accountability for actions.

    My parents didn't raise me to mock my peers, and I have to believe that the parenting (or lack of it) is a main influence of why bullies continue to be bullies. Honestly, even the term "bully" downplays the serious nature of what is clearly criminal behavior.

    Where I work (an open air mall), kids often congregate in the street outside my store. It only took one fight for mall security and police officers to be called. The main instigator of that fight was banned for life from the mall property. When he returned the next weekend (possibly because he thought the ban would never be enforced), the police took him away, AND they made sure they took their time so that all the other kids there (and there were a LOT) saw this criminal in handcuffs.

    The *same* behavior that brings police and handcuffs in a business setting, seems to only bring at most, detention/suspension in school. Expulsion seems to be the *very last* straw option, and it kind of boggles my mind.

    Maybe if these kids look at school/education as a privilege that can be taken away rather than a right they're entitled to have, they would curb their baser criminal instincts in order to stay in it.

    Thanks for sharing this, and sorry for my intense gut reaction. I seem to have zero tolerance for closet criminals at 4AM.

  3. It's sad that some feel the pressure so bad that they choose to end their lives.

  4. My heart just breaks for this boy and for us as we are now deprived of his spirit and the gifts he would have brought to the world.

    When I read a story such as Jamey's, my mind goes back to my own high school days. Alyssa was a friend of mine, a bit geeky, forthright and bless her, totally out of sync with the masses. She was, unfortunately the most persecuted girl I have ever known and to this day I cannot think why so many banded against her. She was bullied, called names, made the butt of awful pranks on the scale of King's Carrie and just tormented. I tried to remain strong, but the bullying got to me as well and I no longer had the mental strength to defend her as I was now fighting my own bullies. She killed herself in March of our sophomore year.

    I wish I had been stronger and I wish that those teachers had listened, just once, to what what was going on. But we were all alone, those people didn't care, the only one who did, Mrs. L, our Spanish teacher, created a safe haven in her classroom. She had tried and tried to get Alyssa some help, but the principal thought she was being too coddling. That kids are going to be kids and that Alyssa better just deal with it because she's going to have grow up. Well she didn't grow up and though Walter Schultz has long since passed away, I still hold him in contempt.

    Didn't mean to go on such a rant. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Paul, I salute you for continuing to keep this topic out there, and continuing the discussion. More needs to be done, and if enough people speak up, maybe good things will happen. All the Jamey's of the world need to know they are loved and they need peace in their lives.

  6. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, everyone. I apologize for not acknowledging them sooner, but unfortunately, my annoying fall cold has had me out of commission.

    Liza: I agree; we have become too comfortable making excuses for bullying behaviors. In my opinion, it's time we started making the bullies uncomfortable.

    Melissa, thank you for sharing this story with me. I'm sorry to hear about Alyssa and that her school contributed to the problem. Kids seek the protection of adults - they look to their teachers to help them through problems they don't understand and don't want to have. But schools are not safe for many teenagers today. As Liza said, education is a privilege. If you are standing in the way of another child redeeming that privilege, you don't deserve to be there, IMO. But many feel differently, I guess, and that's why such things happen.

  7. This is heartbreaking. Things have to change. I commend you, Paul, for addressing this issue and helping those who seek help and need a voice. Keep it up.

  8. I agree. Intersections are a dangerous juncture. Blame the officials who turned a deaf ear towards the good advocacy.


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