“Stop bullying people. Maybe they won’t commit suicide.”
In September, 2011, Jamey Rodemeyer wrote this on his blog. He had just started his freshman year at Williamsville North High School near Buffalo, New York. The 14-year-old had been bullied for years about his perceived sexual orientation. In May, 2011, Jamey posted a YouTube video (below) on the “It Gets Better” website announcing that he was gay. Jamey wrote: “Love yourself and you’re set . . .I promise you, it will get better.”
But it didn’t. Jamey endured personal and online attacks including such comments as: “Jamie is stupid, gay, fat annd ugly. He must die!” Another read: “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone WAY more happier.” He was taunted in the hallways and told that gay people go to hell. He posted on Facebook that “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens . . .What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”
Jamey idolized Lady Gaga and the messages in her songs. He posted with his YouTube video: “Lady Gaga, she makes me so happy. She lets me know that I’m born this way. And that’s my advice to you from her. We were born this way. And all you have to do is hold your head up, and you’ll go far. Just love yourself.”
On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Jamey ended his life. Gaga was distraught by the loss and tweeted messages to her fans. “The past days I’ve spent reflecting, crying and yelling. I have so much anger. It is hard to feel love when cruelty takes someone’s life.” She promised to work to support federal legislation: “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime. . . .Our generation has the power to end it.” Jamey’s death is under investigation and charges may be filed against the bullies.
Jamey’s parents, Tim and Tracey Rodemeyer, described him as happy and caring with good friends. His parents knew about the bullying but thought it had gotten better. When they asked Jamey how things were going at his new school, he denied that he was being bullied. Jamey was buried wearing a Lady Gaga T-shirt stating simply “Born This Way.” At her concert on September 24, 2011, she dedicated the song “Hair” to Jamey. A few nights later she reportedly met with President Obama in California at a fundraising event, urging him to support anti-bullying legislation.
Shortly after Jamey’s passing, a New York state senator introduced anti-bullying legislation increasing the penalties for cyberbullying. The bill calls for up to one year in jail if convicted of cyberbullying and 15 years in prison if the victim commits suicide. It is our belief that this bill will be difficult to pass let alone enforce due to the challenge in pin-pointing the exact cause of a suicide and free speech issues. What do you think? Do we need another law in addition to existing laws prohibiting threats, harassment and stalking?
Update: In November, 2011, the police announced that criminal charges would not be brought against anyone regarding Jamie’s death. Although comments on his cellphone and computer were described as insensitive and inappropriate, they didn’t rise to the level of criminal activity. Jamie’s parents didn’t know about a second account he had on Tumblr, a social networking site. Although he told his parents that things were better once he started high school, his posts on Tumblr indicated otherwise. Several students were suspended from school in November, 2011 for their participation in bullying Jamey. Their names and the number disciplined were not released to the public.
Fo more information about suicide prevention, counseling and helplines, see:
www.pawsupforeverproject.com (a website dedicated to Jamey Rodemeyer to prevent bullying and suicide)
www.thetrevorproject.org (24/7 Suicide Hotline for GLBTQI Youth 1-866-4-U-Trevor )
www.glsen.org (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
www.pflag.org (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Watch the video below of Anderson Cooper (CNN) interviewing Jamey’s sister, Alyssa. She is a junior at the same school and attended the homecoming dance to celebrate Jamey’s life and be with her friends. While there, another student yelled out that he was glad Jamey was dead. The student left the dance in response to the crowd’s reaction and was later suspended from school.