Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Faison

Jack Reese, 17, Bully-Related Suicide in Northern Utah

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It doesn’t appear to be getting any better.  On Monday, April 23rd, Alex Smith was speaking at a community event about bullying and about how his own boyfriend had suffered repeated bullying because he was gay.  Unbeknownst to anyone there, including Alex, his boyfriend, Jack Reese, had already taken his own life.

I don’t have any details about the event.  We don’t really need any details at this point.  The storyline has become all too familiar.  An LGBT youth, trying to live happily as the person he or she is, is faced with relentless, narrow-minded intolerance until he or she reaches the point of no return.  To them, the only way to make it end is to end their young lives.  Sound familiar.  Of course it does.  It’s happening far, far, far too often.  Let’s be clear on this:  if these bullies were to take a gun to school and shoot their victim, they’d be charged with the crime of causing the death of that victim.  When their words and/or actions cause that same victim to end their life, that bully is no less responsible that death than they would be had they pointed a gun and pulled the trigger.  

I found this quote, when researching Jack’s event, both deeply disturbing and alarmingly revealing:

 “It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.”

“It”, of course, being LGBT teen suicides.  And, “here” being the Northern Utah region where Jack lived and died.  The world should be outraged that such a thing is happening in the entire world!, not to mention in one, small region.  That suggests a very deep problem with our society.

Telling our LGBT teens that “It Gets Better” is absolutely meaningless when they continue to see and hear people of power (religious and politic figures, school officials, and, sometimes, even their parents) tell them that they are flawed, evil, perverted, and more.  They’re not stupid.  They know that the adults they hear and see continually denouncing their very being are precisely why the incidents of bullying, especially against LGBT teens, continue to escalate, both in frequency and intensity.  I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face (which would really be a neat trick for me!) that these young people who do the bullying that’s causing other teens, straight and LGBT alike, to end their lives are learning their hatred and intolerance from adults!!  Think, for a second, of Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison’s statements from earlier in the week, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  And, he’s just one person.  This goes on in every city, in every state, every day.  Meanwhile, another family has to bury their teenaged child because that child couldn’t handle one more day of being emotionally destroyed.

In addition to the above quote, Marian Edmonds, director of the Ogden, Utah, OUTreach program, has a lot to say:

“The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,”

There are people, like Marian Edmonds, who are rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves  in this business of changing this mean-spirited culture that’s not only causing children to end their lives but encouraging children to be so mean and intolerant of those whom they perceive as different that they end their lives.  She made one statement that was so poignant, it will stay with me for a very long time:

“Until all youth are loved and accepted in their homes, able to attend school without fear of bullying, and know that their lives are worth living, this community will continue to demand change,”

Make that two communities.  Until I breath my last breathe, I will continue to demand change.  The “community” that has developed in support of this blog has grown to numbers I would’ve never imagined when I started this in November of 2011.  With that enormity in numbers, there’s a rather formidable community here, more than capable of effecting change in our culture.  Change that will bring about tolerance.  Change that will save lives.  Look, nobody is suggesting that everyone has to love everyone.  It would be nice.  But, it’s also unrealistic.  However, the expectation of a tolerant society, one that lets people live their own lives without the scrutiny of those who may not agree with diversity is not too much to ask for.  In fact, we must demand it.

Unfortunately, Jack Reese is yet another teen who won’t be here to celebrate the day that acceptance is the norm.  It didn’t get better for Jack or the far-too-many before him.  And, it won’t get better unless we continue demanding it.  Every voice matters.  Rest in peace, young Jack.  And, for you Alex, I hope that you’re surrounded right now with lots of love and support.  Stay strong…stronger than you may feel you’re capable of right now.  Do it for Jack.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the countless other at-risk teens there in Northern Utah, around the country, and around the world!  We need your voice to help us reach the day when no family, and no spouse or significant other, has to go through the ordeal of burying their young loved one simply because someone else felt it their duty to push them over their limit.  Enough is Enough!

And, Then There’s Tennessee

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Some of you may have already seen this article posted on the facebook blog page or elsewhere on the Internet.  According to Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison, teen suicides are due to bad parenting.  I can make this stuff up.

We can’t continue to legislate everything and we’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Let me make sure I’ve got this right:

  1. Bullied teens who commit suicide have their parents to blame.
  2. It’s more important to protect the bullies than it is to protect the victims of it.
Ok, if a middle- or high school student takes a weapon to school, a gun or a knife or whatever, and attacks another student, is that a criminal act?  Yes.  It’s called assault.  In Maryland, it would be called assault with a deadly weapon, with the possibility of the added charge of assault with the intent to maim.  Either, or both, charges would certainly then make the perpetrator a “criminal”, and they would be facing significant time.  If a middle- or high school student takes a  weapon to school, gun or knife or whatever, and kills another student, is that a criminal act?  Of course it is.  It’s called murder.  So, how is it that if that same middle- or high school student bullies another student, be it verbally or physically (and, always emotionally), so badly and so relentlessly that the bullied teen resorts to ending his or her life, they should be absolved of any wrong doing?  Explain to me so that I can fully understand justhow does sending these kids to the Principal’s office for detention is going to solve anything?  A child is dead because of his/her actions!  That makes THEM responsible!  Jacob Rogers is gone because of bullies.  Phillip Parker is gone because of bullies.  And, Jeremy Faison wants to send their bullies to detention.  He doesn’t want them to become criminals.  I won’t mention the fact that they’ve already committed criminal acts.  And, when it comes to the targeted bullying of LGBT teens, just as it is with bullying based upon race, the potential is there for it to be a hate crime.
That Mr. Faison could even dream of blaming the parents of the suicide victims is beyond reprehension.  What he did with his statement was kick these families, who are already reeling from the untimely and unnecessary death of their beloved young child, right in the gut.  Worse, he’s now on record as saying that, in his misguided opinion, it’s more important to protect who cause death by their actions of hatred and intolerance than it is provide protection for those who are suffering.
If there’s any “failure” to be “good parents”, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be the parents of those who find it necessary to demean, verbally and sometimes physically batter others to the point where they feel suicide is the only remaining option for them to make the bullying stop?  The obvious ones with self-esteem issues are the ones who feel the need to put others down in order to make themselves feel good. (and, yes, thatis a problem that needs to be addressed if we’re to tackle this issue of bullying/teen suicide)  To a further extent, where are these young people learning to hate and be so intolerant at such an early age.  They weren’t born that way.  Hatred and intolerance is taught and, in most cases, it starts at home.  Good parenting?
I’ve pointed out before, several times actually, that these lawmakers were elected into office.  The question has to be “how”?  To a further extent, the larger question, in my opinion, should be “how are they staying in office”?  And, to show a little equity to Jeremy Faison, he’s not the only problem in the Tennessee legislation.  There is still a push to pass a bill that would make it illegal for teachers to even say the very word “gay” in their classrooms.  They are also one of the states that wants to make it legal for LGBT teens to be bullied as long as it was because of the bully’s religious, political, or philosophical beliefs.  There’s a definite problem with bias and intolerance in Tennessee’s legislation, and it’s costing lives.  Worse, there are those in the Tennessee legislation who seem to be perfectly okay with that.  In fact, they now have one legislator on record as saying that he wants to protect the bullies.
Power in numbers?  Politicians are “hired” by virtue of our votes.  As such, they can be “fired” by virtue of our votes.  This isn’t about politics.  Enough is Enough isn’t a political blog.  This is about stopping the madness of bullying and teen suicides.  And, in particular, LGBT teen suicides.  Having paid, elected officials introduce laws that goes against preventing bullying and, especially, teen suicides only assures that we’re going to continue seeing the spike in bullying, teen suicides, and especially LGBT teen suicides.  After all, strip away all of their smoke and filters, and what they’re really saying is that they’re homophobic and don’t really care about what’s happening to our LGBT youth.  That is unacceptable.