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

Posts Tagged ‘Youth

Ignoring It Doesn’t Make it Go Away

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I read story after story, comment after comment about how some teen was bullied, they report the incident to the proper authorities, only to have it treated as it’s a non-issue.  Too many suicides have resulted from this.

In one high-profile case recently, a spokesman from the local Sheriff’s department went on record as saying that despite media and online reports of the teen’s suicide being a result of bullying, their “investigation” concluded that “that was not the case”.  Yet, my own personal contact with someone very close to the family and the situation told me exactly the opposite.  And, of course, it was later made know that bullying was, indeed, at the root of the suicide.  This wasn’t the first instance.  In the trailer for the controversial, and very necessary, movie, “Bully”, a teacher foolishly goes on camera to say that she’d “ridden on that bus” where a young boy was allegedly bullied and the kids “…were as good as gold”.  Ultimately, this boy committed suicide because of the bullying.

Sometimes, in some cases of bullying against LGBT teens, the victim is blamed for the bullying!!  In the case of one high-profile LGBT teen suicide from a couple years ago, the parents were told that if their son didn’t act [gay], he wouldn’t get bullied.  How is THAT acceptable?  That’s not “not taking bullying seriously”, that’s turning a blind eye to what’s going on.  Worse, that’s essentially sanctioning the violence because this boy was simple being himself.  The sad end result was him taking matters into his own hands and ending his life.  

On my facebook blog page, read comment after comment from real-life people who were bullied, went to the authorities, and nothing was done about it.

I was bullied in school for being “different”,”odd”, and my school did nothing about it. Often, they ignored it cuz the kids who did bully me were kids of pta and parents who supported and gave alot of money to the school. My dad fought hard to get me help because other stuff was going on due to bullying, like my academics. I was not sent to a private charter school till I was a junior in high school, and that was due to case workers and an advocate, because i tried to commit suicide more then 3 times in less then 2 yrs. While being at that special school, they (the school) found out I have autism. Had the school I attended prior would have taken the time to listen to my father, I would of been put in the right classrooms and would have gotten the help I needed from day 1. Even when I was in 9th and 10th grade, people where horrible to me. I wonder, now that we are adults, how they would feel if they found out they bullied a girl with disabilities to the point of trying suicide.  I wonder how they would feel, especially if they had kids…bullying needs to stop on all levels.  I just wanted to share my story.

That’s one of the comments left recently on my facebook blog page.  This is but one example.  Unfortunately, there are more.

Problem with schools, I’m a senior in high school, and in all my years in middle school (6-8) I was bullied and fighting back each year leading me to get kicked off to a new school each year….kinda sucks how “they who purposely care” really don’t…..well until until you’re pushed too far.

“Until you’re pushed too far” is 10 steps too late.  Bullying needs to be taken seriously, on all levels:  not only against LGBT teens, but against anyone who’s perceived different, anyone who doesn’t “fit in”.  School officials, elected officials, adults in general!, all need to be re-educated.  And, part of that re-education process needs to be making them acutely aware that ignoring the bullying issue doesn’t make it away.

Tennessee Still Doesn’t Get It

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Ok, didn’t we just go through this with Michigan?  Following the failed lead of Michigan, Tennessee has a proposed bill that would make it ok to bully gay teens.  Or, as they self-righteously worded it: they are more interested in protecting “…those expressing religious, philosophical, or political beliefs…”  than they are in protecting gay teens.  Or, as they preposterously put it, they really DO want to protect kids from bullying, but they don’t want to “…create special classes of people who are more important than others.”  These are ELECTED officials!!  Officials that We The People put into office by virtue of our votes.

I would hope that every parent of lgbt teens in Tennessee will band together and, not only defeat this proposed bill before it even gets started,  start a grass root movement to get the person(s) responsible for even introducing such incredibly hateful, and potentially harmful, legislation in the first place.

Once again, we’re forced to look reality squarely in the eyes and acknowledge that the change that’s needed starts with the adults.  It’s an embarrassment to our “developed”, “civilized” society that we have elected officials who clearly, honestly believe that it is absolutely alright for your lgbt kids to be bullied as long as the bully is doing it in the name of God.  I don’t know about you, but it scares me in a deep place that there are people of power who believe this is a right and righteous decision.

Thank God (the loving God, that is) that there’s a huge army in place to combat madness such as this.  Collectively, we were able to get a similarly worded bill reworded in Michigan.  Now, we must focus our attention to Tennessee.  Whatever it takes, we have to make sure that this bill never even reaches the floor.  The Jacob Rogers’ of Tennessee are counting on us.

California Set to Pass New Anti-Bullying Law

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One-by-one, states around the country are either making new laws or making amendments to existing laws to get a hand on the bullying going on in schools in their jurisdictions.  And, California is set to lead the fray.

California’s AB 9 would make its provisions effective July 1, 2012.  That means it would be in effect for next school year.

A beginning.  There is still more that needs to be done.  It is my opinion that AB 9 doesn’t quite reach the demand for ZERO TOLERANCE, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The bright side of it is that states around the country are finally understanding that more needs to be done.  The laws MUST be made tougher.  The penalties MUST be swifter and stronger.  And, the laws MUST be all-inclusive.  There are still states that are hesitant to add LBGT students under the umbrella of protection.  That is not acceptable.  ALL students are to be protected and, if they’re not, we need to fight like hell to make sure they get the protection they need.

Kudos to you California.

Written by Ron Kemp

January 3, 2012 at 4:50 am

Each One Teach One

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This morning, I received an email from a family member of Colton Wilson, a recent suicide victim.  In it, she thanked me profusely for caring and for sharing her brother’s and her family’s story with everyone.  It touched me like no other email I’ve ever received.  Young Colton’s funeral is coming up Wednesday at 1:00pm.  I will play a song for him that day, for sure.  And, I’ll undoubtedly shed a tear for a boy I never knew.

Reading that email made me understand that this blog is really making a difference in its own little way.  If I’m touching someone’s life, that’s what it’s all about.  If I’m helping to save a life, that’s REALLY what it’s all about!!  Inspired by the suicide death of Jamie Hubley, I’ve set out on a mission that will not end until I take my last breath.  And, that mission is to make a difference somewhere in this world and to start doing my part, small as it may be, to try to prevent some young person from committing suicide.  It’s a daunting task, I’ve since learned.

Writing about it isn’t hardly enough.  I tried that before, writing about it in some of my songs.  Not enough people were listening.  Fair enough.  Then, in October, I read about Jamie in Ottawa, and my life changed forever.  I knew then that I had to get deeper involved.  And, I have.  This blog is being read by over 100 people daily, with more readers coming in almost daily.  Easily, this blog has more of an audience than my music ever had, and I write good music!

So, now, the mission is to take this to the next level.  Writing about it is good.  People are connecting.  People are relating.  And, people are healing.  But, how do we go about making a serious change in our social landscape?  How do we begin to turn the tide so that teen suicide, be they gay, straight, or Martian, becomes a thing of the past?  The answer, to me at least, is a very obvious one:  the #1 place to start is a total re-education of our society as a whole.  That’s a monumental task!  People are set in their ways.  People, including and maybe especially the young, live the way they’re taught.  So, how do you climb that big mountain?  One step at a time.  That’s the approach we need to take.

So, here’s the challenge:  each one (who reads this) teach one.  This is a two-parter, actually.  First step, be kind to someone you don’t know.  Show compassion and understanding to someone you don’t know.  Everyday.  You never know how your kindness will affect someone.  That one person may be having the worst day of his/her life.  You could prevent something tragic from happening.  If nothing else, you’ll put a smile on their face.  How can that be wrong?  The second part to the challenge is equally important:  teach ONE PERSON to do what you’re doing.  BOTH parts!  That’s called paying it forward.  If we can get that ball rolling, imagine the effect it will have in just a month’s time!  If you need added motivation to get started on the challenge, I’ll provide you with a few:

  • Jamey Rodemeyer
  • Jamie Hubley
  • Jasmine McClain
  • Cameron DeVeronica
  • Colton Wilson
  • Ashlynn Connor
  • Mason Carter
  • Jacob Rogers
All of these names are from teenagers who committed suicide just since September!!!!  And, there are many more.  Do I really need to go on?  Enough really is enough.  Let’s start making a difference.

Maryland Jury Rules in Favor of School!!!

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It’s a known fact, for those who pay attention to these kinds of things, that when it comes to court cases, it doesn’t matter what the facts are.  What matters is what can be proven.  A jury in Maryland ruled in favor of the school and school administrators in a high-profile bullying case of a 10-year-old special needs student.  In so doing, they cited that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the claims of negligence on the administrators’ parts.  Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

So, what’s the lesson learned in this case?  Most importantly is that it really doesn’t matter what the facts are, only what can be proven. (just ask O.J. Simpson.  I’m sure he’d agree.)  So, with that said, know that if you’re ever faced with a similar situation, document EVERYTHING!  Take pictures.  Take videos, if possible.  Write, and sign, notes!  Keep a log of all phone calls.  Keep a log of the responses you get during these phone calls.  Leave no stone unturned. See, Ed and Shawna Sullivan didn’t do this.  They didn’t understand the significance of having solid proof.  They didn’t understand the ramifications of NOT doing so.  They thought their word would be enough.  They were wrong.  And, now, because they didn’t know, they will have the task of telling their 10-year-old son that the school administrators got away with not protecting him better.  He won’t understand.  He’s 10.

In a sense, the 10-year-old boy got bullied again yesterday by the legal system. Or, was he victimized by parents who didn’t understand how the system works. As a 10-year-old, what he understands most is that he, and they, lost.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 23, 2011 at 7:10 am

What IS The Answer?

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A short while ago, I posted yet another story about yet another young person who’d ended their life far too early. Hours before, I, along with several others, worked feverishly for an hour or so helping another young man who was at-risk and in a very bad place. Earlier in the day, someone sent me an article about yet another teen who’d ended HIS life too early. That’s a staggering rate of carnage. It leaves me to wonder just what IS the answer?

Is more laws and stiffer penalties for bullying really the answer? Well, that’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, yes, it certainly is at least part of the answer. See, kids today have a sense of carte blanche when it comes to trampling on the emotions of other, more vulnerable youth. We watch a video of a teenaged thug who waits for his victim at the classroom door and, when his target arrives, proceeds to pummel the poor boy, causing physical damage and unimaginable emotional and psychological harm. His punishment? A three-day suspension. A THREE-DAY SUSPENSION for savagely beating a boy because he is gay. That’s called first-degree assault. And, first-degree assault is punishable by years of incarceration. Yet, lawmakers across the country are hesitant to stiffen the laws to protect these young people from being attacked, be it verbally, emotionally, or physically. Worse, far too often, the school officials are reluctant to act at all. One of my favorite quotes came from a year ago and Asher Brown’s bullying and consequent suicide. His parents were told “if he didn’t act [gay], he wouldn’t be bullied.” Really? So, because he acted “like he was gay”, it was alright for him to be bullied? No charges were pressed against anyone in this case, which is a tragedy in itself. Certainly, stiffer laws and stronger penalties are needed to protect these young people from attacks. “Boys will be boys” is no longer acceptable. What’s needed is a zero-tolerance policy for bullying or any acts of intolerance and hatred. But, that’s still not THE answer.

Are we seeing the results of a media feeding frenzy when it comes to teen-aged suicides? Quite possibly. I found it incredibly unnerving when two beautiful 10-year-old girls hanged themselves within two weeks of each other. It’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the thought of a 10-year-old being so distraught that she feels no other recourse but to end her life. When I was 10, I didn’t even know what suicide was, let alone have a concept of how to commit it. But, we won’t go there because then we’d have to discuss things like the Wright Brothers, the Model T, and black-and-white televisions. When I was 10, however, there was no such thing as 24-hour cable news channels (or, CABLE, for that matter), or the Internet. I didn’t have immediate access to what was going on RIGHT NOW in the world. I didn’t get to know that a boy in Arkansas shot himself or a girl in Spokane took an overdose of pills. Suicide, in fact, wasn’t even part of our vernacular. Today’s youth are inundated with very graphic details about what’s going on in the world, both good and bad. So, when a very young child hears or reads about another very young child, somewhere in a whole different part of the country or world, being so distraught from being bullied that she ended up taking their very young life, do you not think that that leaves an imprint on that young person’s psyche? Well, of course it does. The problem here is that there’s no way to stop the media machine. They make their living by reporting the news, and unfortunately sex and death, and everything related to both!, sells!!!!! Although the media machine can’t be controlled, the information received by these young people CAN. And, that’s my third point.

I very strongly believe that this war has to be won in the homes first and foremost. The bullies are, in many if not most cases, learning their behaviors at home. Some are most likely bullied or abused at home by one or both of their parents or older (or just bigger) siblings. Some learn their intolerance and hatred from listening to the rhetoric of their intolerant, possibly bigoted parents. That’s not to make an excuse for either group. Rather, it’s to underscore the reality that the frontline in this battle is definitely in the home. Similarly, the at-risk youth need to be re-educated to report any and all acts of bullying and discrimination to a trusted adult, preferably their parents, absolutely must be done. And, it must be done in the home. Teachers, and other school administrators, need to be more proactive, and interactive, as opposed to reactive, in the schools.  Conversely, if they’re not 100% reactive after an incident has occurred, if they are unwilling to hold the person or people accountable, then they, too, must be held accountable.  Zero tolerance.

On every front, there’s much that needs to be done if we’re to win this war. And, trust me, it’s a very winnable war.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 15, 2011 at 9:45 am

How Can We Bring Change?

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I’ve been doing a lot of talking, and listening, to people, young and old, about the issue of bullying and teen suicide.  Many are wondering “what can we do to stop this?”  Some, especially the younger ones, are saying “I just don’t think it’s ever going to change.”  Sadly, a lot of the younger ones recognize that there are a lot of people saying a lot of good things, but there’s no ACTION being taken.  There are steps that we can take RIGHT NOW to start changing the atmosphere of bullying and, by extension, teen and gay-teen suicide.

Of course, the young people need to be educated.  They need to be taught that everyone is equal and a human being, that no one deserves to be taken advantage of, looked down upon, or certainly victimized.  But, it’s far deeper than just educating the young.  Educate THE ADULTS! At in that age bracket, the young is only mimicking behaviors they’ve been taught or have seen. Also, in many cases, it mirrors the home atmosphere. So, the bottom line is that it HAS to start at home. But, it doesn’t stop there. In the schools, teachers and administrators need to be much better trained to 1.) recognize it; and, 2.) intervene immediately. The punishments in school should be swift and severe. This is a winnable war. Everyone just needs to do their part.

On facebook, there’s a wonderful group of young people with a page, “Students Speak Up”.  It’s an anti-bullying page, and they’ve set up a “posse” for people who wants to get deeper involved.  I highly encourage everyone who’s serious about bringing change to our society to check them out and join the “posse”.  They also have a web page separate of their facebook page:

There’s other organizations.  “Stand Together” is a group started by Sirdeaner Walker, mother of an 11 year old suicide victim.  I signed up for that one today the moment I learned about it.  There’s not much on the website, itself, for you to engage in.  However, by signing up, you’re adding one more name to a petition that Sirdeaner is hand-delivering to Congress to force them to pay attention and make changes.  That’s vital.  With four states having very little on their books to protect kids from bullying; with one State trying (and, failing!) to push through legislature that would condone bullying if it was done for religious or moral reasons; and, with one State having a Presidential candidate who happens to have a gay teen suicide epidemic in the district she currently represents (her policies on gays having EVERYTHING to do with it), Congress is a very good place to go with this.

Elton John said:  “if there’s a God in Heaven, what’s He waiting for?  If he can’t hear the children, then He must see the war.  But, it seems to me that He leads His lambs, to the slaughterhouse, and not the Promised Land.”(“If There’s A God in Heaven, Blue Moves, 1976)  I believe there’s a God in Heaven.  I also believe, however, that He helps those who helps themselves.  We’ve gotta take this issue by the horn and wrestle it into submission.  It’s a winnable war.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 11, 2011 at 4:17 am