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

Posts Tagged ‘Zero tolerance

Madison Wiedmeyer, 15, Suicide Death in Wisconsin

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Monday evening, a member of the facebook blog page posted this to the community wall:

A freshman girl at my daughter’s school committed suicide this past weekend. I pray for the family and the students at her school. Such a sad and to a young life.

After talking with her, and her daughter, I learned that 15-year-old Madison Wiedmeyer took her own life Friday, October 26th.Once again, there was little-to-no coverage or information to find about this tragic event.  What I was able to gather, however, is a.) there’s no talk of bullying (at least so far); and, b.) her young life was no stranger to death.  Four years ago, when she was 11, she lost her mother.  Two years after that, her mother’s fiance died, as well.  And, even early this year, she lost her great-grandfather.  That would be enough to send any young person into a serious bout of depression.  The person who contacted me on the facebook blog page did acknowledge, however, that bullying goes unchecked at the school her daughter and Maddy attended:

Nathan Hale High School. There has been much unabated bullying at this school for years, despite the school’s policies against it.

Was young Maddy bullied?  Did young Maddy suffer from depression?  Was it a combination of both?  Hasn’t this question been asked enough times in far too many of these teen suicides?  The redundancy comes from the unwillingness of people willing and able to provide answers, which is something I’ll never understand.  Answering these questions will go a very long way towards beginning to reverse this ghastly trend of teen suicides.

At some point, we have reach our own break point, stop talking about how terrible it is that so many young people are taking their own lives, and start demanding action!  The questions are mounting up almost as fast as the number of teen suicides, yet those questions are being answered with smoke and mirrors.

  1. Why are the number of teen suicides continuing to rise?
  2. Why isn’t there any accountability for the bullying that often accompanies teen suicides?
  3. Why doesn’t “Zero Tolerance” mean ZERO TOLERANCE?
  4. Why is it that there are still young people, today, right now!, who reports that their attempts to report incidences of bullying at school are falling upon deaf ears?
  5. Why are bullying victims being punished for being bullied?
  6. Why isn’t there more access and/or resources for these young people with mental health issues?

I’ll stop there.  I could easily go on and on.  I get angry.  This is maddening, to say the least.  And, I’m just an outsider looking in.  Imagine what these families are going through!!  They want answers, too.

What has become increasingly obvious is that nothing is going to change if we continue to wait for our officials to orchestrate the change.  It’s going to have to come from us, the concerned citizens, the families and friends of the victims, young people who are tired of their voices not being heard.  What we’re getting from the people who should be making a difference is a lot of lip service…professionals who are well-versed at saying exactly what they feel people want to hear.

We have implemented a strict Zero Tolerance policy in our school district…

Meaningless words without action.

It’s not known, at least not to me at this time, whether Madison Wiedmeyer was bullied.  Maybe she was; maybe she wasn’t.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that something was so terribly wrong in her life that she felt that she couldn’t go on another day.  And, that’s a tragedy.  Worse, it’s a tragedy that we’re seeing with frightening frequency.

Young Madison dealt with a lot of tragedy in her short 15 years, enough to drive anyone into depression.  The weight of just one death was so hard for me to deal with, it took me a couple of decades to put the grief in its proper place.  And, I was an adult!  Imagine being an adolescent having to death with it.  It can be crushing.  Perhaps, it was crushing.

What we do know is that something pushed Madison Wiedmeyer over the edge.  Somehow, someway, we have to figure out a way to slow the rate of teen suicides down to just a trickle.  And, eventually, to zero.  We won’t do it in time to save Maddy.  But, we also won’t do it if we continue to wait for our officials and “leaders” to make a difference.  We have to do it, ourselves.

Rest in peace, Madison.

******************************SUICIDE PREVENTION RESOURCES******************************

UNDERSTANDING TEEN DEPRESSION

WHAT TEEN DEPRESSION LOOKS LIKE

SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE

BEFRIENDERS

THE TREVOR PROJECT

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We Need Voices, Voices, and MORE Voices!!!!

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In Maryland today, Gov. Martin O’Malley made history by signing into law the same-sex marriage bill.  It goes into effect January 1, 2013.  And, before it even has chance to go into effect, before the first same-sex couple has the chance to tie the knot, the opponents are already in high-gear to get the law repealed.

Over the weekend, 18-year-old Cody Rogers was savagely attacked in a homophobic rage.  The only provocation was that he was who he is:  a gay man.

Stacey Campfield is STILL trying to pass legislation that would effectively legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, putting more LGBT teens at risk.

In that same state, Tennessee, a school principal resigns under pressure after telling gay students that they’re going to Hell!  A SCHOOL PRINCIPAL!!!

Newt Gingrich makes the assinine statement that TEACHERS are to blame for same-sex marriages!!!

ENOUGH!!

Understand that that’s just the short list.  I could go on and on and on ad nauseum.  The point I’m making should be clear:  the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance (and, ignorance) is very far-reaching.  With all of this lack of acceptance, bigotry, and utter ignorance, it’s no wonder we’re seeing so many LGBT teen suicides; it’s no wonder that a Cody Rogers can’t go to a party without fear of being attacked simply because of who he is.  The hatred is being taught by lawmakers, teachers, religious leaders, and in some cases parents.

Just moments ago, I was talking to an 18-year-old LGBT man who is trying to make a difference.  He had a girl he was talking to who was being bullied and wanted help making it stop.  She told her mother.  Her mother didn’t listen.  She told her teacher.  (S)he didn’t listen.  NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION!!!  Yet, as soon as one of these young people take their life, there’s the redundant outcry of “THIS HAS TO END!!”  Damn right this has to end, but what are we doing to make that happen?

People are denying, or attempting to deny, the LGBT community everything from the right to marry the person they love to equal protection under the law.  To be sure, Cody Rogers’ attacker was charged with simple assault for the very brutal and savage beating that Cody endured.  Why?  Because, in Oklahoma, sexual orientation isn’t protected under their hate crime laws.  How is this even possible in this country in 2012!?  Do you want to know how?  I will tell you.  It is possible because we, as a community, allow it to happen.  Plain and simple.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying:  we, the LGBT community, and society as a whole, are making enormous strides in the right direction, which is equality for ALL.  At the same time, it is my opinion that more can be done.  Lots more.

What’s needed is we need to keep increasing our numbers in the battle to win equality, in the war against bullying, and in the attempt to end this plight of LGBT teen suicides.  Since the time I got actively involved, I’ve witnessed amazing growth in numbers, and I’ve seen some great things come from it.  We can never be complacent.  There’s always more to be done.  Why?  Because for every gain we achieve, “they” are lining up to take it away from us.

We need voices, voices, and more voices.  Are you signing petitions when they come around?  Are you speaking out against the hatred and intolerance?  Are you supporting the Cody Rogerses of the world?  That’s what we need.  We need voices.  As the poisoned, culturally crippled faction try to undo everything we accomplish, we need to meet and at least double their numbers.  It would be a travesty of justice, not to mention just plain wrong, if “they” were to win in Maryland and get this new same-sex marriage law reverse even before the first couple gets to marry.  We can make sure that doesn’t happen.  As has been proven over the course of history, and as has been witnessed right here within the community of this very blog, there IS power in numbers.

Listen, we will win this battle.  I have no doubt about that whatsoever.  All around us, culture is changing.  People’s attitudes are changing.  Twenty-five years from now, there will be marriage equality from coast-to-coast and, most likely, around the world.  The social climate towards the LGBT community will have shifted to a point where gay and lesbian teens won’t feel such a sense of hopelessness that they feel they have to end their life.  That’s coming!  I have no doubt about that.  However, in the here and now, we still have plenty of work to do in order to get to that day.  I recall being a young man in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS epidemic there.  I remember watching friends die, literally, on a daily basis.  I became active with a group called ACT-UP.  My bosses were gay, yet they were very annoyed with me for being a part of such a group.  “You’re part of the problem!!!”  I assured them that they were the problem.  See, they had become complacent.  They owned their own successful business.  They had nice homes and enjoyed a fabulous lifestyle.  They had gotten their slice of the American pie, and they were satisfied.  The rest of the world be damned.  Sadly, within the next 6 months, all three of them had succumbed to the very scourge that I laid my body in the middle of the street for in effort to bring more attention to.

Don’t become complacent.  Stay connected; be involved.  We need your voice.

Drew Ferraro’s Family Fights Back Against Bullying

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With the grief still raw from his suicide, the family of Drew Ferraro has decided to join the fight to end bullying.  At a memorial service held for their gone-too-soon son, they handed out business cards with Drew’s image on one side, and the numbers for suicide prevention as well as the email address for a couple of websites to stop bullying.  None of this will help bring back Drew, of course, but their aim is to do everything they can to assure that no family ever has to go through the devastation that they’re experiencing.

This is what it’s going to take.  It’s going to take more families getting involved and demanding change.  No child, ever, should be bullied…period.  As an extension, however, no child certainly should ever have to feel like the only way to get away from the bullying is to end his or her life.  That’s why I write these articles.  That’s why so many people are getting involved with such a critically essential struggle:  this has to end now!

We are already painfully aware that the officials, be it school officials, law enforcement, or even some politicians, are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the problem.  Indeed, the statement from the La Cresenta law enforcement was that “their investigation” showed no evidence of bullying.  In fact, he defiantly added “I know there has been a lot of speculation about bullying — it had nothing to do with that.”  Apparently, their investigation was in the wrong places.  It was reported here from the beginning that Drew Ferraro ended his life because of bullying.  Now certainly isn’t the time or place for “I told you so”, and that’s not my intent; however, if friends and family say that it was caused by bullying, it just doesn’t matter what the school officials or law enforcers say.  They’re simply trying to cover their own asses.  Those closest to the victims, those left to pick up the pieces, will certainly know better than the “officials” what happened to their loved one.

It’s up to us, the concerned citizens of the world community, to make the changes that are necessary to bring this woeful chapter to an abrupt end.  A lot is being done.  And, progress is being made.  Just not fast enough.  Certainly not fast enough to save Drew Ferraro’s life or any other of the dozens of teens who have taken their own lives because of bullying just this year alone.  Dozens!!  Today is only the 49th day of the year!!!  Can you see the urgency?

These are links and numbers everyone should have handy at all times:
WHOF’s Suicide Support page
STOP Teenage Suicide
Stop Bullying website
1-800-273-TALK(8255)

No child, gay or straight, black or white, fat, skinny, Martian, or otherwise should ever, EVER, be put in a position where they feel that ending their life is the only hope they have for the bullying to end.  At the end of the program handed out by Drew’s family at his memorial get-together were the words “Zero Tolerance against Bullying”.  Where have you read that before?

BULLYING AT ITS WORST, CAUGHT ON TAPE!!!!

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I first saw a video clip of this earlier in the day, I guess when it first broke.  The video clip was bad enough.  It left me shaking my head.  Livid!!!  However, now I’ve seen the entire video (WARNING!!!  This video is extremely graphic.  DO NOT watch it if you’re at all squeamish) of this brutal, senseless attack on this young man.  Now, I’m beyond livid!

There are videos, and video responses, all over youtube right now.  The video, itself, has been viewed almost 35,000 times.  Even the Mayor has spoken out about it.  And, NONE OF IT MEANS A DAMNED THING!!  The only thing that matters right now is that those 7 thugs are caught and punished to the absolute fullest extent of the law.  I don’t really give a rat’s ass that they’re juveniles:  they need to be sent to an adult prison for many years.  In the state where I reside, their action is called first-degree assault.  And, when you listen to the language their using as they brutalize this young man, it becomes obvious that this is also a hate crime.  Hate crimes are punishable by federal law.  Every single one of the 30,000+ people who have viewed that video, every breathing soul who has watched the story on the news, needs to make sure that their voices are heard loudly and clearly:  THIS ABSOLUTELY CANNOT BE TOLERATED!!!

I looked for a petition online but couldn’t find one.  Hopefully, someone from Chicago will post one on change.org.  When and if they do, I will certain pass that information along so that everyone, EVERYONE!, can go there and sign it.  There absolutely has to be justice done in this case.  Swift.  Definitive.  And, with severe consequences.  More than ever, the cry of ZERO TOLERANCE must apply here.

Written by Ron Kemp

January 18, 2012 at 9:02 am

More on EricJames Borges

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If I could, I’d give $1,000,000 to the first person who could explain to me how being an “extreme Christian” is any different that being a neo-Nazi.  Their hatred is destructive, not to mention very UN-Christ-like.  “Disgusting”?  “Damned to Hell”?  Those sound like two pretty good descriptions, to me, of some of these hate-mongers who hide behind the cloak of God and religion.  If “zero tolerance” on bullying is our goal, if we’re seeking to increase the penalties levied on those who bully, EricJames’ “parents” should be right there on the front cover of the Zero Tolerance manifesto.

When the story of young EricJames first hit yesterday, the details were still being formulated.  Now that there is more information, his suicide becomes all the more heartbreaking.  Demoralizing.  And, for me at least, maddening.  EricJames was a rising superstar with a beautiful soul.  He would’ve been a difference maker.  A game breaker.  His talents and his passion for helping others would have affected many, many people.

As an intern with The Trevor Project, he worked to prevent teen suicide in the LGBT community.  He created his own “It Gets Better” video a month to the day before his suicide.  The video is well made and very well scripted.  In viewing it, however, I’m not convinced that HE was convinced that the words he were saying held validity.  Who could blame him, given his circumstances?

And, the parents.  I am serious with my contention that they need to be brought up on charges like any other person who bullies a person to death.  As we see the wave of support, nationwide, continue to swell in favor of punishing people guilty of bullycide, these people should absolutely be held accountable for EricJames’ death.  His mother performed an exorcism on him!  Are you serious!?  Then, to further trample his self-esteem, they called him very UNGodly names and, for the knock out blow, kick him out of the house…effectively banishing him from the family.

So, here he is:  19-years-old, just coming out of the closet, starting college, and condemned and abandoned by his family.  Stop for a second and just imagine the inner pain and turmoil he was going through.  Now, multiply what you just imagined ten-fold.

The coming out process is supposed to be liberating, not a death sentence.  Your first year of college is supposed to be an adventure, a new beginning, a coming of age, not a horrific continuation of the bullying and harassment endured in middle and high school.  Family is supposed to be your foundation, the people you can always turn to when times are overwhelming, real or imagined.  I can speak from experience when I say that that’s a myth that truly needs to be abolished.  However, even with the shithole of a family that I was saddled with, I can say that they were never abusive.  They weren’t nasty, mean-spirited, or evil about it.  They just shut the door on me.  In EricJames case, they may as well have held a to his temple and pulled the trigger themselves.

Like so many of the young suicide victims, in particular LGBT teens, I steadfastly believe that EricJames was merely trying to convince himself that it really is possible for a young LGBT person to find real love in a world that exhibits such hatred and intolerance.  Surely, his parents showed him that he was not lovable.  The ones who bullied him throughout his life taught him that he was not acceptable.  For me, the saddest memory of EricJames’ life will be the short film he created and produced.  In the film, you can see him in the throes of love and passion.  It wasn’t enough to sustain him.  The unspoken subtext to the film is obvious, but I love his words.

Love is universal.  It has the strength to decimate the threshold of all prejudice, all inequity.  Human relationships, and those who come into our lives, have the ability to ultimately shape who we are.  There is importance in loving each other the way each of us truly deserves….

Makes me cry every time.  You’re at peace now, EricJames.

From Lemons to the Sweetest Lemonade

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I am an administrator on one of the facebook pages set up in honor of Jamie Hubley.  It’s an outstanding community of loving, sharing, and caring.  In that community, I’ve met people who are now very dear to me, people I consider true friends, and people who are more of my family than any of the posers who share my same blood.  Also in that community are many of Jamie’s family members and friends.  I guess that’s what makes it so special.

One of the people in that group is Steph.  Steph and Jamie were friends for 10 years before his October suicide.  Steph is a breath of fresh air.  Being a normal teen, she’s gone through everything that most teens go through, including the bullying.  And, she’s stronger because of it.  So strong, in fact, she’s begun doing motivational speaking in her area to other teens.

Her story is one that will resonate with other young people.  I know it will because tonight, for the first time, Steph shared her story with us.  See, she was getting picked on because of who she is and where she is in life.  Her head sticks just a bit above the crowd.  You know what happens next.  True to form, the verbal tomatoes began to fly.  Rather than wilt under the weight of their criticisms, Steph opted to respond.  She did more than respond.  She knocked the wind straight out of their sails.

Inside “the Jamie community”, which is what it’s called by many, we get a lot of people who are hurting, in one way or another.  Sometimes, it gets really intense as we do have young people within the community who sometimes feel there’s no other way out.  The word is out, though, that this is definitely a go-to spot for people who are in need, young and not-so-young.  There’s never, ever a shortage of people who are there ready to give a listen and help out to the best of their ability.  Never.  And, there’s Steph.  She is always one of the ones who are right there in the thick of it all when things intensify.  She’s truly a remarkable girl, and she’s changing lives.

Life dealt her a lot of lemons from a very early age.  With them, she’s made some of the sweetest lemonade you’ll find anywhere.

Edmund Padilla Needs Your Prayers

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We’ve heard the old one-step-forward-two-steps-back theory.  Right now, in this first week of 2012, it feels as though we’ve omitted to one-step-forward part of the equation.

Nineteen-year-old Edmund Padilla, of the Phillipines, was scalded by boiling water by his father when he came out as being gay.

This throws everything out the window.  All the talk of educating the adults and parents.  Tossed.  All the talk of “It Gets Better”.  Hurled!  Etched in Edmund’s mind now is “it doesn’t get better”.  He was rejected violently by his own father.  Worse, he’s now been scarred, both emotionally and physically, for life by the very person who created him.

The question has been asked several times this week:  “when will it end”?  My answer has been consistent:  “It will start to change when we stop TALKING about it and start taking action”.

For now, as Edmund lies in  burn unit in the Phillipines, we pray for his recovery.  It’s going to be a long, painful road.

Then, we focus our attention on the monster of a father, drunk or not, who did this to ANY human being, not to mention his very own flesh and blood.  We demand that he is brought to full justice for his actions.

And, last but certainly not least, we understand that this is no easy task.  There truly are sick people in this world, people who would condone this type of violence towards the lgbt community. (remember the failed Michigan bill and the current bill in Tennessee that would SANCTION this type of behavior if passed)  In everything we do, we MUST make it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.  Not by other teens.  Not by school administrators.  And, certainly not by the parents.  Zero tolerance means just that.