Buffalo, NY: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a serious message at the Department’s first-ever Bullying Summit that took place Aug. 11-12, 2010, “When children feel threatened, they can not learn”. The Bullying Summit was a call to action for a comprehensive national effort to address bullying during the 2010-2011 school year by all summit participants.
As the digital age has substantially expanded the ability to intensify and prolong bullying through social networks and personal electronic devices, the summit’s goal of engaging governmental and nongovernmental partners in crafting a national strategy to reduce and end bullying needs critical assessment and improvements in transparency.
Assistant Deputy Secretary Jennings stated: “Bullying behavior is not only troubling in and of itself but if left unaddressed, can quickly escalate into harassment, violence and tragedies…We hope this summit will help us get ahead of the game by focusing on prevention and doing everything we can to bring this plague to an end.”
The problems that emerge from cyberbullying have grown to the point that it has become a legislative issues. In light of the January 2010 suicide death of Massachusetts teen, Pheobe Prince, state legislatures have passed a law that now makes cyber bullying a crime.
This month on September 10th, World Suicide Prevention Day took place. World Suicide Prevention Day is a worldwide effort led by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and World Health Organization to improve education about suicide, decrease stigma and raise awareness of the warning signs of suicide.
Tragically, only 10 days after World Suicide Day, Buffalo teen Jamey Rodemeyer also took his own life after being tormented for the past 12 months by cyberbullies making disparaging comments with gay references on his Formspring account, a website that allows anonymous posts.
Jamey, a 14-year old student at Williamsville North High School sent out many signals on social networking sites that he was struggling with his sexuality. Although he encouraged others through his YouTube videos, thanking Lady Gaga for supporting the gay community and told the viewers, “Love yourself and you’re set. … I promise you, it will get better”, things did not get better for Jamey.
Friends reported the bullying to guidance counselors. But everyone, including his parents, thought he had grown more confident.
On Sept. 8th, Jamey wrote, “No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down,” He said the next day: “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. … What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”
The special victims unit is looking into the circumstances prior to Jamey’s death. No bullying laws exist in New York State, so the local police must consider whether aggravated harassment charges fit this case.
Jamey’s mother told the Buffalo News, “He touched so many hearts, so many people. I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”
Lady Gaga commented via twitter: “Bullying must become be illegal. It is a hate crime,”
I appreciate the efforts of Anderson Cooper making an awareness of suicide prevention and bullying that can lead to suicide.