Update 1-6-12: And now adults are compounding the problem with excuses. About a month ago a Tennessee teen who was gay, Jacob Roberts, committed suicide after being bullied. Now a proposed Tennessee law could offer bullies protection if they did it in the name of religion. Legislative Protection?
The proposed change would allow students to speak out against homosexuality without punishment if the comments are made because of religious beliefs. The bill is supported by the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee. Family Action.
David Fowler, a former Republican state senator, told the press that the "... purpose is to stop bullying, not create special classes of people who are more important than others." But would such a change in the law create more gay bullying which would lead to more devastating fates such as the one suffered by Jacob Rogers? Jacob Rogers.
Will this send a message that hatred is acceptable? Associated Press.
Update 5-9-12: It would be nice if we had a pleasant update. But the death of 13 year-old Rachel Ehmke demonstrates that this problem is not going away anytime soon. Rachel was a 13-year-old seventh grader in Mantorville, Minn. She hung herself on April 29, 2012 after prolonged peer abuse. Rachel's parents, Rick and Mary Ehmke, are speaking out against the bullying they say their daughter endured at Kasson/Mantorville Middle School and online.
Rachel became the subject of school bullying last fall when her chewing gum was stuck to her textbooks and the word "slut" was written on her gym locker. A group of girls reportedly kept calling Rachel a "prostitute," even though she probably had never even kissed a boy during her short life. An anonymous text was circulated that said something to the effect that Rachel was a slut and to get her to leave the Kasson-Mantorville School, forward this to everyone you know.
The school district's bullying policy prohibits threats both in person and online. Should the school have taken heavier measures against the bullies when the taunting was first reported in the fall? The U.S. Department of Education has identified 16 "key components" in state bullying legislation, including a statement of scope, listing of enumerated groups, process of district policy review, definitions and reporting guidelines. Unfortunately, Minnesota ranks last in the country with its state bullying law only covering two of the 16 components. Only three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona) prohibit bullying but do not define "bullying." The state also doesn't provide a model bullying policy.
Dodge County authorities plan to meet this week to discuss possible criminal charges; however, the Star Tribune reports Rick Ehmke says the family doesn't plan to press charges.
Rachel's parents found a note after her death which read, "I'm fine = I wish I could tell you how I really feel."
Bullies, how do you now feel? You will carry this baggage the rest of your life.