Tag Archives: Bullying

No Justice for Jamey

23 Nov

Yesterday, Amherst Police held a brief press conference to inform the public that no charges would be brought against any of Jamey Rodemeyer’s tormentors. Jamey, you’ll remember, was the 14 year-old Williamsville North student who took his own life after having been bullied relentlessly for being a little bit different. I wrote about Jamey’s suicide here, and published the stories from some of his former classmates in this post, along with a brief analysis of some of his Tumblr posts, which showed that – beyond bullying at school – this was a deeply troubled young man who wrote about cutting himself, and about horrible things he said his parents had told him.

Amherst police found that bullying that leads to suicide is difficult to prosecute – the principal witness is dead, and you can’t base a criminal case on hearsay. Many of the alleged bullying incidents were never contemporaneously reported to school authorities, and the time had passed to prosecute anything that happened during middle school.

It would appear that legislation is needed if bullying-rising-to-the-level-of-harassment is adequately to be prosecuted. There are measures pending to strengthen cyberbullying laws (something the police said wasn’t happening to Jamey on any sort of a regular basis), but the more important avenue is prevention.

While cyberbullying is the focus because it’s something relatively new, the real goal ought to be to provide kids with a safe, comfortable place to learn. The Rodemeyer case took school districts and parents by surprise, and to my knowledge only the Orchard Park system has a comprehensive, ongoing anti-bullying system in place, which demands 100% participation and buy-in by students, faculty, parents, and administrators alike.

While I think that school harassment should be prosecuted, and that the laws should be amended so that a victim’s death doesn’t halt any such action, school districts across the state should adopt and implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Developed by Clemson University and the Hazelton Foundation, this program doesn’t just rely on placards and occasional “No H8” assemblies.  Instead, it includes a weekly curriculum with restorative justice elements and frequent class meetings. Every adult in the school is trained in the program, and it has a proven track record of reducing the frequency and severity of bullying events.

The Jamey Rodemeyer tragedy has many in the community demanding justice for anyone who may have contributed to his feelings of despair, self-hatred, and hopelessness. I wish that these kids could be made to understand what their words have done. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, and civil litigation would be likewise difficult to pursue. The whole case has an aura of unfinished business about it, and society should demand better.

Stories for Jamey

3 Oct

In the wake of Jamey Rodemeyer’s recent suicide, a great deal of attention has been paid to bullying. Since Rodemeyer was quite clearly a victim of bullying for the last several years in two separate schools in the Williamsville School District, the attention is needed and deserved.

I will note, however, that people generally don’t take their own lives unless there is an underlying psychiatric issue at play – some form of anxiety or depression.  We’ll never know if the psychiatric issue was something with which he could have coped, absent the bullying. A scan of his Tumblr reveals he either didn’t like Facebook’s newsfeed, or didn’t like the content he saw in his – it’s not clear.  On September 11th, he posted “hate my parents so much.”  On September 13th, he posted that “my parents just said they never wanted me to be born.” On September 14th, he discussed the fact that he was a cutter.

If true, it means Jamey Rodemeyer had larger issues than just bullying. I guess it’s a cautionary tale for parents to be hypervigilant about what your kids are writing and doing online.

It was revealed in the Buffalo News that some parents are quite disappointed with the school district’s reaction to Rodemeyer’s suicide. Clearly, this is a teachable moment about mutual respect and awareness of bullying, but the Williamsville district is remaining largely silent, with the exception of a rather rote grief counseling memo to parents, which has since been deleted and replaced with this.  At a school dance the other day, Rodemeyer’s former bullies targeted his sister, Alyssa, and expressed happiness over Jamey’s death.  One of those kids has been suspended. Personally, I don’t think that’s enough, but our legal system isn’t adequately set up to really deter or punish that kind of ugly behavior.

At this point, I don’t understand why the community doesn’t have the names of those specific bullies who tormented Jamey, and who continue to torment his sister. I can’t fathom why we don’t have names, the parents’ names, and loads more details about these vicious people who have no capability to interact in contemporary society.

The response I received after what I posted about Jamey’s situation was overwhelming. Many parents, students, and former students reached out to tell me their horror stories – that the bullying is pervasive at Williamsville North, that the administration does nothing to stop it, and that it’s an inherent part of the culture there. My heart breaks for kids who have to go to school afraid – afraid at embarrassment, humiliation, beatings, and other forms of harassment and battery. That they get no relief or help from the adults who work there is even sadder. Here are some of their stories:

When I first entered high school I was excited.

I would be meeting so many new people and be able together involved in so many new things. High school, I thought, was going to allow me to open up and be myself. This was not exactly the case. 

Being involved with the Drama Club, spring musical and many different choral groups attracted a lot of attention. Some positive and some negative. By my friends I was know for being charismatic and outgoing, very friendly and confident. But to those who didn’t know me I was the gay kid who didn’t “act black” that was a freak for being involved with theatre and gymnastics. 

A lot of the boys in my gym classes would make a show of changing when I was around. Asking what I was looking at. It got to the point where I would wear my gym clothes under my school clothes and go through my day wearing two pairs of clothes. 

I was nervous about coming out of the closet because I feared being ridiculed worse than I already was. My sophomore year I wound up dating a girl that I fooled myself into having feelings for. That was the year that “The List” came out. There was this horrible list with things written about people that were just plain rude. Mine was “Brandon Obrian: Your black and gay and that sucks.” I laughed at first, just ignoring the fact that it was about me by saying how they spelled my name wrong. But as soon as this list circulated the entire school I could feel people’s eyes on me and I knew what they were thinking. 

My junior year was mostly fine. It was the year that my father had passed away and I think that most people felt bad for me. For what they knew I was already quiet. But now I was quiet and sad. I want to say that everyone was sympathetic. But not many were.

My senior year in may of 2010 I finally came out of the closet. Deciding that I was graduating soon and that I no longer cared what the people I went to school with though of me. I never made a public announcement, but my Facebook said that I was dating a boy, and not one from our school. My profile was also update to say that I was interested in men. 

A lot of people were proud and over all happy that I had finally become comfortable with myself, but there were still some that would ask me inappropriate questions about my personal sex life that felt were an invasion of my privacy. 

Along with all of that I have had encounters with straight boys from my school that pretended to be gay to see what they could get me to say or do or admit to feelings that they thought that I had. 

After high school I have found life easier. I have yet to meet any people who are disapproving or think that there is something wrong with me. College has proved to be much more welcoming and accepting. 

High school was, at times, a tragic experience for me. And it was something that I had kept bottled up inside and didn’t share with people. Though I had at some times reached out for guidance I did not ever receive the help that I needed. This was especially worse in middle school when a certain teacher said nothing and did nothing about my being harassed as it happened in front of her. The only solution she could think of was to force the the boy to sit next to me and give a halfhearted apology. 

Seeing those who bullied me in high school after graduating is always an awkward experience. But I don’t let their past cruelty affect my behavior. I have learned that being bullied is not something to cry over and that the best revenge is success. My goals and dreams have motivated me to keep positive and stay strong even when I felt very down and nearly suicidal. All I have to say is that things honestly do get better. I used to hate myself and my life and wished that I was different. But now I love myself and I am happy with my life and the positive direction it is going in. – Brandon Michael O’Brien

Well I have been bullied a couple times,

I’m graduated now but I was wearing a skirt to school and it wasn’t a short skirt, it was longer and because of what I was wearing a bunch of people literally circled around me in the hallway and made fun of me till I cried. I had to be taken to the office so they could call my parents and bring me different clothes. It was a horrible experience and bullying needs to be stopped. – Anonymous

My name is Giselle Binette,

Jamey was one of my closest and truest friends. He was like a little brother to me. We would always talk about Lady GaGa and discusses her new videos and songs. I remember when we kept talking about the VMA’s and how amazing her performance was. I also remember way before that, all the times he was there for me when I was down. I loved him like my own brother. He was the brother I never had.

I have an event on Facebook in honor of him: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=253420008030411

We miss him very much, but finally, with hard work. GaGa retweeted me and my friends and she will be talking with the President about this.

We want bullying of any forms to be a crime. I want this done for Jamey.

We all miss him and love him SO very much ❤

I hope God is taking great care of him. R.I.P. ❤

I also wanted to say,

That the people who bullied him, should be ashamed… I apologize for not really focusing on that, but I just wanted to show the good that is happening such as GaGa and us trying to get a law for Jamey!

But, I really think the bullying at North is AWFUL. Many schools are awful, and it needs to stop. I understand bullies have self problems, but they do not need to take it out on such beautiful people like Jamey.

BUT, remember to not be mean back. Because violence begets violence.


Bullying at North is not taken care of like it should be.

I was bullied for years at North and no one ever stepped in to stop it. I was being made fun of and these bullies intentionally did things that would hurt me (vandalize my locker, etc). The administration said they could never really step in and do anything because they didn’t see or hear these things being said or being done. It was awful having to go to school every day knowing that these bullies may do or say something to me. I was scared to go to school because of them. I never wanted this to happen to anyone else because I knew how hard it was to wake up everyday and have to go to school. I wish Jamey didn’t have to experience all that pain. I hope the administration, government, etc step in and do something about bullying before it gets worse than it already is. – Anonymous

I went to Williamsville North and I can truly say it was the worst 4 years of my life.

You acquired the feeling that very few cared for you especially due to administration changes that occurred when I went there. I will always remember how North shut down a club that was supportive of the gay community without any justification, they just required it to be shut down. I’m not sure of all the details, but I distinctly remember this and I’m not too sure how the situation ended up. The weird thing about all the bullying that occurred at North was that it mostly seemed like it was always just “cyber-bullying.” Everyone was too afraid to express themselves because they were too concerned about maintaining their image and frankly, the majority of Williamsville kids suck and are too cowardly to take a stance. It’s a shame when someone with enough courage and pride comes along like Jamey and they’re persecuted because of they are one of the very few at that school to be themselves. My thoughts and prayers go to Jamey’s family and friends. Rest in peace, Jamey, you’ll have forever made a difference in this world. – Anonymous

Well I’m a senior at Hamburg High School,

and I myself have been the bullied and I have also been a bully myself. Bullying is a terrible thing now a days. Facebook and twitter doesn’t really help either knowing 43% of teens claimed to have been cyber-bullied in the past year.

People just don’t understand how harmful bullying can be until something like this happens. If you see bullying going on, go to your school counselor and alert them about it as quickly as possibly so good people like jamey can live their life to the fullest without a person making fun of them for their sexual preference, race etc.

All in all, something needs to be done about bullying. Some sort of bill that punishes you for it. RIP JAMEY NOH8 – Anonymous

Having just graduated from North

I can say North was comprised of 65% that minded their own business, 25% that became ridiculed for either their appearance, sexuality, race, and other factors, with just 10% of the student population thinking they were above the rest. That 10% of kids made it very apparent that they thought their status rose above others. I recall a time in 2010-2011 where a gay couple would be holding hands in the halls and everywhere they walked, students would gather together to whisper about their relationship. There were times where some students trying to impress others, would scream out derogative at the couple. If we live in a society today where peoples concerns are based upon hate, gossip and social status, oh what has the world come too. People need to really understand how to build true sustaining relationships between others. Learn how to spot out acts of hate. Conjure up belief in yourself that you can stop it. Do something before its too late. Everybody just wants to be treated with respect for what they stand for. – Anonymous

I went to williamsville north and graduated two years ago.

It was a great time in my life because my parents gave me the power to brush off bullying when i was younger. Everyone gets made fun of and everyone pokes fun of other people. If you claim you never have you are lying. This is a tragedy because no one took the time to empower this kid and give him the strength to move on.I myself was made of of i was extremely small growing up and took a lot of stuff because kids knew i couldn’t do anything. so instead i either looked the other way or i outsmarted them and went at them harder. I had friends who were “fat” and were made fun of because of it. i had friends who made choices that got them made fun but they were all able to move on because there was a general understanding in my grade that people who were bullying were weak themselves. Bullying is never going to go away, im sorry but its true. You cant honestly believe that a law should be made against being mean. It is the parents/school/administraion’s job to give kids the tools to defend bullying early in life. The other part of this is how victims have no real way of getting out of it. Think about it a bully picks on a kid. the kid tells on the bully he gets suspended. IF YOU THINK THAT THIS BULLY ISNT GOING TO COME BACK HARDER HALF THE TIME YOU ARE HIGHLY MISTAKEN. In past time if someone picked on you you challenged them fought them or made fun of them back. Unfortunately the schools have taken these defenses away from victims because apparently standing up for yourself is against school policy. I feel awful for this kids family friends and everyone around him. may he rest in peace. – Anonymous

Paws Up for Jamey Rodemeyer

21 Sep

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/hausofjamey/status/115295838594535424″%5D

That was the last thing that 14 year-old bullying victim Jamey Rodemeyer Tweeted.  The Williamsville North freshman was a huge Lady Gaga fan and found solace in her image, in her lyrics, and the camaraderie of her “Little Monster” fans.

At school and online, however, Jamey suffered from relentless bullying from other kids.  Bullied for being “fat”. For being a “fag”. For being different.

My reaction to all this is that our society pays fantastic lip service to the pervasive, growing problem of bullying in America. The advent of the internet has only given the bullies the ability to take away the bullied kid’s only sanctuary – his home. The Buffalo News reports that Jamey had been bullied in middle school, and his transition into high school only made matters worse.

Jamey did have bad days. Issues of bullying and even suicide talk were not new to many of Jamey’s family or friends. They were common topics for him and seemed to ramp up to an extreme level when other students started making taunts with gay references to Jamey about 12 months ago.


Another read: “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Other posts were similar, but friends also came to his defense.

“Don’t listen to cowards on here Jamey,” one friend responded.

Another wrote: “Um. Jamey is amazing and it doesn’t matter if someone’s gay or not. Everyone loves Jamey, and if you don’t then you obviously didn’t take the time to get to know him.”

Rodemeyer said her son had questioned his sexuality for the last year or so, and some of his classmates used those issues as an excuse to say horrible and malicious things about him.

Friends of his reported the message posts to the Heim Middle School guidance counselors, she said.

Even before then, she said, Jamey was emotionally troubled.

“He was totally against bullying,” she said. “He has had issues since fifth grade. He had suicidal tendencies back then.”

He also had friends. Olivia said she thought even the male bullies at Heim Middle School became more accepting over time.

But high school meant facing off against a new set of peers.

“We sat him down multiple times and said, ‘What’s going on?'” his mother recalled.

Jamey denied that anything was amiss, she said. In fact, when the family went to its usual camping spot this past weekend, Jamey seemed happy. Even taunts from peers didn’t seem to phase him.

And Jamey got all the intervention the “system” had available to it. He was seeing counselors, the school knew about what was going on. But what do we do to really prevent bullying? We give presentations, we incorporate feel-good happy-talk into school curricula. We talk about mutual respect, etc. but in the end, why weren’t the specific perpetrators – the actual bullies – called out and punished? Why were they allowed relentlessly to torture this poor kid?

No way their identities were unknown. No way people didn’t know exactly who was torturing whom.

And I think that these torturers – these emotional murderers – should be punished. If society is really serious about combating bullying, then happy-fun-time prevention assemblies aren’t the answer. Punishment is. Deterrents are.

It’s not just the bullies who need a wake-up call, so do their parents and other adult enablers.

What if those precious snowflakes in Williamsville North suddenly found themselves expelled from high school? College dreams dashed, lives forever altered. What if they were sued?  Sure, at least they’d still be living and breathing – the same can’t be said for Jamey Rodemeyer.  What if they could be prosecuted for what amounts to the intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress? What if a new crime to define and punish this form of reckless, criminally negligent, or intentional indirect homicide was created, sending these kids to a state penitentiary?

Society’s attitude doesn’t help either. How many of you are gearing up to write a comment about how kids have always been teased kids throughout history? Well, I’m not talking about “teasing”.  I’m talking about mental and physical torture for shits & giggles.

That’s the Focus on the Family position. It’s beyond despicable; it’s apologia for torture and murder.

And every time some cleric or politician denounces homosexuals, using language to demean them and demonize them, that person should be shunned by any civilized society. They are part of the problem.

But to rub salt in the wound, the principal of Williamsville North had this to say:

Williamsville North Principal Petrina Neureuter sent a letter home with all students Monday informing them that Jamey had died. Members of the district’s crisis team from both North High and Heim Middle School were also at the school.

“We make it apparent to the kids that there’s help all day long and in the days to come,” said Dale Bauer, a licensed school social worker and clinical social worker at North.

Jamey is the second Williamsville North High School student to die since 2010. Joe Chearmonte, a junior honor student, died in February of last year.

When a new school year starts, Bauer said, the high school counseling staff meets with the middle school counselors from North’s two feeder middle schools to discuss the needs of incoming ninth-graders.

Counselors then make it a point to try to stay in touch with the kids who are considered to be at higher risk, she said.

But There are limits to what a school can do, she said. Despite the extensive counseling staff at North, she said, no one routinely checks the online posts of troubled students.

“We really encourage kids not to use those sites if they’re having a hard time because it just aggravates the situation,” she said.

The school is not a mental health clinic, she said, though it has licensed counseling staff, offers some services and makes outside referrals.

“The school can offer these services, but we can’t force students to partake of them, and we’re only one piece of the puzzle,” she said. “It’s really a question of us all working together.”

That sounds remarkably defensive, don’t you think? No one said the school is a “mental health clinic”, and Jamey was taking advantage of mental health counseling. The school is, however, in loco parentis, and needs to be vigilant and take seriously complaints and information it receives about children being tortured.  Jamey used Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media to express himself – to express his thoughts, fears, loves, feelings.  How dare the school dissuade a talented young man from using his mind and creativity to express himself?

If the school is “a question of us all working together”, what specifically did the schools do in response to the information that Jamey was being relentlessly bullied and tortured by its students, within its walls?

Consider the fact that there’s a pending lawsuit brought against Williamsville North for alleged discrimination and bullying of a teacher by other teachers.


I contacted Ms. McCann and her lawyers, and they offered no further comment, so the public filing speaks for itself.  If true, it would reveal that Williamsville North has a very serious issue with bullying – one might even consider it to be a school trait, if teachers are harassing other teachers.

I think the touchy-feely anti-bullying measures have been a failure. I think it’s time that society took indirect murderers like the kid who wrote, “JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE”, and his ilk, and gave them real consequences to match up with the very real consequence of Jamey’s death. Oh, there can be a three-strikes program so as to not let our precious snowflakes destroy their own lives prematurely. But in the end, habitual, chronic torturers should have their academic careers destroyed, and possibly face criminal prosecution.

This young man is gone, but even in his last days, he was able to show compassion and warmth, and tell people it gets better.


For Jamey, alas, it never did. Hopefully it starts getting better at Williamsville North.


Let’s Have a Toast

25 Oct

There’s been a lot in the news lately about bullying and the affects it can have on kids.  I’ve never been particularly handsome or thin, so when I was a kid I was subjected to my share of bullying.  I was lucky always to have close friends, and being an only child certainly helped in terms of what I’d term “dealing with assholes“.

Bullying and hate speech must be particularly difficult for kids who are different because of something inherent in their being; something they can’t change. For instance, being mocked for your ethnicity, race, religion, or sexual orientation.  I can only imagine how crushing it must be for a kid who’s gay – or even an effeminate straight kid – to be called hateful, dehumanizing names.

I know that as I teach my kids right from wrong, I’ll do everything in my power to keep them from bullying other kids, to instill in them a need to accept and appreciate people’s uniqueness and differences, and that I will defend them and protect them to the best of my abilities against being bullied by others.

On Saturday night, someone I followed on Twitter whose username is “Jeffrey_Dennis” called me a “no talent fuck”, a “fathead”, and compared my likeness to that of a character from an extremely obscure, short-lived failure of a mid-90s sitcom.   Who the hell is “Jeffrey Dennis“?

When douchebags tweet

Jeffrey Dennis Hannon.  Carl Paladino’s recently offended, openly gay nephew.

You may recall that candidate Carl Paladino had a problem a couple of weeks ago regarding his stance on homosexuality. After parroting bigoted anti-gay nonsense written down for him by detestable homophobe Yehuda Levin, Paladino had to backtrack, claiming to totally support and be completely ok with homosexuality except for the *yuck* idea that they might love each other and get married, or enter into civil unions:

I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t,” he said. ”I didn’t march in the gay parade this year — the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.”

I don’t know how it works in your family, but none of my uncles would make a crack about something about me that I can’t change.  No one in my family would parrot someone else’s hate speech and pass it off as their own.

Yet Jeff Hannon, a 23 year-old nephew of Carl Paladino’s, has evidently forgiven his uncle, and went on Twitter Saturday night to call me fat and ugly.  Guilty, as charged.

His childish insults are like a badge of honor.

Because I’m better than Jeff Hannon; I’m better than this 23 year-old scion of Important Buffalo Families®, working for his nouveau-riche megalomaniacal uncle, making over $250k at Uncle Carl’s Ellicott Development. (That’s two hundred and fifty thousand plus reasons to quickly forgive one’s asshole uncle-cum-boss).  Let’s have a toast to the douchebags. Good looking kid, born into wealth and influence  – must be nice.  Tough life, there.  

And to think, I feel badly for that kid.  It must suck being so publicly insulted by your own flesh and blood.  Why, Uncle Carl himself noted that Hannon “suffers every day with discriminatory people.” It must be crushing to belong to a political party that has no respect or use for him or his ilk.  No joke, the Republican platform on gay rights is nonexistent, and when the issue comes up, mainstream Republican dogma on gay rights differs only stylistically from that of the Westboro Baptist Church. Let’s have a toast to the assholes.

The GOP has spent the last three decades aligning itself with Christian fundamentalists on social issues, making a crystal clear choice in favor of bigotry over love.

I think Carl Paladino’s nephew Jeff Hannon should enjoy the civil right to marry someone he loves, regardless of gender. Uncle Carl doesn’t, nor ever would. Let’s have a toast for the scumbags.

While Mr. Hannon may have worn purple last week, I doubt that his uncle did.  He seems like a hateful, petty little kid.  I hope he grows up someday.