Tag Archives: youth

Paws Up for Jamey Rodemeyer

21 Sep

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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.

“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!” read one post.

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.

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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.

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

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Buffalo Youth Media Institute: On The Waterfront

15 Dec

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The Buffalo Youth Media Institute is a community history and youth media program sponsored by Squeaky Wheel that is geared towards teens living in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. The Institute comes together in the heart of downtown to immerse young filmmakers in a culturally rich and diverse area that is their history and future.

The institute combines media production, media literacy, and cultural studies in its 9-month curriculum. Youth producers, selected through a competitive application process, work with professional filmmakers and historians to create their own self-directed documentaries about the culture and history of the Buffalo area. The 2007 program featured documentary shorts on the people, places, and issues surrounding the Buffalo Waterfront. Two videos stand out in my opinion that really paint a picture of the current situation…

Time for a Change – Jesse Deganis-Librera

Enthusiasm’s Defeat & Consequential Rejuvenation of Spirit – Temitope Olutunmbi