The parents of a high school freshman in Amherst, N.Y., who killed himself told CNN that their son had endured pervasive antigay bullying beginning in fifth grade, both at school and particularly online.
Jamey Rodemeyer, 14, committed suicide Monday in the Buffalo, N.Y., suburb. “He had the biggest heart in that little body,” Rodemeyer’s mother, Tracey, told CNN's Anderson Cooper Wednesday. “He was either loved so sincerely or he was bullied. There wasn’t much in between.”
Much of the bullying Jamey faced, Tracey Rodemeyer said, occurred not in school but via Facebook and other social media sites. "Because people can access each other in numbers so readily — it’s still accessible for people to do their bullying.”
“We need to get a better a system in our school district, in our school systems, to get rid of these bullies. Because it’s a rampant problem,” Rodemeyer’s father, Tim, said. (Watch the CNN video below.)
Rodemeyer’s death came just two days before a second-annual conference on bullying hosted by the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., one attended by educators and LGBT anti-bullying advocates such as Tammy Aaberg, who lost her son, Justin, to suicide in 2010.
Aaberg was among a group of advocates who met last week with Minnesota representative Michele Bachmann’s district office and urged the congresswoman to come out against the multiple youth suicides in her own district. Bachmann said last week on the presidential campaign trail that school bullying “is not a federal issue.”
“I think Congresswoman Bachmann is in a leadership role to speak out against bullying,” Aaberg The Advocate last week. “I’m not asking her to change her beliefs. But all kids should be protected in school.”
Rodemeyer, a devout Lady Gaga fan who found inspiration and strength in the pop star's music, said in an “It Gets Better” video that he faced bullying at every turn.
“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you're the ones calling me 'faggot' and tearing me down,” Rodemeyer later wrote online to those who harassed him prior to his death.
In a message to her 13.7 million Twitter followers, Lady Gaga tweeted Wednesday, “I am meeting with our President. I will not stop fighting. This must end. Our generation has the power to end it.”
“Trend it,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #MakeALawforJamey.
Legislation to expressly prohibit discrimination in schools on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity has been in the works for some time — a House version of the Student Nondiscrimination Act was reintroduced earlier this year by Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, with the Senate companion bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.
“[W]hat I want is for schools to have a policy against bullying—and that parents would have a right of action, kids would have a right of action against the school district,” Franken told The Advocate in July. “Once you give a right of action, schools know they had better comply. So then they make a policy."