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Teen’s parents: After suicide, he’s still being bullied



Even after a teen-ager tragically committed suicide in suburban Buffalo this month in the wake of constant harassment, the bullying allegedly did not stop with his death.

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Teen’s parents: After suicide, he’s still being bullied

The parents of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was found dead at their home on Sept. 18, indicated in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday that their daughter endured further taunts at a school function immediately after Jamey’s wake. At a homecoming dance she attended shortly after her brother’s death, a potentially poignant moment turned ugly after a song by Lady Gaga, Jamey’s favorite artist, who recently dedicated a song at a concert in his memory.

“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,’’ Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.

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“My daughter came home all upset. It was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he’s gone.’’

“I can’t grasp it in my mind,’’ said Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s father. “ I don’t know why anyone would do that. They have no heart, that’s basically what it comes down to.’’

‘No one listens’
Tracy Rodemeyer was outfitted in a bandanna that Jamey had made for Lady Gaga and in a shirt that read “It Gets Better,’’ referring to the It Gets Better Project,’ to which Jamey was a contributor. The organization aims to give support to gay and lesbian youth who may be targets of harassment and discrimination.

Lady Gaga dedicated a song at one of her recent concerts to the late teen, saying, “Let’s do this one for Jamey,’’ and later adding, “Jamey, I know you’re up there looking at us. You’re not a victim.’’
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She also spoke with President Obama at a fund-raising event in California on Sunday about his anti-bullying campaign and tweeted: “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime.’’

Jamey’s suicide also drew a response from Ricky Martin, as the openly gay singer tweeted: “How many lives do we have to lose to finally stop the harassment, hatred, the bigotry and the abuse?’’

Jamey spoke openly to his parents about the bullying he endured as a sixth- and seventh-grader at Heim Middle School, but became more withdrawn about it when he entered high school, according to his parents. One of his last online posts, discovered by his parents after his death, read, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so that people will listen to me?’’
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The Rodemeyers urged parents of teens facing similar difficulties to take any means necessary to get their children to open up about the bullying before it’s too late.

‘Get them to talk’
“My message to the parents is, ‘Badger your kids and make them talk,’ or get them the help they need,’’ Tim said. “There’s lots and lots of other people that maybe they’ll talk to. There’s a lot of organizations out there that maybe they’ll talk to, but get them to talk.

“We tried to get Jamey to talk constantly but he just kept it in, he just put up a brave face. Just don’t let it go. If you know they’ve been bullied in the past, keep on them, go to the school, do whatever you have to, to make sure they’re getting the help they need.’’

Jamey posted videos on YouTube and was a frequent contributor to the social site Formspring, posting anti-bullying messages that often earned him hateful vitriol in response from anonymous posters.

“Jamie is stupid, gay, fat and ugly. He must die,’’ read one response.

“I wouldn’t care if he died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone way more happier,’’ read another.

Related: Teen contributor to ‘It Gets Better Project’ found dead

Police in Amherst, N.Y., are currently investigating whether Jamey was the victim of harassment or hate crimes leading up to his suicide, although it is too early to tell if any charges will be filed.

Jamey’s father agreed that the message of intolerance preached by certain politicians and religious leaders has contributed to the toxic climate that can result in harassment of gay teens.
Video: Parents of teen blame suicide on bullies (on this page)

“People have different views on things,’’ he said. “If you believe in homosexuality is right or wrong, that’s your right as an American, but it’s no reason to bully someone and hate them.’’

“It’s all the same story, and it’s just got to stop,’’ Tracy said.

Rodemeyer’s parents now hope to spread their message across the world, and are looking for help in getting the word out.

“(Jamey) will forever be in our hearts,’’ Tracy said. “We can’t do this on our own, but we are going to carry on Jamey's mission. Everyone across America, across the world, whatever anybody can to do to stand up for everybody else.’’

•National Suicide Prevention Hotline1-800-273-TALK (8255)
•The National Council for Suicide Prevention
•SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
•How to help someone who has posted suicidal content on Facebook

For online support for LGBT teens, visit:

The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools.
29 Responses
1310633 tn?1430227691
Kids are cruel...
377493 tn?1356505749
I read stories like this and I just want to wrap my son in cotton and keep him home safe with me forever.  Kids are cruel.  But I can tell you...if I ever caught my child bullying another like that, there would be serious serious trouble.  The answer to this problem starts at home, and we need the schools and parents working together.  It has to be zero tolerance.  Kids are dying.
1530342 tn?1405020090
This is just horrible. I just don't get it. It seems like from the time I went to school til now the kids are just waaayyyy out of control and CRAZY. What in the world s going on?!
649848 tn?1534637300
Adgal is right -- the solution starts at home.  
1032715 tn?1315987834
My son has Tourettes Syndrome and was bullied regularly,In the end I took him out of school and taught him at home,It was the best decision I could have made because he grew into a well adjusted and confident adult,I refused to let these bullies sap his confidence.

And yes,children can be the cruellest beings on this earth,but often it's their parents that are to blame.
Avatar universal
Unbelievably sad.....
Avatar universal
That is really sad that you had to take your child out of school because of such a thing. I just learned my 9 year old grandson has Tourettes and as a result has a uncontrollable not of his head that he cannot control. He is on medication that controls it for now but do worry about the problems with other children if they find out. Isnt that sad? The way we handled bullying in school when my kids were small was to let it be known they would not be able to sit for a week or more if ever caught saying cruel things to anyone, didnt matter their age. Unfortunately if you do that these days you go to jail for abuse. We have always had bullies but never ever to the extent it is now with all the electronic devices and such. I agree it begins at home in order to stop it.
Avatar universal
1032715 tn?1315987834
I taught my son that it is ok if people laugh at him because Tourettes can be funny to other people,he learned not to take it personally.
My son also has uncontrollable head nodding,it gets so bad that all the muscles in his  neck ache,so although he is now 26 I will still give him a neck massage when he needs it.

I told my son that living with someone with Tourettes can be really hard at times,he said he knows but then said imagine what it is like then to actually suffer with Tourettes.
Touche~~ he is so right,we need to put ourselves in their shoes.
Avatar universal
no, its not ok that people laugh at your son...Its not ok to laugh at anyone.

Avatar universal
You know, we always say kids are cruel, and they are...but look at the television...
its all about putting others down, making fun of others.....
377493 tn?1356505749
My husband and I were talking about this whole issue last night.  The boy's sister was interviewed by Anderson Cooper and was talking about what happened at the dance.  So awful.

The conversation then evolved into how best to protect our son from being the victim of a bully...things like helping him have a high level of self confidence, etc.  We were looking on line at various sites that teach you how to "bully proof" your child.  Then it hit us...we spend all this time talking about how to avoid having him bullied, but none in how to avoid raising a bully.  I bet it's the same in other households a fair amount of the time.  It's hard to see our children as bullies, but we need to be realistic as parents and make sure that we are talking to them about not becoming bullies themselves, and making sure they know there will be harsh consequences if they go down that road.  
Avatar universal
Children who are different. Children who do not or can not for whatever reason participate in school activities. A child needs to feel they fit in and I feel like the parent can do their part by encouraging school related activities that are based on holding your grades up. Children who are bullied many times are children who are set apart in some way from his peers and feels like the odd man out. Children will huddle into groups for find friends that make them feel like they fit in. It has been my experience as a mother that allowing these children freedom be participate goes a long long way in this kind of a situation not happening or if it does the child is stron and self confident enuff to handle it better. I had six kids and until the last two were in school, we had no money for extra curricular and only one car and simply had no way of letting the children be involved. The last two were involved with everything from cheerleading, dance, u name it and the difference was obvious. Just sharing what many years have taught me. Hind site is always right on isnt it? Its not a cure by any means but it does help the children.
Avatar universal
Dad made it clear we were never ever to make fun of anyone...ever..He also told us if we see anyone being picked on for any reason, especially if we ever saw a kid out numbered...he expected us to stand up for the kid being picked on.
One time I got in the middle of some big guys in high school picking on someone, and I told them to leave the kid alone or I would take them all on...and they stopped too....after they laughed their heads off at having a scrawny whimpy girl threaten to take them all....
Avatar universal
It's very sad that bullying is always around, but then again it is not just kids who get bullied. There are adults who are "bullies", too. It's sadly just one of those things in life that people have to learn to deal with and overcome. I baby sit two young girls, the older one just turned 7 and is special needs(slight autism, learning disabilities, hearing impaired) and her younger sister who is 5. Any time I take them to the park, McDonalds where they play at the play place, or anywhere else they can interact with kids, we tend to always run into some child who makes fun of the oldest girl. I've taught her(and her sister) from the very beginning that what other people say about her does not matter. It is all about how they act toward others and being a nice, kid person is good. If someone says something mean, ignore it and just go on about your way. She is the sweetest little girl and so far has not had issues with what people say about her, the same goes with her sister. I feel like telling them the quote from the movie The Help: "you is kind, you is smart, you is important". I hope they can always feel good about themselves and not fall to a bully.

Though as I said earlier, it happens in adulthood too. My mom is a teacher and I regularly go and visit the school she teaches at. Well, the teachers can all be cruel to each other, with the cliqs and bullying. I've seen it at my old job as well, with one employee bullying another new employee. It's crazy to think that as adults, it STILL happens, but it does. I think that is one reason why I feel like parents can't shelter their kids from the world because even if they shelter them from the bullies of childhood, their kids will still have to deal with adults who can be bullies as well when they are older. They have to be taught early on about how to react to a bully and what to do. Running away from a problem doesn't solve it, it has to be dealt with.

I was bullied a lot throughout jr high and high school, and hated those years of life. I was "different", going through multiple surgeries and having the scars to show for it. Any time a girl in the locker room saw that, you can bet many people were talking about it. I am glad my mom never pulled me out of school though because it taught me to have a thick skin, taught me who my true friends are, and taught me really just how to deal with negativity. You learn to let comments go in one ear and out the other, to handle life in a better way. A friend of mine who also got bullied a lot got pulled out of school, but I feel like she has struggled a lot more than I have because she didn't really learn how to handle bad situations. That's been my experience, which isn't the same for all.  
1032715 tn?1315987834
I pulled my son out of school to build up his self esteem and confidence,once that was done and he had grown into a strong person he went back into mainstream schooling at age 15,home schooling was done from ages 11 through to 15.
It was imperative that he kept his belief in himself through those formative years,as I have said before and I'll say it again it was the best decision I could have made at the time,
He is 26 now and agrees at that time he needed to be valued as a person and that was not happening at school.
1032715 tn?1315987834
I just wanted to add we were not running away from the bullying we were preparing him to cope with what life threw at him.
377493 tn?1356505749
I think that once again, it comes down to knowing your child and each child being different.  It's our job as parents to be aware of what is happening in our children's lives, and to help them deal with whatever comes up.  THere just isn't a one size fits all child, so there is no one size fits all style of parenting.  In my opinion, assessing the situation and reacting to it according to what is best for the child is the way to go.  We have to keep our kids safe.
1032715 tn?1315987834
The point is if bullying gets your child down there is no second chance if they commit suicide.My job as a parent was to make sure that never happened.
My son wasn't happy at school at this time,at home he was happy and could be himself without the taunting,
For me there was no other choice,I was not going to risk my sons stability.
377493 tn?1356505749
1000% agreed.  
Avatar universal
I wasn't trying to say anything about what you did being wrong or anything of the sort. I hope you didn't take it as an aim at you.

I have just seen many other parents pull their children out of school because of bullying without teaching their children how to handle these situations. These children then become adults and they still struggle with how to handle any negative comments. I have seen it happen a number of times and just threw that in there when I posted because I think it's sad. We can't avoid bullying/mean people. They are everywhere. I still get adults who make nasty remarks to me, which you would think people grow up, but it's not always the case. A girl I worked with is the example I can use as the one who was pulled out of school because of bullying without ever learning how to deal with the situation. She can't handle any negative situations and it's sad. She's 23, but didn't learn what to do as a child, so she's trying to do it now as an adult and it hasn't been working so well.  
1032715 tn?1315987834
No, I never took what you said as anything but an opinion,but I did feel I needed to explain my reasoning for what I did,my children have always come first and foremost in my life and their wellbeing was the most important factor in their growing up.  
127124 tn?1326739035
Let me just say that the day your child comes to you and says "I would rather die/kill myself than spend one more minute in school with those kids"  is the day you pull them.  It doesn't matter if you have tried to teach them how to deal with the bullying or that it doesn't matter what someone else thinks of you.   These things can be meaningless when the child is at the end of what they can tolerate.  
It isn't just "different" kids that are picked on.  Different can be something as simple as having blonde hair or not drinking alcohol.  Or for standing up for the kid being picked on.
It does start at home but our schools also need to step up and have zero tolerance.      
1310633 tn?1430227691
Holy crap... Narla's back.

Where ya been? You sorta vanished for a little while.

Been wondering what happened to you.
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