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.
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“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.