Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tennessee Equality Project Laments Teen's Suicide

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 1:12 PM

The president of the Tennessee Equality Project is calling for an investigation of a Tennessee school's response to the bullying of a student who committed suicide yesterday.

In an email, TEP president and chair Jonathan Cole lamented the death of Jacob Rogers, a Cheatham County High School student who killed himself yesterday apparently as a result of incessant bullying.

"This terrible event serves as a reminder to all parents, teachers and school administrators that they share a responsibility for supporting the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people," Cole wrote. "Individuals, families, communities and the whole of society have a responsibility to promote a culture that welcomes, accepts and supports LGBT students for who they are."

According to WSMV, Rogers' sexual orientation was a factor in his ill treatment by fellow students.

"He started coming home his senior year saying 'I don't want to go back. Everyone is so mean. They call me a f****, they call me gay, a queer,'" friend Kaelynn Mooningham said.

Kaelynn said her friend Jacob felt ignored.

"Jacob told me no one was helping him. He constantly was going to guidance," she said.

But Cheatham County Schools Director Dr. Tim Webb said the school was only aware of one incident of bullying.

"She actually intervened and called the students in accused of bullying or picking. She called them in, talked to them and gave them warnings. Subsequently after that, she ran into the student and asked him if things were better and he indicated that things were better," Webb said.

But Kaelynn knows that Jacob wasn't OK. Things were still so bad around Thanksgiving that he ultimately quit going to school.

"No one would listen and stand up for him," she said.

TEP is asking the Cheatham County School Board to investigate the school's handling of the situation, and is recommending the following solutions be put into practice in lieu of current ploicy:

1. Revise district policy to explicitly prohibit student discrimination, harassment, bullying, and intimidation based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The school district must establish an enumerated policy for unwelcomed conduct that focuses on sex, race, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. An enumerated policy is crucial to ensure that anti-bullying policies are effective for all students.

2. Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.

3. Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance or participation in events such as the National Day of Silence and Ally Week.

4. Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.

Rogers' family is soliciting donations for a funeral via Sandman's Ink Shop, located at 1102 Main St., Ashland City, TN, 37015.

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