The online news media has been in a frenzy this week after the fifth gay youth in three weeks took his own life. Everyone from the Huffington Post, the Advocate, to Washington Post bloggers have buzzed about Raymond Chase, the latest student to have committed suicide, often quoting the email that administrators sent to the Johnson & Wales University student body after Chase died.
In his email, JWU Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ronald Martel mourned Chase's passing and offered condolences to the family. Unfortunately, his message stopped there. No mention of how to prevent such a thing from happening again, no mention of possible problems that needed to be tackled, no mention of anything.
But the school's vice president is not the only one - many major news sources have continued this trend, giving the issue lots of coverage with very little plan of action on how to help alleviate the environments causing these teens to turn to suicide. Even the statement issued by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called for an end to harassment and a need to speak out against such forms of intolerance. But no actual solutions towards enacting the VERY change they all call for was ever mentioned.
This spree of suicides is proof that the current system is failing. It is time to ask the hard questions to get the core of these problems in order to implement real change and prevent even more loss of life. Students on Facebook formed a group encouraging activists across the country to wear purple on October 20th in light of the recent deaths. For more information, check out the group Wear Purple on October 20th, 2010. For a country that calls itself the land of the free, freedom from harassment and bullying is still not in the cards for everyone.
So....Step up and help! Contact your local campus officials and demand them to make school a safe and friendly place to be, ask them what resources are available and if there are none inform the larger public! Everyone has a right to a bully and harassment free life.
Contact and join your LGBT group on campus. No LGBT friendly group or groups on campus? Create one! Not enough people or members? Ally with like minded groups on campus and rally for change. October 20th could be a really great day to gain attention on individual campuses and spread the word. Need help with your plans of action? Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization aimed at making colleges more LGBT friendly, offers more information on helping making campuses more open and friendly.
Remember, bullying and harassment affects everyone. While your college campus is a great place to start please do not forget about your local community. Bullying and harassment can start at a young age, use your new found club or your group of friends to reach out to near by schools and volunteer for their antibullying or antiharassment programs. Make a positive change with a plan of action.