The auspicious start to the new School Year—in NY State, the Dignity of All Student’s Act in the process of implementation, Seth’s Law (passed in California in April) on the books, and a host of other anti-bullying initiatives in other states– was overshadowed by the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. An early test of that law would be to pose a rhetorical question: could it have helped Jamey Rodemeyer?
Seth’s Law is California’s response to the ‘bullying-related’ September 2010 suicide of 13 yr old Seth Walsh. http://nclrights.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/seth%E2%80%99s-law-passes-key-california-legislative-committee/ The passing of the bill certainly would have played into Jamey’s belief that ‘it gets better’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Pb1CaGMdWk and that there actually is support for young people struggling with bullying—especially around sexual identity. But how would it have translated on a daily basis? Would it have translated?
Maybe that is the question we need to start asking. It is certainly the question Boyd and Marwick have posed in their OpEd piece in the NY Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/23/opinion/why-cyberbullying-rhetoric-misses-the-mark.html and it was refreshing to see a piece that has the potential to move our discussions of bullying forward. As devastating as Rodemeyer’s suicide was, rehashing the sentiments and outrage put forth over Seth, Tyler, Zach and 8 other young people who took their lives last September –or even worse, becoming inured and deadened to the horror of teen suicide, as it is now ‘commonplace’,–will hardly help us develop perspectives that will truly be of service to our young people. We need a new language, a new understanding of the teen psyche around this issue, and new social narratives—ones that make sense of these dynamics on their level.
Perhaps the real question is, could adults have done anything that would have made a difference? Jamey had support. He also blogged, repeatedly, about his torment. Do we have anything close to an answer that could have changed his social reality? Given him more hope than his surprising belief ‘it will get better’ –a belief he seemed to have, and shared in order to be a support for others.