Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jack Reese, 17, Bully-Related Suicide in Northern Utah

It doesn't appear to be getting any better.  On Monday, April 23rd, Alex Smith was speaking at a community event about bullying and about how his own boyfriend had suffered repeated bullying because he was gay.  Unbeknownst to anyone there, including Alex, his boyfriend, Jack Reese, had already taken his own life.

I don't have any details about the event.  We don't really need any details at this point.  The storyline has become all too familiar.  An LGBT youth, trying to live happily as the person he or she is, is faced with relentless, narrow-minded intolerance until he or she reaches the point of no return.  To them, the only way to make it end is to end their young lives.  Sound familiar.  Of course it does.  It's happening far, far, far too often.  Let's be clear on this:  if these bullies were to take a gun to school and shoot their victim, they'd be charged with the crime of causing the death of that victim.  When their words and/or actions cause that same victim to end their life, that bully is no less responsible that death than they would be had they pointed a gun and pulled the trigger.  


I found this quote, when researching Jack's event, both deeply disturbing and alarmingly revealing:
 “It happens here about once a week, but officially, you know, it doesn’t happen here.”
"It", of course, being LGBT teen suicides.  And, "here" being the Northern Utah region where Jack lived and died.  The world should be outraged that such a thing is happening in the entire world!, not to mention in one, small region.  That suggests a very deep problem with our society.

Telling our LGBT teens that "It Gets Better" is absolutely meaningless when they continue to see and hear people of power (religious and politic figures, school officials, and, sometimes, even their parents) tell them that they are flawed, evil, perverted, and more.  They're not stupid.  They know that the adults they hear and see continually denouncing their very being are precisely why the incidents of bullying, especially against LGBT teens, continue to escalate, both in frequency and intensity.  I'll say it til I'm blue in the face (which would really be a neat trick for me!) that these young people who do the bullying that's causing other teens, straight and LGBT alike, to end their lives are learning their hatred and intolerance from adults!!  Think, for a second, of Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison's statements from earlier in the week, and you'll know exactly what I mean.  And, he's just one person.  This goes on in every city, in every state, every day.  Meanwhile, another family has to bury their teenaged child because that child couldn't handle one more day of being emotionally destroyed.

In addition to the above quote, Marian Edmonds, director of the Ogden, Utah, OUTreach program, has a lot to say:
“The youth I work with all know either a victim of bullying, the loss of a friend to suicide, and most often, both. These youth are bright, creative and loving, yet too often face daily abuse from rejecting families, bullies at school and the loss of their church family. It is time for local schools to incorporate proven techniques for eliminating bullying and homophobia, for churches to preach love and acceptance, and for parents and families to love and accept their children. Each loss of life is a loss for all of us, and it must stop now,”
There are people, like Marian Edmonds, who are rolling up their sleeves and immersing themselves  in this business of changing this mean-spirited culture that's not only causing children to end their lives but encouraging children to be so mean and intolerant of those whom they perceive as different that they end their lives.  She made one statement that was so poignant, it will stay with me for a very long time:
“Until all youth are loved and accepted in their homes, able to attend school without fear of bullying, and know that their lives are worth living, this community will continue to demand change,”
Make that two communities.  Until I breath my last breathe, I will continue to demand change.  The "community" that has developed in support of this blog has grown to numbers I would've never imagined when I started this in November of 2011.  With that enormity in numbers, there's a rather formidable community here, more than capable of effecting change in our culture.  Change that will bring about tolerance.  Change that will save lives.  Look, nobody is suggesting that everyone has to love everyone.  It would be nice.  But, it's also unrealistic.  However, the expectation of a tolerant society, one that lets people live their own lives without the scrutiny of those who may not agree with diversity is not too much to ask for.  In fact, we must demand it.

Unfortunately, Jack Reese is yet another teen who won't be here to celebrate the day that acceptance is the norm.  It didn't get better for Jack or the far-too-many before him.  And, it won't get better unless we continue demanding it.  Every voice matters.  Rest in peace, young Jack.  And, for you Alex, I hope that you're surrounded right now with lots of love and support.  Stay strong...stronger than you may feel you're capable of right now.  Do it for Jack.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for the countless other at-risk teens there in Northern Utah, around the country, and around the world!  We need your voice to help us reach the day when no family, and no spouse or significant other, has to go through the ordeal of burying their young loved one simply because someone else felt it their duty to push them over their limit.  Enough is Enough!
 
 

34 comments:

  1. the bullies should be arrested js

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    1. I am from the school that this happened and the school didn't even talk to us about it. It wasn't announced over the intercom, we didn't have an assembly, a grief councilor didn't come to the school, my friend and I forced the school to let a few of us get out of our first hour just to write his mom a letter.
      I wish the students and teachers that bullied jack would be held responsible but I honestly don't think that will ever happen.

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  2. This MUST end, we are supposed to be one people working for a better society. A "Better Society" is not biased, mean-spirited, hateful, and intolerant. Too many of OUR youth are dying, this is not the sign of an "Advanced Race of Beings".

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  3. My daughter was bullied. I took her out of school for one year and her bully followed her all summer..She knew when my daughter was going for tutoring and when my husband left the house......She told my daughter she was worthless, and her biological mom and dad didn't want her anymore...well this made her stronger today, but still has flashbacks and is seeking counseling,but her family now, we love her and stand beside her 100%...Something should be done with these bullies, b/c the schools don't care.....Thanks for listening

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    1. The same thing happened with one of my daughters. She is doing well now and gave birth to beautiful twin girls 5 months ago - karma got her bullies cos life isn't going too well for them. I hope your daughter can be happy like my girl is - these bullies are a disgrace. Julie x

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  4. The bullies should be charged with murder or man slaughter, whatever fits. it's the same thing! No more..

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    1. Unfortunately, I don't think either charge would hold up in court. But, charges like assault, battery, death threats, destruction of property would all hold up and all it would take is a few bullies going to jail for their actions to help decrease the violence. And yes, I agree that a murder charge would be much more satisfying (if you can say such a thing), but I'm just being realistic.

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  5. i agree it would have to be man slaughter, lesser charge but the only thing that could stand by its self in court

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  6. I am a straight woman with many gay family members and friends, and it sickens me daily when I read articles such as this. It leaves a heaviness in my heart and a sickness in my stomach. It can no longer be tolerated just as racism can not be tolerated, this is a major problem that more schools need to control, more people need to be made aware of.

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  7. Whem is the drip drip insipid bigotry of certain religions going to be dealt with? Its the fuel for hate that is killing these kids

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  8. This is becoming a joke, what i dont get is why does people support religion in saying gays are bad. religion has no logic, to follow them is shear stupidity. To be honest if god was so loving and caring, should we, lgbt community be given a chance to be accepted and forgiven?

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    1. "religion" is a pretty general category to throw all believers into but YES, you, the lgbt community and everyone else who sins is ALWAYS given the opportunity for forgiveness. We just like to forget the other side of the forgiveness coin which is turning from our sin, repentence, turning away from that which separates us from God, which all sin does. I'm 100% positive any person gay or not, truly ready to repent from their sin / bad choices etc.. will be forgiven and given a chance for new life.

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  9. Society needs to change. Bullies are weak minded people who follow Society's lead in order to feel stronger and better about themselves. Bullies should be held accountable for their actions. My son took a knife to school because he was being bullied. HE got arrested for a weapons charge, and his bully got off scott-free. Thankfully we had a very understanding Juvenile DA and a good lawyer. That Bully was removed from the school. I understand this is not the norm. My son has always known I love him and stand by him and who he is, no matter what his orientation. His father and step-father are also supportive.
    Parents of bullied children need to pay more attention to what is going on in their kid's schools. Don't just sit back and tell your kid "oh, that's just kids being kids" because that dismisses your child's fears as baseless and gives them one less person they can trust to help them.

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  10. In reading the article and just living in the world, sadly, not all of the bullies are outside the home...

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    1. I agree with you. Hopefully, this is not to say that YOU'RE experiencing bullying in your home.

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  11. Other than writing blogs & making "It Gets Better" videos, what are some practical things ppl can do about this? I'd like to do something but don't know what.

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    1. My advice would be to write letters to your district officials, school board, even your congressperson. You're just as capable of lobbying for change as any corporation or political group. Here in North Carolina we have people organizing and doing just that to defeat an anti-gay amendment. If it's schools you're concerned with then write your school board and demand the enacting of zero-tolerance policies, and when it comes time to elect these board members make sure you know who stands for what when you vote. If you feel you need more than your voice you could start a letter writing campaign and get your friends, family, and co-workers involved, as well as anyone else of a like mind. Just some ideas. Hope you find them useful!

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  12. I suspect a big chunk of the attitude that creates this intolerant bullying hate-filled behaviour can be laid right at the door of one organisation... an organisation that chooses not to turn the other cheek to anything... that chooses to judge harshly while pedalling every excuse not to be judged for its own shortcomings... an organisation that seemingly drives the belief systems of every town council, school, community in middle America. As ye sow.

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  13. So sad :( rest in peace jack and to Alex you and jacks family are in our thoughts! Stay strong! Sending love to you all <3

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  14. Something needs to be done because like you have said before... this doesn't stop when these kids leave school. My best friend that had a bully that was still following him six years after we graduated! In the end my best friend took his life because he just couldn't handle it anymore. These bullies shoulfd be accountable for their actions otherwise they will continue to harrass and bully people for as long as they are allowed to.

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  15. When I was little, I got picked on pretty bad. A group of older kids ganged up on me during recess one time in kindergarten, and it scared me so bad I was too afraid to go to school for about two months. Bullying continued up until about grade 9, then dissapated. Around grade 7 or 8, I started thinking about suicide.
    The one thing I remember bothering me more than anything was adults telling me to tell on the students or ignore them.
    If the kids are determined enough, they'll find you. Some kids are really messed up.
    I don't believe bullying is going to dissapear completely, but I hope it does one day.

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  16. This is a tragedy.

    I do have to say to some of you thought that religion did not cause this tragedy. I've read many articles on this and not one of them say anything about religion. He was bullied at school by kids acting in a very un-Christian way.

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    1. Though religion may not be the reason mentioned, it definitely plays a part in it. "Religious" people play a big role in speeding anti-gay propaganda. Now, I am not saying that all religious people think this way, but some of the messages being spewed by so called Christians just add to the already boiling pot.

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  17. It is so sad that they think this is the answer. No matter how much we talk to them it seems that it is never enough. Until we bring the bullies and the parents held accountable I don't think it will ever get beter. I think I read in the article a school offical knew about this, BUT did nothing and sad nothing. They are to blame just as much as the bully.

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  18. My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this young man. PLEASE PEOPLE STOP THE KILLING OF OUR CHILDREN! Bullying kills.... The pain these parents are feel is undescribable. Not another child, teen, adult!!!

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  19. Bullying = telling children they'll burn in hell forever if they don't accept Jesus as their personal savior.
    Bullying = telling children that their parents are going to burn in hell for eternity if they also don't accept Jesus as their personal savior.
    Bullying = taking children to a secluded camp for five nights, disallowing contact with their parents, putting them in vulnerable fearful positions, and talking to them about accepting the KING into their eternal selves...or else they'll burn in hell forever. and finally. . .
    Bullying is protected by the constitution, and tax-exempt.
    To stop bullying, stop teaching bullying theology.

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  20. NOTE THAT THIS IS OGDEN, UTAH (or its suburb)

    GAY KIDS ARE TOAST UNTIL THE MORMON CULTURE CHANGES
    --- although the latest directive is to be nice to Gays, so that the mormons do not look bad.

    THAT CULTURE IS TOTALLY IMMERSIVE -- and Gays can only lie, be celibate, or leave their families and the only communtity they know, one which they were taught to stay in for eternity, lest they shame their families

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  21. This is Gay bashing to our youth and is considered a Hate Crime. I dislike this "Bully" bull shit, because it puts into mind that we are addressing youthful offenders. Bull Poop! Once one reaches the age of being able to determine right from wrong - one needs to be held accountable. What is happening to our youth also happens to the Adult. We as a community will be subgected to this until there is a nation wide policy in place to deal with Hate Crimes directed at those of us in the Gay Community.

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  22. Stop blaming the bullies and religion. There are consequences to poor choices. This boy made his choice, no one else and while the bullying is abhorant; it was he, who again choose death. I'm sorry for the loss, but fat people are bullied all the time too and they don't go kill themselves or blame the bullies, they change their lifestyle to a healthy and wholesome one or else they don't care and don't let it bother them.

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    1. What an amazingly callous point-of-view to take. If you did more research, you'd know that people OTHER than LGBT teens are committing suicide, and at an alarming rate!, because of being bullied. I know that factually. What you're really trying to say, it seems to me, is "if these LGBT teens would change their ways, as in stop being gay, they would then live a healthy, wholesome life." And, if my interpretation is correct, it is precisely that mentality that is being handed down to the younger people and fuels the bullying with is leading to these teen suicides, gay and straight alike.

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    2. You are soo wrong!!

      I have first hand knowledge of being overweight in high school. And I can tell you that I have first hand knowledge (because of said bullying) of what it's like to feel a blade run across your wrist and to see the well of blood produced by such an act. I could also tell you about how completely and utterly alone one feels and how horribly hopeless life seems at the time. But I won't because you could probably never understand.

      I am thankful everyday that my tormentors didn't know that I was gay as well.

      LGBT teens are NOT the only ones affected by bullying! They are NOT the only ones who try (or, tragically, succeed) to opt out when the pain is to big of a burden to bare anymore.

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  23. This is sad. I have recently discovered and decided to accept that I am gay. As a 17 year old not too far from Mountain Green, I know how hard it is. It is probably the most hardest thing I have ever had to live with! But mostly how people treat people like me. I suffer through same sex attraction and I say suffer because it is NOT a choice. There is no way I would chose this. I became attracted to a guy at my small high school of 60 students and since then and me "coming out" to a few of my friends, it has been a disaster. You are bullied and picked on not to mention judged every day for just a part of who you are. I feel so bad for jack and my prayers and thoughts go towards his family and friends. I truly hope that someday it will all change, that people can openly state their sexuality without having to hide it and that they will be accepted into the community like everyone else. I am the only gay kid in my school or any of the neighboring schools, or I should state openly gay person, and I can tell you life under this is extremely hard.

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    1. May I suggest to you to seek out LGBT youth groups in your area. Also, keep talking to the ones you've come out to and accept you for who you are. There are many online groups for you to be part of, as well. Two come to mind immediately: http://www.thetrevorproject.org; and http://www.facebook.com/bloggingforchange.
      Best of luck to you.

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  24. I went to school with jack and be was one of my first friends when I moved there. When I found out he was gay it didn't change how I felt about him. He was still the same funny, smiley, quirky, teen boy with cool hairstyles!:) I think the worst thing about the bullying is that I didn't even know about it. jack was pulled out of school but I didn't know until after his passing that it was because of the severe bullying that was going on at our school. I wish there was something I could have done about what happened. He has been a huge impact one, even before his death.
    I guess the point of me writing this is so that people really know who jack was.
    He was so funny, he loved adventure time, he was very smart, he would set pepperoni on the floor and have random people pick up and make some joke about it, anyone that was willing to be his friend, he was willing to return the favor.
    I don't think a lot of people at my school understood that. He had issues with drugs and many teacher and students saw him as a bad person for that and that wasn't who he was. I hope this comment helped you get an idea of who jack was and I hope you will think before you judge someone, because jack,there was more to him then What met the eye.

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