A Tennessee high school teen succumbed to suicide after years of anti-gay bullying that friends charge went unacknowledged by local school officials. Jacob Rogers reportedly stopped going to school around Thanksgiving friends say, and completed suicide yesterday. As is almost always the case, school officials claim they had little knowledge there was a problem.
You must watch this video:
Local Nashville Tennessee TV station WSMV reports:
“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.
And now, those like Kaelynn are wondering when is enough, finally enough?
“It just doesn’t have to make sense. How many kids have to die before Cheatham does something,” she said.
Kaelynn says Jacob lived with his grandmother who primarily took care of him. She found a couple notes that Jacob left for her. In those notes Jacob left passwords to his email and his phone so investigators could determine why he chose to kill himself.
As for Cheatham Central, counselors will be on hand again Thursday for grieving classmates.
Friends of Jacob’s family say they likely don’t have enough money to hold a funeral. Donations for a funeral are being accepted at Sandman’s Ink Shop, a local tattoo shop in Ashland City.
Via an email this morning, Jonathan Cole, the President and Chair of the Tennessee Equality Project notes:
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. 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.
Cole has created a petition at Change.org to motivate school officials to “Support an LGBT-Inclusive Bullying Policy in Cheatham County Schools.”
Following this terrible event, Tennessee Equality Project calls upon the Cheatham County School Board to fully investigate the school’s response to the bullying of Jacob Rogers. We also call upon the School Board to implement the following recommendations from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) for addressing anti-LGBT harassment and bullying:
- 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.
- Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
- 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.
- Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
Regular readers will remember that two months ago, The New Civil Rights Movement reported that the principal of a Madisonville, Tennessee high school reportedly verbally and physically assaulted 17-year old high school student Chris Sigler merely for wearing a tee-shirt advocating for a gay-straight alliance.
Of course, Tennessee is home to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which is still on the back burner, with the possibility of becoming law next year.
Our hearts and thoughts today are with the family and friends of Jacob Rogers.
We invite you to sign up for our new mailing list, and subscribe to The New Civil Rights Movement via email or RSS.