Anti-Bullying Policies Questioned After Gay Tenn. Teen’s Death
Weeks after a Tenn. teen took his own life after enduring years of bullying, residents of Ashland City, a small town in north-central Tenn., have come together to question local schools' anti-bullying policies, reported WRAL.com.
On Dec. 7 Jacob Rogers committed suicide after being constantly teased and harassed for being gay at Cheatham County Central High School, EDGE reported in a Dec. 9 article.
Roger's family and friends criticized the school's policies and said officials did not do enough to protect the teen. Hundreds of people signed a petition to strengthen the school's anti-bullying policy and more than 1,700 people have signed an online petition created by the gay-rights organization, the Tennessee Equality Project.
Rogers was a senior and only months away from graduating but the bullying became too much for him.
"It was like every day, every class," Kaelynn Mooningham, Roger's friend told the Tennessean.
Several students talked about Rogers being harassed at public meetings and in an interview Justin Philalack, a 2009 alum, said that he did not want to come out while attending Cheatham County Central High.
"The guys that were out and gay, they were always ridiculed," he said. "To me, I never saw any punishment."
Despite receiving criticism for their policies, school officials are standing by their rules. Tim Webb, the director of schools, said that the policy was revised last year to report bullying incidents. He claims that they policy will most likely not be changed even though he has been made aware of the signed petitions and town meetings.
There was only once incident of bullying that was reported with Rogers since Webb and the school's principal, Gleena Barrow, were working at the school.
"We know rumors and speculation of previous bullying," Webb said. "We are still looking into that."
Webb also says that Barrow and school counselors did all they could to help Rogers.
"Is there bullying that's going on? Absolutely," Webb said. "But I don't buy into the idea for one minute that Cheatham County schools are less tolerant than another rural school system in the region or the state."
Another close friend of Rogers', Maricela Zamudio, says that school officials did do a lot to help the troubled teen.
"The school actually did a lot," she said. "He came in multiple times telling (counselors) he had troubles in his life. Obviously they could have brought in more help."
Rogers battled an eating disorder and was involved with drugs and alcohol, a friend claimed. He also was having a difficult time with health insurance and some of these problems were mentioned in the notes he left after his suicide.