Criminal Charges Considered in Bullied NY Teen's Suicide

By CAROLYN THOMPSON
|  Thursday, Sep 22, 2011  |  Updated 5:34 PM EDT
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Criminal Charges Considered in Bullied Teen's Suicide

FILE

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Police are investigating whether criminal charges should be filed after the suicide of a 14-year-old New York boy who had complained in an online video about being bullied over his sexuality and who often alluded on his blog to killing himself.

Officials in the Williamsville school district near Buffalo said they are cooperating with the investigation into the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who had started his freshman year of high school less than two weeks before he died.

New York state doesn't have an anti-bullying law, but bullies could be charged with harassment or aggravated harassment, Amherst Police Capt. Michael Camilleri said Thursday. The use of a telephone or computer would escalate the charge.

"We're going to have to look at the stuff that's out there and determine if any of the things out there are a violation of the law," he said.

The boy had frequent meetings with school officials in the previous two years, when he was in middle school, and the school's social worker said he was always available, his mother said. School officials spoke with the bullies, but the taunts continued, she said.

Students in the district are encouraged to report bullying, and every report is investigated, Superintendent Scott Martzloff said.

In his video posted four months ago, Jamey Rodemeyer described being taunted in hallways and receiving hateful messages online, "telling me that gay people go to hell." The video, in which he said he was bisexual, was part of the "It Gets Better Project," meant to give hope to gay teens.

After he hanged himself Sunday outside his home in the Amherst town village of Williamsville, Jamey's parents said that their son had been bullied for years, even pushed to the brink of suicide, but that he seemed to be doing better since starting at his new school.

"We outright asked him, 'Is anybody bullying you this year?'" Jamey's mother, Tracy Rodemeyer said, "and it was, 'No, no, no.'"

The boy kept a blog on which he referred to himself as gay and made frequent references to suicide and to his idol, pop singer Lady Gaga, who often sings about acceptance of gays and lesbians.

On Sept. 9, he posted an image of a swinging noose and wrote: "I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens, what do I have to do so people will listen to me?" The same day, he wrote: "Stop bullying people. Maybe they won't commit suicide" and "Ugh today makes me wanna kill myself."

On Sept. 12, he wrote: "I don't want to meet Gaga, I NEED to meet her."

His final blog and Twitter posts the day he died thanked Gaga. He also wrote: "I pray the fame won't take my life," possibly a reference to her song and album "The Fame."

On Wednesday, the performer posted three related messages on Twitter.

"The past days I've spent reflecting, crying and yelling," read one of her tweets. "I have so much anger. It is hard to feel love when cruelty takes someone's life."

The suicide comes a year after 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River after his roommate at Rutgers University allegedly used a webcam to spy on his same-sex liaison.

Clementi's death followed a string of suicides by teens nationwide believed to have been bullied for their perceived sexual orientation and quickly became a cause celebre. Among those speaking out were talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and President Barack Obama. Sex columnist Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" movement gained traction.

Criminal charges against Clementi's roommate are pending. In another high-profile case, five classmates this year accepted plea deals after being charged following the suicide of bullied Massachusetts teen Phoebe Prince.

Experts have noted that some suicides can inspire others to follow in an attempt at martyrdom or solidarity, a phenomenon known as contagion. Police in Jamey's hometown said it's too early in their investigation to characterize his death as a possible example.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday.

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