A 13-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy from southeastern Minnesota took their lives recently. Their parents say they had been bullied.
Rachel Emhke’s father said girls at school called his daughter names, spread rumors about her, and defaced her books and locker. He said the bullying continued throughout the year and contributed to Rachel’s suicide April 28. Law enforcement confirmed the harassment, but no charges will be sought.
Jay “Corey” Jones of Rochester was openly gay and family and friends say bullying played a role in his death last week. His father told MPR News that the teasing his son encountered at school turned into a constant struggle for the teen and he was diagnosed with depression.
Bullying is not new, but use of social media as a tool in harassing, ostracizing and belittling takes it to a new level. Communities need to brainstorm on how to tackle what can become a life-or-death issue for some kids.
When the Governor’s Task Force for the Prevention of Bullying comes to North Mankato tonight for a listening session, our community needs to come out in full force. We need to tell the panel about experiences here as well as pitch possible solutions to a problem that isn’t going to fade away.
Of course, kids don’t care about programs and policies. They want to fit in. And for some groups of kids, that, unfortunately, means stirring up a survival-of-the-fittest mentality — cutting down other kids somehow makes bullies better.
Right now Minnesota has one of the skimpiest anti-bullying laws in the country, weighing in at a mere 37 words. But beyond beefing up the law to provide more legal protection for bullying victims, progress must be made to change school and community culture to make it unacceptable to prey on other people.
The task force has been directed by the governor to determine the best way to make schools a welcoming place for all Minnesota students. It’s a big job. And the group needs the help of students, educators, parents and other community members to get it right.
Tonight’s meeting is 6:30 p.m. at South Central College in room E123. Those attending should park in the blue parking lot and use the north entrance.