Tag Archive: bullying

This Saturday: Anti-Bullying Week of Respect Kickoff

Bully-Free Zone

Last weekend, Garden State Equality hosted a 3-mile Equality Walk fundraiser that was well-attended and a good way to see Maplewood and S. Orange. Proud to say Team Blue Jersey was the 4th-highest fundraiser (thank you, all) and that we also won the just-for-fun pub quiz afterwards.

This Saturday kicks off what GSE’s calling a Week of Respect aimed at acclimating students to the best ways to handle challenging bullying situations kids  face every day, and to empower them in an informal, supportive environment with tools to become anti-bullying leaders in their own schools.

Week of Respect Kickoff – Anti-Bullying

Saturday (11am-1pm)

John H. Walker Middle School, 325 Franklin Ave. Nutley

Questions/RSVP Shannon at (646) 228-4438 or kirk@gardenstateequality.org

Activities are pitched toward fun, and it’s free of charge. There will be quiz games, skits & role-playing. Plus some brainstorming of how kids can go back to their own schools and help create their own Week of Respect. Snacks will be provided, and all kids will earn a Student Anti-bullying Specialist Certificate.

This is a joint effort of Garden State Equality and the GSE Youth Caucus. Disclosure: I’m a GSE board member, and I write for a blog that strongly supports kids & all efforts to keep them happy & safe.

Anti-Bullying Education Grant: Building on efforts students are making to support each other through adolescence and the sometimes-tough experience of growing up, there’s also a chance to apply for an Anti-Bullying Education Grant. That’s $200 for your school, your Gay-Straight Alliance or another student organization. Funds are from the parent of a bullied student, to help empower other kids to educate peers and make their school a safer place to learn.

Want details? Jump with me:

Damn it.

This kid is dead now.

This is the It Gets Better home video made by 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, posted just 4 months before he, apparently, took his own life outside his house this weekend.

Seems to me this kid had so much in his favor. Supportive parents. Wisdom to hook into the It Gets Better movement created by Dan Savage so older people could help pull young people through with a better picture of what their grown-up lives could be, if they can just slog through adolescence. In Jamey’s own It Gets Better video, he said he regretted creating a Formspring, a Q & A social media site that permits anonymous comments. Jamey’s account sounds like a battleground; hateful anonymous posts about his being gay, alongside signed posts from friends encouraging him not to listen to “the cowards” abusing him. Friends reported his abuse to counselors at his middle school. He was seeing a social worker, a therapist. He was even hip enough to be blogging about bullying, reminding people a couple weeks ago about Suicide Prevention Week. But he’s gone anyway.

This all happened in New York, not here.

But here in New Jersey, when school started days ago, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act became a reality for schools all over the state. To be sure, schools are grappling with unfamiliar procedures, and regulations are still being honed. But hateful threats that gay people go to Hell goes on and on and on. Know what I did the night the NJ Senate voted down marriage equality? I was on my way to a Garden State Equality reception. But I got stopped by a young man with his best friend, a girl, who’d poured out volunteer labor for GSE. I apologized that we couldn’t do better for him. He told me he’d just called his mother to tell her the vote, looking for sympathy. His mother replied that he was unnatural and going to Hell.

Jamey’s suicide was New York, not here. But NY is New Jersey’s beacon right now, the equality state right next door. And one of the reasons ME is important is that it tells young gay kids in a way nothing else does that there’s a future for their fragile, new love lives. We lose kids for so damned many reasons – poverty, illness, malnutrition, violence. And we lose kids because they can’t imagine a future they can fit in.

In one of his last acts, Jamey thanked Lady Gaga for her music’s message of self-acceptance. In March, Gaga stood on a stage in Buffalo near where Jamey lived, and asked her audience to call state senator Mark Grisanti and tell him to reverse his opposition to marriage equality. They did. And a facebook campaign followed. Grisanti did in fact flip, and was one of the key votes that got ME passed in New York. And Grisanti was Jamey’s local state senator, a Republican. That’s something we can’t even get Democrats in New Jersey to do. So far.

I didn’t really write this for you guys. This readership gets it. I wrote this for your neighbors, the guy in the cubicle next to you, the kid that delivers your Sunday paper. It never hurts to be on the lookout for simple acts of meanness that may be some teenager’s last.

RIP, kid.

Disclosure: I’m on the board at Garden State Equality, but I’d write this anyway.

Standing Up to Bullies – John McCormac Edition

promoted by Rosi

Last night, I failed to stand up to a bully — namely Woodbridge mayor John McCormac. I allowed my desire to avoid making a scene to outweigh the need confront the plague of bullying that has increasingly infected our political discourse and members of our own Democratic Party.

A little background: Last night I was a member of Senator Joe Vitale’s team for his annual charity softball game to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Each year the Senator hosts this great event for a great cause and this year was no different. Ray Rossi and the 101.5 softball team were gracious enough to be our opponents and we put on a hitting clinic (winning 39-4 in 5 innings).  The weather was great, as was the crowd, and over $6,500 was raised for Habitat.

The only thing that blemished a fantastic event was the public comments of Mayor John McCormac. Since the game was being played in Woodbridge, McCormac decided to make a campaign stop to address the crowd and press the flesh. One of the Senator’s staffers was handling PA duties, introducing each batter and any notable people in attendance. When McCormac showed up halfway through the game, the announcer slipped up and addressed him as “Mayor McGreevey.” The crowd chuckled (most probably would have been happy to see the fondly remembered former Mayor/Governor) and then McCormac took the mic.

He started out with a weak joke about getting the announcer fired from his full time job. Then the standard platitudes that had the crowd returning their attention to the game at hand. Then he wrapped it all up with the following line:

“Thank you. Good night. And I am a straight American.”

At that point, all you could hear was crickets. Everyone knew it was a jab at McGreevey’s now infamous resignation speech. It was the most inappropriate thing I have heard from an elected official in quite a while, and it came out of the mouth of a Democrat!  Besides the latent homophobia running through those five words, it was said but five feet away from where Gov. McGreevey’s father and sister were sitting.  

Sen. Loretta Weinberg on The Ed Show: Christie’s “bat” remark

Gov. Christie has been unable to silence or undermine one of his harshest critics, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who ran against him on the ticket topped by Corzine. Weinberg, godmother to the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, not only hasn’t backed down in the face of Christie bluster that has cowed legislators younger, stronger and taller than she is, she’s unimpressed by that bluster. Since Weinberg ran against Kim Guadagno, Christie’s LG has shrunk from view, relegated by the Governor to low press-interest meetings with business leaders and a red tape commission helpful to businesses looking to offload pesky regulations. But Weinberg, the loser in that election, has emerged as a woman of august years and considerable experience who nonetheless has zero trouble challenging him on his spending priorities, including defunding access for women to health centers and the federal dollars that go with it, and defunding New Jersey’s public schools.

How to shut Loretta Weinberg up? Christie picked an issue he thought he could play gotcha on – Weinberg just started collecting her pension for earlier work (that she was eligible for nearly 15 years ago) while also taking her part-time salary for representing the 37th District (she broke that news at Blue Jersey). In a temper tantrum Wednesday, Christie crossed a line, urging the state house press to “take the bat out” on the Senator, who is 76. In a governor known for bluster, for pugilism, the raw aggression, frustration and violent language was way over the line. Here’s the senator Thursday night on The Ed Show:

Who Should The Governor Bully in 2011?

promoted by Rosi

Gov.Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak announced Saturday,

…the governor has spent most of his first year in office working on the problem of overpaid educators and lazy administrative staff in New Jersey. In 2011, he will be looking for new ‘victims’ to bully. While the governor enjoys the YouTube attention he has been getting at Town Meetings around New Jersey, where he is able to attack overpaid teachers regularly, he is looking for new groups of people to turn into problems.

Amongst some of the people and groups that the governor is considering bullying in 2011 are nuns, children with disabilities, the homeless, people who live in Pennsylvania but work in New Jersey and, possibly, moderate Republicans who describe themselves as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.”

Drewniak said that the governor is seeking input from the public on who he should bully in 2011 and even put up a website —www.whoshallchristiebullyin2011?.com  with a survey for the public to take.

We welcome the public’s opinion on this very important issue. There were many groups to attack in New Jersey but the governor has limited time. We need a group with many members, who have time to show up at town meetings and engage the governor for his YouTube channel bullying,

finished Drewniak.

In other news, Sunday two hunters from South Jersey were arrested in Sussex County for indecent exposure as they were hunting naked.

I am sorry, but I just misunderstood what they meant by a six day ‘bare’ hunt. It’s not my fault, it could have happened to anyone.

Carroll calls me “pathetic” and “ashamed of myself”–for supporting the Anti-Bullying Bill

The New Jersey State Senate and Assembly passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (3466) yesterday with a 71-1 from the Assembly and a 30-0 vote in the Senate.

The single “NO” came from conservative Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll.   Given his history of voting, that’s no surprise.

On his once a month blog, Carroll explains why he thought this legislation was unnecessary, nothing more than  feel-good ‘political correctness’. And he makes some very interesting comparisons: in his opening salvo, he reduces bullying to the kind experienced by the lead comic strip character depicted in the strip Calvin and Hobbes. So you can tell how seriously he takes this issue, and where his argument is going to go from there.

But wait, there’s more:

Carroll then goes on to make no distinction between being bullied because you’re gay or lesbian, and being bullied because you’re a  “nerd”. To quote Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Carroll, there you go again.” Perhaps he’s been watching “Happy Days” reruns too much, and thinking about Fonzie picking on Potsie.

I had an exchange last night with Mr. Carroll on Facebook, as I’ve had on several issues with this conservative libertarian Assemblyman from the 25th District. Remember, this is the same guy who opposes marriage equality, defaults to ideologue libertarianism on every issue, and once initiated legislation to change the name of the town of Clinton to Reagan. But I digress.

This is what Mr. Carroll had to say about me, when I expressed my support for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights:

With all due respect, that opinion is absolutely pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself for giving voice to it.

ALL victims of bullying should be treated equally.

Mr. Carroll’s argument is one that is constitutional–that somehow all those who bully should be treated equally under the 14th amendment. I am sure that if the Founding Framers were sitting in the same room with Mr. Carroll, when he issued that opinion, they might call him a nerd, too.

Mr. Carroll thinks that because the “harm” is the same, that all victims of bullying should be treated equally. This is an absurd application of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The “harm” may be the same, but that should not be the only criteria upon which a law dealing with that harm should be based.

For example, under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, those who perpetrate a fraud against senior citizens are giving greater penalties than if their victims are under 65. Senior citizens being a more vulnerable class of consumers are in need of greater protection–in the form of higher penalties for those who target them. The same argument can be made for bullies who target those who are gay or lesbian or people of color. Perhaps Mr. Carroll has a problem with protecting senior citizens, also.

Similarly, class action suits are set up to deal with an issue where a particular class of consumer is targeted either by an industry or a particular corporation. Each consumer who is wronged may suffer a small financial loss. However, the loss may not be great enough to justify suing the corporation who has perpetrated the wrong. So, in order to punish the Corporation for perpetrating such wrongs against consumers, the law allows such consumers to form a cohesive class–and sue the Corporation as a group. Only in this manner will the Corporation be motivated to cease their wrong action, either by injunction, or by settlement.

Both federal and state law has allowed the protection of special classes of individuals based on color, national origin or religion, or sexuality. I referred Mr. Carroll to the well-known Supreme Court case of United States v. Carolene Products Co.,  304 U.S. 144 (1938)—Footnote Four dealing with the possibility of protecting ‘discrete and insular minorities’.

Certainly a strong argument can be made that the protection of “certain discrete and insular minorities” (such as gays and lesbians) is a regulation that is rationally related to a legitimate state interest, as referred to in the text of footnote 4.

This Thanksgiving season I am glad that we have legislators in New Jersey on both sides of the aisle who can see that these folks in college need special protection. Pathetic? Ashamed of myself for giving voice to it? If I be ‘pathetic’ and ‘ashamed’, I am joined by 100 other New Jersey state legislators who feel as strongly about the topic as I do.

Trenton in a Minute. Jubilation Edition

This was posted just under the news roundup, so I’m pulling it up top again. – promoted by Rosi

Some days in Trenton are better than others. For the sake of thousands of kids who are gay (or fat or smart or whatever else might get him/her bullied) yesterday at the state house was quite possibly life-saving.

NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, now waiting for Chris Christie’s signature

Our year was marked in January by the NJ Legislature’s failure to do the right thing on marriage equality, and as our year turned cold again, 2010 was marked by the  loss of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge after two people he knew appeared to betray him. (A federal higher-education anti-harrassment bill, introduced by Frank Lautenberg in the Senate and Rush Holt in the House, is named for Tyler Clementi).  

But today was a sweet victory in NJ, something to be Thankful for as we sit down and think about our gratitudes later this week, for the kids – all kinds of kids – who may now benefit from our renewed commitment to respect them, particularly at the places where they go to learn. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights passed both houses of the legislature today. It requires anti-bullying programs in public schools and codes of conduct in our colleges and universities.

We owe special thanks to: Prime Sponsors in the Assembly Valerie Vainieri Huttle & Mary Pat Angelini and in the Senate Barbara Buono, Diane Allen & Loretta Weinberg. Sponsors include Steve Sweeney, Senate President, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver & Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce.

All that’s needed now is a signature from Gov. Chris Christie. Here’s some early response, after the jump. Please add your own if the spirit moves you.

QoTD: Revenge

Today’s Quote of the Day comes from Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality. At yesterday’s small rally of purple-clad (to honor bullied youth) supporters of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. Steven was bullied relentlessly – “to a pulp” – growing up in New York City. Is he bitter?

The best revenge is making the world a kinder place.

There are not many moments of pure loveliness in New Jersey politics. And that was one. The bill sailed through committees in both houses, on the same day, with bi-partisan support.