Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Will the Bullying End?

One week ago today, 14 year-old Samantha Kelly, a freshman at Huron High School in New Boston, Michigan, committed suicide in her home. Samantha, who had filed a police report after being sexually assaulted by an 18 year-old fellow student Joe Tarnopolski on September 27th, was bullied brutally by her classmates after hearing of the report she filed. To add insult to injury for Samantha’s family and friends, the statutory rape charges against her attacker were dropped on Wednesday and he was released from custody. Prosecutors stated that with its key witness dead, there was not enough evidence to convict Tarnopolski of any wrong-doing. The bullying that Samantha faced was allegedly from several different sources, mainly friends of Tarnopolski, who threatened to beat her up. It was also revealed that a group of girls approached her in the cafeteria and insisted that she was lying about what had happened to her. Students deliberately bumped into her in the hallways and it was even reported that Samantha was nearly jumped on two separate occasions. As we have seen in the recent bullying-related suicides that have plagued our nation in the previous months, popular social networking sites Facebook and Twitter have also been used as weapons to harm the victim. Not only did Joe Tarnopolski tweet his feelings about Samantha Kelly, “All girls are, are liars and backstabbers! I hate you all. Way to ruin my life. Seriously, now this will be on my record for life!” but even after her death, Samantha was tormented on a Facebook group meant to honor her life. Users uploaded inappropriate, violent images of suicides and jokes about “hanging in there.” Many of the comments posted have been deleted, but as of a few minutes ago, the images remain.

The issue of bullying in our schools has come to shocking new levels. Having a mother who teaches in a Middle School setting, I hear about the bullying that she witnesses on a daily basis. The recent deaths of students bullying for being queer shocked the nation and caused people to really take a look at what is going on with the younger generation. Or so I thought. It is this most recent suicide that has me even more upset; not only did a 14 year-old girl take her life because she was bullied, she was bullied because she had the courage to file a report after being sexually assaulted. I think that what we really need to be focusing our time and effort on in our schools is tolerance. Teaching kids the golden rule: treating others as one would like others to treat oneself. Really making kids realize the impact of their words and actions and emphasizing that respecting others is what makes you a better person.

Rest in Peace, Samantha Kelly.

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