Bullied Teen’s Father Walking through Idaho to make a Change

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When Joe Bell’s son passed away last February, he decided that no child should ever have to endure the bullying that drove his  15-year-old son to take his own life. Rather than let Jadin Bell be remembered as simply yet another victim of teen bullying, Bell decided to share his son’s story with the rest of the country, one mile at a time. On April 22nd, he begin his 5000 mile cross-country trek to do just that, on foot.

The Le Grand father will be making his way through Idaho for the next week or so, speaking wherever and whenever he can about the issue. His  goal is to not only draw attention to the problem of bullying itself, but also to spark real conversations that will, hopefully, lead to real change.

Jadin, a High School sophomore, hung himself at a Le Grande school earlier this year, after enduring months of bullying because of his sexuality. The teen was taken to a Portland hospital, where he passed away on February 3rd. Bell tells the Le Grand Observer that those who knew about the bullying, yet didn’t speak up, are part of a national problem, “When a child is bullied there are usually a lot witnesses. Not doing anything is not acceptable,” Bell said. “(Those who watch and do nothing) are just as guilty. They are saying that it is acceptable.”

Beyond putting up anti-bullying posters and giving lip service to the issue, getting Idaho to  really talk about the problem is going to be difficult. Idaho lawmakers have refused to strengthen anti-bullying measures in recent years. In 2011,  The Center for Preventing Hate released a disturbing report regarding bullying and harassment among Pocatello’s high school students. The report found, among other things, common slurs like “whore” and “fag” along with more extreme ones like “ni–er” and “c-nt” are reportedly used daily. (Read more on that HERE.) Anecdotal evidence suggests despite an increased awareness regarding the problem, the issue still isn’t being adequately addressed, especially in Idaho’s more rural areas where sexuality and gender identity are often still seen as “taboo” subjects.

A U.S. government study, titled Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, published in 1989, found that LGBTQIA youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. Currently, Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

Bell, who quit his job at Boise Cascade in order to make his two-year journey, is planning on speaking at schools, community events and impromptu gatherings wherever he is welcomed. He will also be telling folks about Faces for Change, a foundation which was, the Observer notes, “established in Jadin’s memory to promote anti-bullying programs.”

Bell is currently walking in the Treasure Valley area.  Anyone in Idaho who would like to walk with him, set up a back yard meet-and-greet or just encourage him is welcomed to do so. You can find out his location and more on the Faces for Change Facebook page or you can also call his cell phone at 541-786-8299. You can learn more about Faces for Change at the Foundation’s website by clicking HERE.

Watch Bell’s interview with KATU-TV below:

Idaho’s Senator Chuck Winder blows More Hot Air

Cuck Winder

You might recall Idaho State Senator Chuck Winder from last year’s legislative session. The Boise Republican not only sponsored a  measure that would have required women to get an ultrasound before choosing an abortion, but he also not-so-subtly suggested that women were using rape as an excuse in order to undergo the procedure.  His comments sparked a national protest and, thankfully, the bill was defeated.

Sadly, it appears Winder is still full of a lot of hot air. The Boise Weekly reports that on Monday, which marked the ACLU-of Idaho’s Citizen Lobby Day, Winder told a group of high school students trying to discuss the problem of school bullying that he not only believed that “Homosexuality is a choice” but “that he didn’t believe there was a discrimination issue against the LGBT community.”

Not only is the state senator wrong, he’s dead wrong.

Licensed psychotherapist Dr. Allan Schwartz points out , while little is known about why some people are born with certain sexual orientation, the fact is major research runs absolutely contrary to Winder’s “belief”.

In areas of genetic research, Schwartz writes,”During the 1990’s evidence was found that a gene could be the root cause of homosexuality. More recently, both the X and Y chromosomes have been investigated to determine the causes of homosexuality. The Y chromosome is passed from the father to the son and it is this Y chromosome that determined the sex of the baby. All of these studies have been successful to the extent that they have found genetic factors to be the cause of homosexuality in fifty to sixty percent of the populations studied.”

Along the same biological lines, Schwartz  says,”A very recent study found that mothers who had given birth to several male children are more likely to have a son born who will be gay. It is thought that something happened in the mother’s uterus after she delivered her older children that altered the fetus of the last child in a way that makes him gay.”

Schwartz, along with every other credible expert on the subject within the last 30 or so years, reaches the conclusion that Winder, a local career politician, is obviously clueless to when it comes to the evidence regarding sexual orientation.

“As a result of everything I have read, learned and experienced as a mental health worker, I long ago concluded that homosexuality is not a matter of choice. Instead, it seems quite clear to me that there is a combination of genetic and biological factors that cause people to become gay,” Dr. Schwartz writes.

All Winder has to do was listen to the dozens of  personal stories told to the Boise City Council last December to know that discrimination against LGBT individuals is not only a very real problem, it continues to play out in the streets, towns and businesses throughout much of the state. He chose not to attend that City Council meeting, however.

As for bullying, according to a study published last year by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN),”The most common forms of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly (i.e., sometimes, often or all the time) by both students and teachers, are the use of the word “gay” in a negative way, such as “that’s so gay,” (students: 45%, teachers: 49%) and comments like “spaz” or “retard” (51% of students, 45% of teachers). Many also report regularly hearing students make homophobic remarks, such as “fag” or “lesbo” (students: 26%, teachers: 26%) and negative comments about race/ethnicity (students: 26%, teachers: 21%).”

Currently, Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

According to last year’s Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, out of 1,702  students in 48 public high schools in Idaho, 22.8 percent reported being bullied or harassed on school property.

Winder has also apparently drawn the ire of the marijuana legalization crowd as well. According to the Boise Weekly,”Winder’s Facebook page began overflowing with commentary” regarding two resolutions that seek to strengthen Idaho’s pot prohibition laws.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 112 seeks to state the Idaho Legislature’s opposition to the legalization of marijuana for any purpose in the State of Idaho, while Senate Joint Memorial 101 calls upon President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress “to take appropriate action to ensure that federal drug-free policy is upheld in all states,” writes the Weekly’s Andrew Crisp.

You can contact Winder at 208-332-1307  or email him at c.winder@senate.idaho.gov

Pocatello youth center provides safe space “All Under One Roof”

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What started out  as an idea to give teens a “safe place” in Pocatello has turned into a popular hangout for LGBTQ youth.

Founded a little over a year ago, the “All Under One Roof LGBT Center” was started by a group of concerned residents who realized that gay teens had no place to call their own.

That idea has taken on a life of its own. The center, which has its very own room inside Pocatello’s popular Main Street Coffee and News, has become known around the community as the place for LGBTQ youth to be on Tuesday nights.

Executive Director Tom Nestor says he got involved with the project because he knows first hand what it’s like to be a gay teen in rural Idaho,”During my school years there where a lot of very long unhappy days. During my four years of high school which I hated, I was pushed against the lockers, tripped in the hallways called faggot at that time I finally knew the meaning of my feelings; I am Gay.”

Nestor says though times and terms have changed, the actions and the pain are still the same,” That was 40 years ago, you would of thought things would of change by now, the only thing that has change is the meaning of my unusual feeling; they are now identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or queer. The pain my classmates showed me is now known as bullying.”

“It is important that those of us who have been there or know people who have been there to support the current generation of Pocatello and surrounding area youth, by creating and managing empowering programs that will help them grow into healthy and confident adults,” he says.

The organization has a lofty vision when it comes to the areas it wants to focus on. The list includes youth support, parent/family support, leadership development, life skills, LGBTQ community support, health, wellness, STI education and HIV testing, drug and alcohol therapy, community education/outreach programs and anti-bullying education.

Recent group activities have included a free screening of the academy award winning, “Milk”, several art projects and most recently a Valentines day cookie party.  The activities themselves though pale in comparison to the friendships and mentoring the kids experience at the center.

Nestor says the organization is also considering opening the center up to the older crowd as well, “We would like to start having a group for those who are over 35 years old. A space where you can meet others in the LGBT community, have fun and get to know each other.”

Of course, like any organization, the volunteers at “Under One Roof” can’t do it all alone. They could use some help. Nestor says the organization can always use volunteers, donations, as well as help from those interested in simply helping to get the word out about the organization and its events .

“We just want the kids to know that they aren’t alone and that they have a safe space where they can be themselves” Nestor says. “Those are our main objectives.”

“All Under One Roof” is open every Tuesday afternoon and evening from 4:30-6:30 pm. It’s located at 234 N. Main Street, in Pocatello.

You can learn more by visiting the “All Under One Roof” website HERE.

You can also keep up with the organization on its facebook page HERE.

A Joke? Picture portraying bullying incident sparks concern, outcry

columbia

A picture taken at Columbia High School in Nampa has sparked some well deserved controversy.

The photo, depicting three teens pulling the hair of a bound and gagged “victim”,  has received thousands of reposts on tumblr and facebook since it appeared online  sometime on Wednesday or Thursday.

It’s not clear just who uploaded the photo, though a caption under the tumblr version reads in part “This a photograph taken from the teenager (shirtless guy) named Austin Schafer’s Twitter account, of a kid being tied up and beaten by upper classmen at Columbia High School in Nampa, Idaho.  This is a recent photograph and one where the school’s authorities have not taken action yet. Remember this kid’s name and repost this picture. ”

Nampa School District spokeswoman Allison Westfall tells KBOI-TV,  “We talked to the students, the coach and the parents. It’s not hazing, it’s not bullying. It’s students having fun.”

The tumblr account that originated the photo on the social media site is no longer active.  A Google search shows that Schaffer plays quarterback for Columbia High’s football team.

The Idaho Press Tribune reports that the boys in the photo are actually members of the Columbia High School wrestling team. Two of the wrestler’s in the picture are apparently brothers.

Coach Todd Cady tells the newspaper that he did not witness the incident but says he’s confident that it was simply a prank, “The picture immediately makes people worry and wonder,” Cady said. “It looks like a major hazing incident — we’re all fearful of that as parents and coaches. It was a controlled environment.”

As the picture made its way around the various social media sites, there was concern that perhaps the school was trying to cover up the incident.

While it’s not clear just where the bullying angle came in to play after the picture was uploaded, it is clear that the kind of behavior depicted in the photo really isn’t a laughing matter.

Idaho has been grappling with student bullying and harassment over the past couple of years. A bill that would have strengthened Idaho’s anti-bullying law was killed by Republican Rep. Bob Nonini, chairman of the education committee, during the last legislative session.

Currently, Idaho has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. Studies have shown that those who have been bullied and or harassed at school can be affected by the actions well into their adult years.

According to last year’s Idaho Youth Risk Behavior Survey, out of 1,702  students in 48 public high schools in Idaho, 22.8 percent reported being bullied or harassed on school property.

According to a study released in 2011,”Nearly 44 percent of gay male participants said they had been bullied in the previous year, compared with 26 percent of heterosexuals who reported the same.

For girls, 40 percent of lesbians indicated they had been bullied in the past year, while just over 15 percent of heterosexuals reported such. About 35 percent of bisexual and mostly homosexual guys had been bullied and about 25 percent of their female counterparts.”

Those statistics were given a face earlier this week when 15-year-old Jadin Bell died in a Le Grande, Oregon hospital after hanging himself on a school playground.

A family spokesman says Bell was bullied at both school and on the internet because of his sexuality.

Father of Jadin Bell: “Look at people for who they are…”

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The father of 15-year-old Jadin Bell is speaking out about his son’s death.

Joe Bell told a group of about 300 people at La Grande High School Tuesday night that he doesn’t want his son to have died in vain. The Oregonian reports,”His comments broke the family’s silence in the aftermath of the La Grande High School cheerleader’s death. He spoke at an evening assembly at Eastern Oregon University to launch a nonprofit foundation against bullying called Faces for Change.”

“I want it, (his son’s death), to stand for something. I think we need to look at people for who they are and not who we think they should be.”

The tearful father told the crowd that he loved his son and accepted him for who he was.

According to the paper, family friend Bud Hill, who is helping to create the foundation, says Bell and Jadin went to a school councilor to report the bullying a week before the teen hung himself on a elementary school playground.

According to KOMO-TV, Bell “came to the playground of Central Elementary School in La Grande. He climbed on a play structure and hanged himself. Someone passing by tried to rescue him. He was brought to Portland and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital where he was put on life support.”

“Hill says Jadin asked his parents to home school him. He feared turning in the bullies would make things worse. The school district says it was in the process of investigating when Jadin tried to end his life,” the station reported.

Bell died on February 3rd at a Le Grande children’s hospital.  He had been taken off life support a week earlier.

Click HERE to email the foundation.

Click HERE to learn more about how you can help be part of the solution to ending bullying in our schools.

(If you or someone you know needs help, or is considering suicide, you owe it to yourself to visit The Trevor Project’s website or call them at 1-866-488-7386. In the U.S. you can also call 1-800-273-8255 and talk to the folks at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Visit stopbullying.gov for more resources and help put an end to this national nightmare. )

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