The town of Anoka Minnesota, in Michelle Bachmann’s congressional district, has had a rash of teenage suicides attributed to unchecked bullying against LGBT people in the community. Rolling Stone has an long, moving report on the situation, the background and the way the teens are organizing to try to save their own lives.
Reporting on just part of the cluster of deaths that occurred a few years ago:
“Just 11 days after Sam’s death, on November 22nd, 2009, came yet another suicide: a Blaine High School student, 15-year-old Aaron Jurek – the district’s third suicide in just three months. After Christmas break, an Andover High School senior, Nick Lockwood, became the district’s fourth casualty: a boy who had never publicly identified as gay, but had nonetheless been teased as such. Suicide number five followed, that of recent Blaine High School grad Kevin Buchman, who had no apparent LGBT connection. Before the end of the school year there would be a sixth suicide, 15-year-old July Barrick of Champlin Park High School, who was also bullied for being perceived as gay, and who’d complained to her mother that classmates had started an “I Hate July Barrick” Facebook page. As mental-health counselors were hurriedly dispatched to each affected school, the district was blanketed by a sense of mourning and frightened shock.
“It has taken a collective toll,” says Northdale Middle School psychologist Colleen Cashen. “Everyone has just been reeling – students, teachers. There’s been just a profound sadness.”
In the wake of Sam’s suicide, Brittany couldn’t seem to stop crying. She’d disappear for hours with her cellphone turned off, taking long walks by Elk Creek or hiding in a nearby cemetery. “Promise me you won’t take your life,” her father begged. “Promise you’ll come to me before anything.” Brittany couldn’t promise. In March 2010, she was hospitalized for a week.”
Brittany survives. Other friends don’t.
The essay details the way the parents of the children begged for help, the decisions that the school board made bowing to pressure from local conservative Christian voices and the response that the families and children are spearheading.
Go get a cup of coffee and sit down for a while. It’s long read. It’s worth it.