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Video: Parents of teen blame suicide on bullies

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    >>> the tragic death of a new york teenager that's getting worldwide attention. earlier this month he was found dead outside his own home of an apparent suicide . we'll ta you can to jamey's parents exclusively in a moment but first the powerful message jamey leaves behind. here's nbc's kate snow .

    >> reporter: at his funeral an outpouring of love, family, friends, complete strangers, all paying tribute to jamey rodemeyer, all hoping a tragic loss can send a message of tolerance.

    >> hey, jen. just want to say i love you, and how amazing you are.

    >> reporter: like a lot of 14-year-old boys, jamey was quiet and insecure one moment, joking around the next. his online videos were part diary, part empowerment. his family says he was a victim of bullying and he often talked about it.

    >> you should give for everyone, gay, straight or bi, transgender.

    >> reporter: hindsight from may of this year just after jamey came out to friends and family.

    >> i'm just here to tell you it does get better.

    >> reporter: he recorded this video for the it gets getter project a nationwide campaign to tell gay teens that life does eventually get better but jamey clearly struggled with comments people made about him.

    >> it would be like "faggot, fag" and taunt me in the hallways. i felt i could never escape it.

    >> reporter: september 8th he commented "i always say how bullied i am but no one listens." days later post aid lyric from a lady gaga song "don't forget me when i come crying to heaven's door." the day before his death he sent lady gaga a message on twitter "bye mother monster. thank you for all you have done." september 18th jamey was found dead outside buffalo home, a victim of suicide.

    >> let's do this one for jamey.

    >> reporter: over the weekend lady gaga dedicated a concert to jamey rodemeyer asking fans to take a stand in his memory. she tweeted "bullying must become illegal." it is a hate kroo im. this must end. our generation has the power to end it. about the singer spoke with president obama on sunday at a fund-raising event in california. the two talked briefly about the president's anti-bullying campaign.

    >> hold your head up and you'll go far, because that's all you have to do, just love yourself and you're set.

    >> reporter: jaimy rode mire's cry for help went unanswered. but his mother has vowed to carry on jamey's work, standing up for bullied teens.

    >> it was so important to him and it took him away from our family, way too early.

    >> reporter: kate snow , nbc news, new york.

    >> jamey's parents, tracy and tim rodemeyer join us exclusively now. i know he died just a week ago. he was buried just last weekend, our condolences, everyone watching is sorry for you.

    >> thank you.

    >> he had some pretty ugly comments posted online to him, i'm going to read a couple of them to you because i know you're here because you want to make a difference so let's talk about that. some of the comments were "jamey, you're stupid, gay, fat and ugly. he must die." another post read "i wouldn't care if you died, no one would, so just do it. it would make everyone way more happier." these comments, is it true, continued even after he died?

    >> yes. yes, it was the first day of his wake, and my daughter, we let her go to the school dance because it was homecoming week that jamey was really looking forward to, and we thought it would be great for her to be with all her friends and she was texting that she was having a great time, then all of a sudden a lady gaga song came on and they call started chanting for jamey, all his friends and whatever, and then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting "you're better off dead , we're glad you're dead," and things like that and my daughter came home all upset, and you know, it was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he's gone.

    >> tim , what explains this in your mind? this hate toward your son?

    >> i can't grass. in my mind. i don't know why anyone would do that. they have no heart. basically what it comes down to, to me.

    >> there are more than 4,500 suicides committed by people ages between the ages of 10 and 24, last year, in the united states . do you see, and many we don't know how many but some of those kids, perhaps a lot of them, a significant number even perhaps, are gay kids. do you see that this could be part of a bigger problem?

    >> oh, definitely. i mean, jamey's been talking about bullying as a whole since he was in fifth grade, and it's just as time goes by, we're hearing, you know, more and more stories, just in the couple days of his wake and the day of his funeral, all of the parents and kids that have come to us and seen, you know, just telling us about what is still happening out there, and what is happening, all of them saying oh my kids were bullied, they were bullied for three years or i'm a kid and i've been bullied for the last two or three years and all the same story and it's just got to stop.

    >> do you think our churches, our politicians and other adults who adhere to an anti-gay message enable some of this hate?

    >> yes, i think it does. people have different views on things, and if you believe in homosexuality is right or wrong, that's your right as an american, but it's no reason to bully someone, and hate them.

    >> and make them feel worthless.

    >> i know you were very -- i'm going to point out you're wearing a bandana that jamey wore, says gaga on this.

    >> he made this and said he was going to wear it every day of the school year.

    >> you're wearing a shirt that says "it gets better" wearing fwa ga on your arms, and you're pointing out lady gaga because as we saw in the piece she dedicated a song to him, said jamey, i know you're up there looking at us, you're not a victim, and also ricky martin tweeted his 4 million followers saying how many lives do we have to lose to finally stop the harassment, hatred, bigotry and abuse? only after his death did you see what he had posted online, jamey, he said "i always say how bullied i am, but no one listens. what do i have to do so that people will listen to me?" did he confide his feelings to you? did you wish he confided more?

    >> back in fifth, sixth and seventh grade he used to talk about it openly. he had a rough three years. eighth grade went pretty darned good but it was more sticking up to are other people and this year everything seemed to be going wonderful for him. he asked him every day after school, you know, what's going on? are you getting bullied, and he just kept it in, and was putting on the brave face for everybody, and had he said it once to me, you know, because i asked him, has it followed you to high school , and he said no to us. had he once said it --

    >> but you don't want that brave face to be the last part of the story. you say you don't want him to die in vain. what is your message to parents listening right now, some of whom are parents of gay children, some of whom know their kids have been bullied in the past, and who want to protect their children from this kind of feeling of worthlessness that your son felt after all of this bullying. what do you want to say about it?

    >> my message to the parents is badger your kids and make them talk or get them the help they need. there's lots and lots of other people that maybe they'll talk to. there's a lot of organizations out there that maybe they'll talk to, but get them to talk. we try to get jamey to talk to us constantly, and he just kept it in. he just put up a brave face but just don't let it go, if you know they've been bullied in the past, keep on them, go to the school, do whatever you have to, to make sure that they're getting the help they need.

    >> you had a beautiful boy .

    >> yes, he'll forever be in our hearts.

    >> and i can see that you are firmly committed to making sure we remember who he was and what he stood for.

    >> yes, and basically we say we can't do this on our own but we are going to carry on jamey's mission and everyone across america, across the world, whatever anybody can do to stand up for everybody, everybody else .

    >> tracy and tim rodemeyer, thank you so much.

    >> thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/27/2011 10:13:11 AM ET 2011-09-27T14:13:11

Even after a teen-ager tragically committed suicide in suburban Buffalo this month in the wake of constant harassment, the bullying allegedly did not stop with his death.

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The parents of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer, who was found dead at their home on Sept. 18, indicated in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday that their daughter endured further taunts at a school function immediately after Jamey’s wake. At a homecoming dance she attended shortly after her brother’s death, a potentially poignant moment turned ugly after a song by Lady Gaga, Jamey’s favorite artist, who recently dedicated a song at a concert in his memory.

“She was having a great time, and all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on, and they all started chanting for Jamey, all of his friends,’’ Jamey’s mother, Tracy, told Curry. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting, ‘You’re better off dead!’ and ‘We’re glad you’re dead!’ and things like that.

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“My daughter came home all upset. It was supposed to be a time for her to grieve and have fun with her friends, and it turned into bullying even after he’s gone.’’

“I can’t grasp it in my mind,’’ said Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey’s father. “ I don’t know why anyone would do that. They have no heart, that’s basically what it comes down to.’’

‘No one listens’
Tracy Rodemeyer was outfitted in a bandanna that Jamey had made for Lady Gaga and in a shirt that read “It Gets Better,’’ referring to the It Gets Better Project,’ to which Jamey was a contributor. The organization aims to give support to gay and lesbian youth who may be targets of harassment and discrimination.

Lady Gaga dedicated a song at one of her recent concerts to the late teen, saying, “Let’s do this one for Jamey,’’ and later adding, “Jamey, I know you’re up there looking at us. You’re not a victim.’’

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She also spoke with President Obama at a fund-raising event in California on Sunday about his anti-bullying campaign and tweeted: “Bullying must become illegal. It is a hate crime.’’

Jamey’s suicide also drew a response from Ricky Martin, as the openly gay singer tweeted: “How many lives do we have to lose to finally stop the harassment, hatred, the bigotry and the abuse?’’

Jamey spoke openly to his parents about the bullying he endured as a sixth- and seventh-grader at Heim Middle School, but became more withdrawn about it when he entered high school, according to his parents. One of his last online posts, discovered by his parents after his death, read, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so that people will listen to me?’’

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The Rodemeyers urged parents of teens facing similar difficulties to take any means necessary to get their children to open up about the bullying before it’s too late.

‘Get them to talk’
“My message to the parents is, ‘Badger your kids and make them talk,’ or get them the help they need,’’ Tim said. “There’s lots and lots of other people that maybe they’ll talk to. There’s a lot of organizations out there that maybe they’ll talk to, but get them to talk.

“We tried to get Jamey to talk constantly but he just kept it in, he just put up a brave face. Just don’t let it go. If you know they’ve been bullied in the past, keep on them, go to the school, do whatever you have to, to make sure they’re getting the help they need.’’

Jamey posted videos on YouTube and was a frequent contributor to the social site Formspring, posting anti-bullying messages that often earned him hateful vitriol in response from anonymous posters.

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“Jamie is stupid, gay, fat and ugly. He must die,’’ read one response.

“I wouldn’t care if he died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone way more happier,’’ read another.

Related: Teen contributor to ‘It Gets Better Project’ found dead

Police in Amherst, N.Y., are currently investigating whether Jamey was the victim of harassment or hate crimes leading up to his suicide, although it is too early to tell if any charges will be filed.

Jamey’s father agreed that the message of intolerance preached by certain politicians and religious leaders has contributed to the toxic climate that can result in harassment of gay teens.

Video: Parents of teen blame suicide on bullies (on this page)

“People have different views on things,’’ he said. “If you believe in homosexuality is right or wrong, that’s your right as an American, but it’s no reason to bully someone and hate them.’’

“It’s all the same story, and it’s just got to stop,’’ Tracy said.

Rodemeyer’s parents now hope to spread their message across the world, and are looking for help in getting the word out.

“(Jamey) will forever be in our hearts,’’ Tracy said. “We can’t do this on our own, but we are going to carry on Jamey's mission. Everyone across America, across the world, whatever anybody can to do to stand up for everybody else.’’

Resources:

For online support for LGBT teens, visit:

The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, an organization for students, parents, and teachers that tries to affect positive change in schools.

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