May 10, 2012

Minnesota Teen Tragedies: Rachel Ehmke 13, and Corey Jones, 17 Prematurely End Their Lives

Bullying Alleged To Play A Role In Both Deaths

Two Minnesota teenagers committed suicide over the last 10 days. Rachel Ehmke, 13, of Mantorville, and Jay “Corey” Jones, 17, of Rochester, were subjected to harassment and bullying at school.

According to Minnesota Public Radio:

Two southeastern Minnesota teenagers have killed themselves in the past two weeks. While the cases are very different, the suicides prompt an outpour of grief and discussion about bullying. 

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville committed suicide April 29 after she faced bullying at school. Earlier this week, 17-year-old Jay "Corey" Jones jumped off a bridge in Rochester and died. Jones was openly-gay and family and friends say bullying played a role in his death.

School officials, community activists and students are grappling with how to prevent the bullying that played a role in the deaths of Jones and Ehmke.

Harassment and bullying were likely factors in Ehmke's death, said officials at the Dodge County Sheriff's Office, however no one will face charges in her death.

Officials say there is no direct evidence that bullying played a role in Jones' death, according to Rochester Police spokesman Brian Winters. However, Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Munoz acknowledges Jones had been working with a school counselor and administrators to address bullying at Century High School.

"There was some form of bullying going on, but the school was on top of it and working with him on this and working with those who were involved in the situation," Munoz said.

This is a very stark reminder of how much work we still have to do. It’s terrific that President Obama expressed his support for marriage equality, but that doesn’t give hope to a 13 year old girl, or a 15 year old boy, as they are grappling with the challenges that teens face every day.

We all must do more to help these kids. Parents need to exert pressure on their local school boards, as well as communicate with their kids, to ensure that they feel protected and safe when they go to school every day.

I’m going to keep writing about these tragedies as I learn about them. The efforts to date have obviously had little impact on real world situations.

We have to do better, and we have to do more.

RIP Rachel and Jay.

straight talk in a queer world.