By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
After gay La Grande teen Jadin Bell died as a result of an apparently bullying-related suicide attempt, those who loved the 15-year-old cheerleader vowed that some good would come from the tragedy. To that end, Jadin’s friends and family have launched an anti-bullying foundation called Faces for Change, the Oregonian reports.
“I don’t want Jadin’s death to be in vain,” Jadin’s father Joe Bell told a crowd gathered at Eastern Oregon University Wednesday night. “I want it to stand for something. I think we need to look at people for who they are and not who we think they should be.”
According to the Oregonian, the nonprofit is being spearheaded by family friends Bud Hill, Heather Martin, and Jayne Baremore, and was inspired by Jadin’s death as well as the recent suicide of a 16-year-old La Grande girl.
School district Superintendent Larry Glaze says he hopes the district can work with the foundation.
Jadin and his father reportedly visited a school counselor the week before the suicide to report bullying. While neither friends and family nor school officials have confirmed whether this bullying was the direct cause of Jadin’s suicide, the teen’s Twitter feed shows that he was clearly suffering.
Among the tweets posted in the week before he hung himself from an elementary school play structure:
“It was a place of torture. Always looking behind me. Surrounded by people who hate me, who want me dead.”
“My soul is sinking.”
“I need help.”
But not all his tweets where a plea for help. He expressed happiness too. But he seemed to struggle to keep dark thoughts at bay. On Jan. 12: “I have this feeling again. Scared.” Followed later in the day by: “I feel good, about myself, my friends, [and] life.”
Hill says that Jadin came out about 1-1/2 years ago.
“Jadin was gay and proud that he was gay,” Hill told the La Grande Observer. “The family is quite positive that he was being bullied because he was gay.”
According to the Observer, the district has been working to address bullying for at least 15 years:
LHS Spanish teacher Anne March is helping lead the challenge of tackling this issue. March is leading and coordinating a program aimed at showing students how to prevent bullying. It is based on a curriculum provided by the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports in the Schools program, one available through the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education.
One focus of the program is showing students what they can do to stop bullying when they see it. Students are taught to say things which get a firm point across, without being personally demeaning to the point they lower themselves to the level of the bully.
Anti-bullying programs are also in place at La Grande Middle School, but Principal Kyle McKinney points out that online bullying is harder for schools to address:
Schools can only police what happens in its halls and on school grounds, McKinney said, which doesn’t address cyber bullying. Students involved regularly harass others on social media sites, such as Facebook, or through text messages and emails. Most of this is done outside school.
“Schools can’t control this,’’ McKinney said.
The principal advises students who are being cyber bullied to take simple measures to block bullies from their phones and Facebook pages.
McKinney said Mondays are often challenging for his staff because of cyber bullying which has taken place over the weekend. Students who have been harassed over the weekend find themselves face to face with their harassers on Monday, creating tense confrontations.
“We spend an enormous amount of time with cyber bullying issues on Mondays,’’ McKinney said.
McKinney believes bullying could be significantly reduced if more parents would focus more on teaching their children about empathy, friendship and tolerance.
“This is a societal issue,’’ McKinney said.
A memorial service for Jadin was held today (Feb. 8) at 10:30 a.m. in Island City. Donations to offset the cost of Jadin’s week at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital can be given to the Jadin R. J. Bell Memorial Fund through Sterling Bank.
Read more about how to prevent bullying here.