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April 4, 2011 | Volume 86, Number 12

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– Necrology

COMMENTARY

Suicide from bullying

The parents of Tyler Clementi will always feel pain and grief over their son’s suicide last fall. He jumped off the George Washington Bridge over New York’s Hudson River after two fellow students secretly used a web camera to spy on him as he met in his dorm room with another male student.

While the incident of spying was bad enough, his college roommate who secretly installed the camera boasted on Twitter that he had seen his roommate “making out with a dude.”

Tyler, a freshman at Rutgers University in New Jersey and a talented violinist, was so distraught over the episode and from previous bullying that he leaped to his death. One can only imagine the thoughts he had as he traveled to get to the bridge and then prepared to leap into the Hudson River.

Tyler’s parents, Joseph and Jane Clementi, know who the two perpetrators are. Their names surfaced almost immediately after Tyler jumped from the bridge. They expressed sorrow for Tyler’s suicide but said they had only seen their action as a college prank

Now six months later Mr. and Mrs. Clementi are not seeking vengeance. They are not calling for harsh punishment on Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei. But the Clementi’s want to see that they are held accountable for their actions.

“As a matter of principle, and based on the facts known to us,” wrote Paul Mainardi, a lawyer Tyler’s parents retained, “we feel it is important to establish accountability, and to further establish that Tyler was subject to criminal acts, not merely a college prank, as some argue.”

The two college students were rightfully charged with invasion of privacy. They since have left Rutgers and do not return calls from reporters nor do their attorneys.

Unless they change their names, the future of each of them is limited because their names are forever connected with a tragedy they caused. Just imagine how a potential employer might react if he or she made the connection in reviewing a resume. The suicide incident made headlines around the world.

What will happen to these two students? They both could face the maximum penalty of five years in prison. Jim O’Neill, a spokesperson for the Middlesex County, N.J., Prosecutor’s Office, only told reporters “the case was continuing.”

Tyler Clementi’s death by suicide is a tragedy. The only positive result to come out of it is that it focused attention on the harmful effects of bullying. Like all major news stories, there was intense focus on how we can learn from the tragedy, but now — six months later — new incidents have grabbed the public’s attention.

Yes, many schools have addressed the issue of bullying with their students. But have all parents done the same with their children?

Those who cannot answer “yes” certainly have work to do. Someone else’s life might depend on it.

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