October 1, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Education sec’y says ‘unacceptable’ bullying caused suicides

The Education Department is calling on people to “stand up and speak out against intolerance” in the wake of a string of reported suicides of young gay men.

In a statement on Friday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the recent incidents of two young gay men taking their own lives happened for an “unacceptable reason” – because they were bullied and harassed for their sexual orientation.

Duncan noted the deaths of these teens follow the suicides of at least three other young gay men and said these deaths occurred because “the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.”

Late Wednesday, Raymond Chase, a sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, took his own life. The exact circumstances of his death have yet to become public.

On Sept. 22, Tyler Clementi leapt to his death Sept. 22 from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after classmates allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room.

The deaths follow the suicides of other gay teens earlier this month in California, Indiana and Texas.

“This is a moment where every one of us — parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience — needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms,” Duncan said.

Duncan included in the list of recent incidents of harassment the attacks from Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shrivel against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay student president at University of Michigan.

Shirvell’s blog, “Chris Armstrong Watch,” accuses Armstrong of “anti-Christian behavior” and trying “to recruit your sons and daughters” into becoming gay. Shrivel was suspended from his position at the attorney general’s office on Thursday.

“Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough,” Duncan said.

The complete statement from Duncan follows:

“This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

“This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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