On 7 December, Jacob Rogers took his own life after he had been teased and harassed because he was gay. He had attended the Cheatham County Central High School until his death. Now the antibullying policies of that school have come under scrutiny. Family and friends of Rogers have criticized the school’s policies and said that officials did not do enough in order to protect the young man. According to The Edge “Hundreds of people signed a petition to strengthen the school’s anti-bullying policy and more than 1,700 people have signed an online petition created by the gay-rights organization, the Tennessee Equality Project.”
Rogers was just a few months away from graduating. According to Rogers’ friend Kaelynn Mooningham “It was like every day, every class.” According to 2009 alum Justin Philalack, who is now openly gay, “The guys that were out and gay, they were always ridiculed. To me, I never saw any punishment.”
The director of schools, Tim Webb, said that the policy had been revised last year with regards to reporting bullying incidents, and said that it will not be changed again. He pointed out that only one incident of bullying in regards to Rogers was reported since Webb and the school’s principal Gleena Barrow had been working at the school. Webb stated that “We know rumors and speculation of previous bullying. We are still looking into that.” He went on to say that Barrow and school counselors had tried to help Rogers, and stated “Is there bullying that’s going on? Absolutely. But I don’t buy into the idea for one minute that Cheatham County schools are less tolerant than another rural school system in the region or the state.”
As Vermont schools have learned, though, it is not always the student who is being bullied who needs the help, but rather the bully. Often treating the bully can cause the symptoms of bullying to go away.
Rogers’ close friend Maricella Zamudio said that the school officials had tried to help the young man and that “He came in multiple times telling (counselors) he had troubles in his life. Obviously they could have brought in more help.”