Five years ago Tyler Clemente, an 18-year-old freshman at Rudgers University jumped from the George Washington bridge, a result of bullying. I wrote about bullying that long ago, and it still goes on today as much as ever. But Tyler’s parents, Joe and Jane Clemente, who formed a foundation honoring Tyler, recently launched a campaign to put a stop to bullying before it can even start.
The incident that brought about Tyler’s death was that he had a date with a man and his roommate secretly videoed them kissing, put it on the internet and it went viral. The roommate and a woman friend were charged with several crimes including invasion of privacy. The roommate only served 20 days and the girl, who did a plea deal, got no time.
Tyler’s older brother was also gay and told Tyler before he went to college. Tyler came out to his mother before he left for college. A huge weight was lifted from Tyler, even though he thought his mother rejected him, which turned out to be far from the truth. Tyler asked for a roommate change after the web cam incident but never said anything to his family about it.
Tyler’s mom lived in a fog for four years, not believing what had happened and not understanding why. Just recently she has started to move forward. She wants no one else to ever experience what her son did. She speaks out now against cyber bullying, raising awareness and money. Four years ago, when she established the Tyler Clemente Foundation, she vowed to try to end on-line and off-line bullying in schools, workplaces and faith communities.
A few weeks ago she and her husband launched DAY ONE, premised on the idea that if you stand up on the first day of school or work or if on a sports team and say you will never treat anyone differently because of who they are, how they dress or what their body looks like. “If you do, there will be consequences,” Jane said.
According to Jan, this is powerful. Most young people don’t hear a person in authority make a statement about what is expected of them and won’t be tolerated. She says they are not focusing on just bullies but on witnesses, asking bystanders to become upstanders by reporting it. Jane feels she was a bystander by not helping her son and wants to become an upstander now.
Joe Clemente says that parents shouldn’t underestimate what your child is going through. “Even though you may not think it’s a big deal, the child may think it’s the end of the world,” he added.
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