Yet Another Gay Teen Lost to Bullying Suicide — in Minnesota

Anoka

WCCO reports on the tragic death of Justin Aaberg, which happened in July:

"Justin Aaberg came out as gay when he was 13 and, as his mom found out only after he hanged himself, suffered tremendously inside. 'I actually thought he had the perfect life. I thought out of anybody I knew that he had the perfect life,' said Justin Aaberg's mother, Tammy Aaberg. 'But I guess he didn't think so.' In the weeks since she found her son dead in his room on July 9, Tammy Aaberg has heard from many of her son's friends at Anoka High School. They told her Justin Aaberg had been bullied and had recently broken up with his boyfriend. Those same students also opened up about their own experiences, telling her they feel harassed and unsafe as gay and lesbian students. 'These kids, they just hate themselves. They literally feel like they want to die. So many kids are telling me this,' said Tammy Aaberg, fighting tears."

Watch the heartbreaking video HERE.

There were five suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin District last year, and a lesbian student there as well as a teacher believe at least three were attributable to anti-gay bullying.

The school district asks teachers to "remain neutral" on the bullying because of some conservative dipshits in the district who apparently don't want "gay" being addressed at school:

"…name-calling and bullying happen often in the district because teachers and students don't stand up to it. The teachers said that's partly because other teachers are scared and confused about how to interpret the curriculum policy.  The Anoka-Hennepin School District said the curriculum policy and bullying are two entirely separate issues. 'It's very difficult. We have a community that has widely varying opinions, and so to respect all families, as the policy says, we ask teachers to remain neutral,' said District Spokeswoman Mary Olson."

Comments

  1. JauntyJohn says

    I’m actually sick to my stomach reading this. I’m constantly baffled around how on earth any adult — especially a parent– is EVER okay with a child being bullied — regardless of what they’re being bullied for?

  2. PDX_Guy says

    And the candidate for governor that Target supports says anti-bullying legislation is not needed. But who cares about that because he is “pro-business”.

    Still waiting until Target does something to correct this error, until then I continue to boycott them.

  3. Fahd says

    I believe we need some attorneys (God knows we have a surplus) to take up these individual cases and pursue the school districts for not providing a safe learning environment. The only thing that is going to get school districts to act appropriately is if they are stuck with legal fees and judgments — looks bad for future promotions; if individuals can be held accountable even better.

    I wonder how many of these cases are brought to court to hold the grossly negligent accountable?

  4. Rin says

    It is articles like this that make me think: homeschool is best.

    You love nothing in this world, not your SO, not your parents, not yourself like you love your child and to lose them to sorrow…that has to be the worst pain anyone can fill. They are your baby.

    :(

    I cannot even imagine. That poor child. :(

  5. Jerry says

    This is so Heartwrenching. I am sure some of us can recall that Pain that would not go away, that isolation. Unfortunately we still live in a Culture that Institutionalizes harassing behavior. Like bulling has become a Virtue. Sad,sad,sad

  6. Rin says

    I don’t think parents even realize how much more invasive bullying is today. It doesn’t stop at school, its on the web, its proliferated like a virus. These poor children.

    When I was in school the feminine gay boys were harassed and bullied by all the jocks. I remember one day they pushed this kid Dean so hard that he fell forward and onto his books so that he was bleeding because his gums got cut. I slapped this kid (who will be nameless because he ended up in the Olympics) over it. No one supported me or got angry, too. In fact…a lot of people’s response was that they weren’t going to stop so why make it worse by fighting with the guy.

    I think about that argument–don’t make it worse. The gay kid even told me not to help him anymore because it would just make the bullying worse if a girl had to defend him.

    I think the other kids don’t always know what to do in this situation.

  7. Bill Perdue says

    The facts show the great danger facing LGBT youth. A 2009 study, “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes” by San Francisco State University, shows that adolescents rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. And for every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey).

    The best way to stop this is for our legal organizations to step in and aid GLBT youth by launching financially crippling lawsuits against the bigots, whether they’re schools, parents, politicians or cult ‘reeducation’ camps. The Southern Poverty Law Center used that strategy to financially break the KKK in the late 80s and 90s. Lambda Legal, the NCLR and the ACLU should step up to defend our youth.

  8. niles says

    Congratulations Christians: you got another one. And I’m not just talking about the murderers who harass the schools into “neutrality”, I’m talking about the hypocrites who sit silently in their pews saying nothing while others spew their bile.

  9. Tom in long beach says

    As a parent I cannot imaging the hell this poor mother is going through. It just sickens me that because of some vocal religious right people there is no rational, logical, social science based information passed on to teenagers who might be struggling with sexuality. When I was a teen I was deeply in denial and spent 5 years trying to “pray the gay away”. Also perhaps there needs to be a media campaign to connect caring parents with resources to help teens feel comfortable coming out to them.

  10. Dego says

    other comments are dead-right.

    1) the District Spokeswoman admitted to negligence by policy on the part of the School District. “We ask teachers to remain neutral.” In the role of a care-taker, remaining neutral in an environment of harassment, bullying or abuse is negligence. Some LGBTQ+ Lawyer/organization needs to ensure that this School District is sued into bankruptcy. Only by showing the *costs* to them associated with such negligence will other negligent accomplices to murder-through-harassment learn that they must change their behavior to protect their OWN interests. They’ve demonstrated and stated they aren’t going to do so because it is their duty.

    2) Perhaps unwittingly, Target in supporting the anti-gay candidate it has, out of self-interest, decided that they are going to support another accomplice of this murder. They need to be educated on all of the ramifications of that decision.

    I think it might be a fine idea to print out this kid’s photo and put it on placards stating something like “find out how Target helped me die” and post them at and around your local Target.

    Sorry if that sounds inflammatory and dramatic, I’m just sick of watching young people die because some people believe that a book tells them they aren’t worth saving or protecting.

  11. Henry Holland says

    I grew up in an Air Force family, we of course moved a lot, ALWAYS in the middle of the school year. I *dreaded* starting school because I stood out, I was “the new kid”. One of those moves, I was 14 and this dude just made it his life’s mission to torment me.

    One day in art class, the guy threw a piece of hard clay at me, it hit me in the temple and it really hurt. I snapped: I walked over, pushed him against the wall and started to strangle him. Nobody did anything, and I still have nightmares (almost 40 years later!) from the image of his face going from smirking > absolute terror, because he knew I was going to kill him and he’d underestimated how strong I was.

    Finally the teacher pulled me off of him. She was in hysterics, she almost had a murder in her class! This was 1974, it wasn’t common yet. :-( I would have killed him too if she or someone else hadn’t intervened.

    I think the only people lower than bullies are people who prey on children.

  12. Rin says

    My child goes to a religious school that has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. I asked the principle, a Christian, how he would feel if a gay kid was picked on and he said to me: same as any other kid. The bullies would be kicked out.

    I think sometimes it has to do with controllable size. Some of these public schools are just too big for their own good.

  13. TampaZeke says

    The district superintendent, with a straight face says that teachers have to remain neutral in these cases because they have to take the feelings and opinions of the bullies and their parents into account.

    What utter nonsense. How infuriatingly, outrageously offensive is that?

    And to the person about who claims that they’ve changed their policy, listen to the video. They are saying exactly what your link says but are saying that policy and bullying are two separate things and they have no intention of changing their, “just stay neutral on gay bullying so as not to offend anti-gay Christians” policy. They haven’t, and don’t intend to change their policy.

  14. walter says

    the district wants a hands off policy so they are as guilty or more so than the bullies. they should be held accountable for the end results a students death. the school took the side of the bigots. apparently the canidate for governor isn’t the only problem in wisc. if target wants to support a man who thinks this is ok to hell with target.

  15. says

    The news host made an odd claim at the very end of that segment. She said that parents who support the existing curriculum were scared to go on camera because they have been harassed !?!?!? That’s the oddest claim. Am I misunderstanding what she meant to say?

  16. Jonathan says

    High school. What do they really teach kids? If you’re different, you will be shunned and assaulted. If you’re gay expect to be spit on or harassed to the point where you take your own life.

    Christians claim another life to save their kids from “gay”.

  17. Jim says

    This “neutrality” policy was pushed on the school by a right-wing group of parents called “PAL” They had to shut down their web site (which reportedly said gays should change and go through ex-gay programs) because of all the justifiably angry email they were getting. That may be the “harassment” that was referred to. The bullies think they’re Jesus’s sweet lil darlin’s and just didn’t understand the anger. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to realize they are responsible for these deaths. By the way, this school district is in Michele Bachman’s congressional district.

  18. eco-freak says

    My sympathies to the family and friends. I grew up and graduated in that school district. It seems things have not changed much in the last 30 years.

    Not that long ago Anoka High School had issues with violence against African American and other students of color.

    Remember; this is the in the hellish and hateful heart of Michele Bachmann’s congressional district.

  19. TANK says

    Awful. My condolences to the family. I wouldn’t care if the faculty were confused about the policies–the result is that they failed to protect the student, and that’s all that matters. If it were my…obligation…I’d have no recourse but to seek vengeance on the faculty and administration.

  20. Fred says

    If you have a constructive comment and are able to encourage the school district to implement changes in an effort to help prevent further suicide and create discussion about GLBT issues please contact:

    Mr. Dennis Carlson, Superintendent, Anoka-Hennepin School District
    763-506-1001
    Dennis.Carlson@anoka.k12.mn.us

  21. mad1026 says

    Gregg Steinhafel, CEO of Target: By donating money to MN Forward and the money going to Tom Emmer’s campaign, you are perpetuating the ideas that make this story heartbreaking. Is that really why you and your wife donated the limit to the PAC? Do you really want to look the other way when a gay child commits suicide because Emmer is on the side of big business? Sir, you are despicable! I will not shop at Target AGAIN!

  22. Matt says

    It makes sad sense that the Anoka-Hennepin school district mostly overlaps with Michele Bachmann’s congressional district. Gives you a sense of the kind of people these kids are dealing with.

  23. Adam says

    Tammy, I am so sorry for your loss. Justin’s death is our loss too — we are all the poorer when any child (or adult for that matter) feels driven out and away by others’ actions or words.

  24. johnny says

    I was in high school in the 1970s. We had two obviously gay guys in our school (I hadn’t figured out my own story yet) and NOBODY harassed them. Sure, they’d get looks or people would talk, but that was about it. And this was a country school in Indiana.

    I think this kind of bullying has really ramped up due to many factors: the religious right, numbness to violence, un-real gay clichés on TV, wrong-headed teaching by parents that gays are pedophiles and on and on.

    However, the biggest factor of all is the passive approval given by adults when they stand by and do nothing. This gives bullies the “green light” every time and makes them feel that they are “right” in their harrassments. Other students feel helpless to do anything about it due to that very same passive approval or peer disapproval.

    The situation is really out of control. I can’t imagine trying to figure out my sexuality in an environment as horrible as this. No wonder they feel worthless and with so few positive gay role models shown in the media, it’s only going to get worse.

    When a few gay teens get together and start hitting back in a big way, gays will be demonized even more. But I can’t think of any other way to halt this crap. It’s time for the tide to turn.

  25. Sean says

    You stay neutral means stay silent. The school district is as bad as the bullies who are left to terrorize these kids. I hope the mother sues the hell out of this school district and they realize they are not trying to remain neutral, just catering to a bigot minded school district.

    ONE KID IS TOO MUCH!

  26. AJ says

    I went to the Anoka-Hennepin schools all through my years as a student. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I remember teachers standing by and snickering while I was bullied like crazy in 9th grade for being gay. None of this surprises me.

  27. ratbastard says

    Like the boy in Indiana, there are many reasons people young and old commit suicide. I think by far most, regardless of stuff like school bullying, commit suicide for deeply personal reasons, especially stuff like relationship break ups, hurt feelings, etc.,

    This boy like the boy in Indiana had friends and a social life so he wasn’t really isolated. I suspect there were things going on in this boys life and the boy in Indiana aside from bullying that really sent them over the edge. I’m developing the feeling that too many people are clinging to the a single issue, school bullying, but not acknowledging or ignoring other equally difficult issues all people, young and old, must deal with, and that some can’t.

  28. MarkDC says

    Wonder what the punishment is for neutral teachers and administrators in Iran?

    99 lashes? Stoning?

    Neutral teachers are scum. Next time I see a woman being harassed on the street I’ll ask first if she’s a teacher, then leave her alone.

    Fuck em all.

  29. MarkDC says

    Wonder what the punishment is for neutral teachers and administrators in Iran?

    99 lashes? Stoning?

    Neutral teachers are scum. Next time I see a woman being harassed on the street I’ll ask first if she’s a teacher, then leave her alone.

    Fuck em all.

  30. Joe says

    Someone needs to confront Focus on the Family and their “true tolerance” BS bullying strategy and ask them how they would prevent this.

    I’m not sure why the media isn’t forcing groups like that to end their hate when we are faced with real lives ending because of poor bullying policies and the culture of hate.

  31. ratbastard says

    Joe,

    In this case don’t ignore other things going on in this boys life. I seriously doubt he killed himself over bullying…or exclusively bullying. I’m sure there’s more to this story.

  32. ratbastard says

    I know for myself the greatest difficulty coming out or accepting myself was not external anti-gay stuff, but dealing with certain aspects of the dominant gay sub-culture and gay ghettoization (word?) especially intellectually. The idea among many in the dominant gay sub-culture that you must stereotypically like certain things, act a certain way, believe certain things, or else you’re a self-hating mean spirited fag who’ll be ostracized by the gay in-crowd has always bothered me more than outside homophobia.

  33. Joe says

    @Ratbastard, that was a problem for me too. However, part of those stereotypes come to dominate gay culture, I think, because of the resistance of straight culture to accept us. I think among some gays there is a way that makes people hype up those aspects to contrast with straight male culture. This is getting a bit confusing but what I’m saying is that these issues are interrelated.

    And while I don’t want to ignore other things going on in his life, the gay bullying and the culture of hate and not caring about it that others at the school mentioned could have pushed him just over the breaking point. It may not be the only thing that contributed to him ending his life, but it is one of them.

  34. says

    The “staying neutral” policy essentially boils down to this: These people believe homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, terrorizing a gay child — or even one who “seems” gay — is justifiable. How fucking sick is that?

  35. Tennessee Budd says

    He wasn’t “lost to bullying suicide”; he killed himself. We shouldn’t blame suicide on anyone but the person so selfish as to kill him/herself & inflict such pain on the survivors. The reasons why don’t matter. The fact is that he committed self-murder. That is that.

  36. grant christensen says

    i knew him he was on my bus i didnt know he was gay seemed pretty normal was very quiet i sat next to him across the seat i mean i saw him everyday n i saw him the day before he commited suicide i didnt believe it i thought it was a rumor maybe if he was more open it could of been stopped but he was very quiet

  37. matt says

    Five suicides in one year?! Isn’t that a big alarm bell? I don’t think (at least don’t know) that there was one suicide in my entire 4 year high school career. One suicide might be an emotionally disturbed child. Five is a pattern and a sign that something needs to be done.

  38. Kandis Harrington says

    I would just like to say that for 1, I am a christian and I take offense to the comments made against it. Hate is hate, and its wrong for everyone. Intolerance and bigotry is taught to our children, and it shows no discrimination. By making those broad referances to Christians, you yourself are also passing along this way of thinking. You should not blame God or Christians, or any Faith, or any Nationality for what a few in that group choose to do. I get that a lot of people use the Bible and Christianity to excuse or justify their treatment of you, but this is just a means to an end. And if it wasn’t here to use, they would find another means to justify it, just as you justify using broad statements against Christians. It already states in the Constitution there is to be a seperation of Church and State, yet the State uses Church to deny you the right to marry, which is BS in my book.

  39. franklin says

    Reading this, and other stories really saddens me so much, wishing to go back in time and talk to these kids. I blame this on the school, instead of having a “hands off” policy or “keep hands to yourself” policy they have a “keep neutral” policy. Unbelievable, what kind of century are we living in?

  40. cg says

    RIN? I suspect they try to make sure there are no gay kids in their ‘religious’ school. That way they can say this kind of bullshit & you’ll buy into it. Sorry, but religion is the first of many reasons for bullying. Apparently GOD is the biggest bully of them all if you believe killing others in your name is ok.

  41. Blaze says

    I hate all of this bullying!!!!!!!!!!! Its sad people cant be themselves and not that they are going to get bullied just because they dont fit the perfect american way of life- straight, popular, rich, hot and athletic. I esp. hate it when christians want get in your face saying your an abomination and ur going to hell. Well they are going to hell for judging.

  42. Blaze says

    I was watching trhe news a while ago when I saw this artical about burying the soldier who died in Iraq, who happened to gay. There were a whole lot of protesters out there screaming “God hates You” and “The reason why God is killing the fighters in Iraq is because hes punishing american for putting up with homosexuality”. I swaer to God if I had been there I would of had multiple assualt charges, because I would of had punched every single one of them in the face. I mean I understand having your own opinions, but protesing in a graveyard while the family is mourning over losing their loved one thats just wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Blaze says

    Neutral my ass!!!!!!!!!!!!! Im tired of losing people I love and care about just because some fing people want to make themselve feel better by degrading others on the smallest difference. I love gay people. I am bi!!!!!!!! I hate discrimination and IT REALLY PISSES ME OFF THAT THE SCHOOL IS ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. says

    “California youth Seth Walsh, 13, hanged himself from a tree in his family’s back yard on Sept. 19. He was taken to the hospital where he spent over a week in intensive care before dying on Sept. 27. According to his friends, Seth had been targeted for bullying and harassment because he was gay. The boy’s friends also told the news channel that the school’s staff and administration had not intervened on behalf of the boy.

    A spate of suicides claimed victims as young as eleven last year. Georgia fifth-grader Jeheem Herrera hanged himself in April of 2009 after enduring anti-gay abuse at school. Herrera’s mother told the media that when she asked a friend of her son’s about the suicide, the friend said to her, “”He told me that he’s tired of everybody always messing with him in school.”” The friend added, “”He is tired of telling the teachers and the staff, and they never do anything about the problems. So, the only way out is by killing himself.””

    Herrera’s death followed the April 6, 2009, hanging death of 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover in Massachusetts. Walker-Hoover suffered anti-gay taunts at school despite his mother’s reported “”weekly”” attempts to get the school’s administration to intervene.

    The rate of suicides among teenagers is higher for GLBT youths, according to a U. S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Recent efforts to counter the higher rate of LGBT youth suicide include “”It Gets Better,”” a project launched by gay writer Dan Savage that collects videos of gay adults addressing teens with a message of hope: no matter how miserable high school may be, it’s worth surviving into adulthood, when gay youths can claim their full potential and thrive in happy relationships.

    Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.”

Leave A Reply