Friends say teen who committed suicide was bullied - WKRN News 2

Friends say teen who committed suicide was bullied

Posted: Updated: Dec 8, 2011 11:26 PM CST
Jacob Rogers, an 18-year-old senior at Cheatham County Central High School, died Wednesday. Jacob Rogers, an 18-year-old senior at Cheatham County Central High School, died Wednesday.
Hundreds of people attended the event in honor of Jacob Rogers. Hundreds of people attended the event in honor of Jacob Rogers.

Around 300 friends and family members of a Cheatham County Central High School student who committed suicide gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember him and call for an end to bullying in schools.

The ceremony was held at Riverbluff Park in Ashland City, Thursday night.

Jacob Rogers, an 18-year-old senior at Cheatham County Central High School, died of an apparent suicide Wednesday.

Friends said Rogers, who was openly gay, was the constant target of bullying and it had started to bother him so bad he stopped attending school last month.

"They would just bully him for no apparent reason," friend Maricela Zambudio said.  "Anything he would say or do there would be a snide comment from people."

Cheatham County school officials said Rogers reported bullying to the high school's administration earlier in the school year.

According to Director of Schools Dr. Tim Webb, Principal Glenna Barrow warned the students involved.

He added that Barrow saw Rogers at a later date and asked him if things were better and Rogers indicated they were.

"We are still in the process of trying to understand what happened," Webb said.  "We need to find out how this got away from us and continue to investigate that."

Webb said the district will also investigate allegations that Rogers' complaints of other bullying incidents were not properly handled by teachers or school administrators.

"Our primary focus is to try to fix whatever allowed this to escalate," Webb said.

He would not say if students or even school officials could be disciplined as a result of his investigation, but he said the district is already looking at software to help track incidents between students.

He said it would also track things such as absences and other indicators that a student may be the victim of bullying.

Webb also said the district will work to better pair students with a trusted adult on campus they can talk to if they are being bullied or facing any other issues at school.

"We do not want any child to feel like they are alienated or isolated to the point where they lose all hope," he said.

Rogers' family hopes his death will shine light on how devastating bullying can be.

"I want them to quit bullying kids because they are different," Rogers' great grandmother Annie Webster said. "He had a good heart. I want the schools and the world to quit bullying."

Rogers' aunt wished he had seen how many people cared about him before he took his own life.

"It shouldn't have happened," added Denise Johnson. "It should have been stopped."

She continued, "Baby armadillos when they are born their shells are soft. They get hard as they mature.  Jake didn't get enough time to get a hard shell about him."

Friends of Rogers are already working to raise awareness about his suicide and the bullying he endured.

His friend Joney Williams started a petition Thursday calling on the school district to institute a zero tolerance policy for bullying.

"Jacob was hurting from bullying and now all his friends are hurting," she said. "It is very important to me that this is the last time this happens."

Cheatham County's Board of Education has a policy against student discrimination, harassment, bullying and intimidation. It includes acts that are based on sexual, racial, ethnic and religious reasons.

The policy covers acts that happen on school grounds, at school-sponsored activities, on school-provided transportation or at school bus stops.

According to the policy, all reports are supposed to be fully investigated. Furthermore, parents are to be notified within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

"I feel like there could have been more done," Zambudio said. "Maybe it wouldn't have happened the way that it did."

Williams said everyone should be more sensitive to how powerful words can be to people.

"Bullying is something that really hurts people," she said. "You may think what you are saying are just words. It is never just words."

Visitation for Rogers will be Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Cheatham County Funeral Home located at 117 Elizabeth Street in Ashland City.

An account has been set up in his name at Bank of America to help his family pay for funeral expenses.

Any money remaining after funeral expenses are paid will be donated to organizations that work to prevent bullying and increase bullying awareness.

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