Jamie Nabozny grew up in Ashland, WI. He was an average kid, living in a rural area, had a supportive family system and enjoyed going to school. Unfortunately, his life changed drastically when he was targeted in middle school for being openly gay. Jamie endured years of traumatic verbal and physical bullying from his peers. School was a place where he was suppose to feel safe and be educated. Feeling hopeless and isolated Jamie tried taking his own life and eventually ran away from home. Eventually Jamie realized there were many other young people that were faced with similar challenges and he decided to fight back. He and his legal team won a landmark lawsuit in Federal court that establishes that all young people including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender deserve a safe educational experience.
Two students from the Above the Influence (ATI) group completed a 30-hour research study on bullying and had heard Mr. Nabozny’s story. These two young ladies, with the encouragement of their advisers, contacted Jamie to see if he would be willing to come to Mora, Minnesota to give his presentation. To their delight, he agreed! On Tuesday, May 9th, Jamie spoke to students in 7th – 12th grade a Mora High School.
His message – Everyone has the power and responsibility to stand up, and say something. Our schools should be a safe place for every student regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or ethnicity.
He asked the students, by a show of hands, if in the past week if they had heard the “N” word, sexually derogatory language or had been bullied at school or via social media. Sadly, more hands were up than down. The message to the students was clear. The use of derogatory, racial, sexist language and/or physical abuse or harassment is not okay; it’s hurtful, hateful, humiliating and not necessary. Use your power to be responsible, stand up and say something – if not to the bully, to a trusted adult!
Admittedly, Jamie believes he is one of the lucky ones. In similar situations many turn to drugs, alcohol, and suicide as a way to escape from their daily torment. A study done by Yale University suggests that at victims of bullying are between 2 and 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims¹. Jamie emphasized the importance of having a network of trusted adults and friends to talk with and confide in.
He closed by challenging MHS students and shared success stories from across the nation. Use your power, be responsible, standing up for others that can’t stand up for themselves, and saying something to a trusted adult – by doing this students can and will make a difference and bullying will become an unacceptable part of the school culture. Diversity is a part of our daily lives. Teaching tolerance and acceptance cannot be overstated. Every student deserves the right to be educated in a safe environment!
The following is a link to the the filmed documentary, “Bullied. The Jamie Nabozny Story” Click Here to view.