Molly Wei, former Rutgers student and defendant in the Tyler Clementi Rutgers suicide case, will go into a pre-trial intervention instead of jail in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors. This case drew national attention when Clementi committed suicide after his roommate, Dharan Ravi, allegedly spied on him with a webcam while he was having sex with another male student. Wei allegedly assisted Ravi in the spying.
Clementi’s parents have issued a statement approving of the action. They believe that Wei, while acting illegally, did not display the same level of malicious intent that Ravi did, according to NorthJersey.com. They hope that she will learn compassion as a result of this experience.
The compassion the Clementis have shown for this young woman in the face of their son’s death is admirable, but there’s a larger lesson in the Rutgers suicide case. School districts and universities across the country have enacted anti-bullying measures in reaction to this highly publicized story, but that is not enough. According to a study from Harvard Medical School, gay teens are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as other teens. Until we learn to accept gay people as a natural part of life, kids like Tyler Clementi will continue to see suicide as a way to end their pain.
Kids today get bombarded with conflicting messages. School and parents tell them bullying is wrong and they should accept everybody for themselves. At the same time, states like Tennessee and Montana are trying to enact legislation making it illegal for local governments to protect gays from discrimination. Any parent worth his or her salt understands “do as I say, not as I do” is not an effective strategy.
At the same time, the media glamorizes homosexuality as if it’s a fashion choice. TV shows and songs like Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” make it seem like a daring fad, which only fuels the arguments of the ignorant who don’t want kids exposed to gay people lest they catch it like a virus. In this environment, how are kids supposed to figure out that bullying is wrong? While surely the defendants in the Rutgers suicide case acted recklessly at best and maliciously at worst, where did they learn this behavior from?
The only solution to this problem is education, and we adults have to start with ourselves. Gay people are not the enemy. They are normal people who were born with a physical attraction to the opposite sex. Most of them will tell you that they knew their orientation deep down from an early age, and apart from this one difference, they care about the same things as all other Americans do: making ends meet, taking care of their loved ones and being free to lead their own lives as they see fit. If we can’t learn this lesson from the Rutgers suicide case, all the anti-bullying education in the world will do no good.