by Karen Ocamb
January 17, 2011
Update: Students from Lance’s high school are seizing their power and fighting back against bullying:
Congress is expected to return to work on Tuesday with many in the nation
watching to see if the hostile rhetoric is toned down following the
assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of six people
and the wounding of 15 others at a public meeting in Tucson, Arizona on
Saturday, Jan. 8.
The LGBT nation will be watching to see if anyone mentions the apparent suicide
of 18 year old openly gay Lance Lundsten over this weekend – his friends say as
a result of another kind of hostile rhetoric: antigay bullying.
Minnesota TV News station KSAX reports that the Douglas County Sheriff’s
deputies responded to an emergency call at the Lundsten’s residence in Miltona
around 10 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15. Lunsten was taken to the hospital where he later died; the Sheriff’s office confirmed that they believe his death was a suicide.
On a Facebook memorial page in Lundsten’s honor, friends said that Lundsten had
been bullied at school for his sexual orientation. Some students who knew
Lundsten believed the bullying may have led to his suicide.
“Bullying is a huge issue, particularly with the youth in our country now,”
Facilitator of the Diversity Resource Action Alliance Shari Maloney said. “I
think because we’re in central Minnesota, and we aren’t as diverse as some of
the larger Metropolitan areas are, someone who is different maybe draws more
attention and it’s not always positive.”
The TV station reports that another Jefferson High School student started a
Facebook group in response to the suicide called the Jefferson Anti-Bully
Last Nov. 9, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken posted a “We Will Make It Better” video
reaching out to LGBT youth who might feel alone and suicidal. In the video,
“It’s beyond heartbreaking that so many students have taken their own lives
after being bullied for being gay or perceived as gay. To any young people out
there who are watching this: You may feel alone and that there’s nothing you can
do. But you’re not alone.”
talked with KSAX about anti-bullying legislation he intends to introduce
“My heart goes out to Lance’s family, and friends and loved
ones. It’s a tragic event, not only for them, but for the school, and the
Alexandria community and really for all of us,” Franken said.
“LGBT kids really do need (more) protection,” Franken said. “They’re two
or three times more likely than straight kids to get bullied. Nine in ten
LGBT students said they’ve been bullied or harassed and almost two-thirds
say they don’t feel safe in school…..(On) Martin Luther King Day … we want
to celebrate the American values that have broken down barriers that prevent
all citizens from having … the same opportunities to succeed … This is
another barrier that still needs to be broken. We need to have more
acceptance of LGBT students.” “We need to create in our schools, an
atmosphere where bullying isn’t really accepted in anyone.”
The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SDNA) would add LGBT students to
groups federally protected from discrimination, school violence and
harassment. The Democratic senator said he does not yet have enough support
for the bill to gain quick passage.