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The Tyler Clementi Foundation: Standing up to end bullying

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Image courtesy of the Tyler Clementi Foundation
Image courtesy of the Tyler Clementi Foundation

Before leaving for Rutgers University in the fall of 2010, Tyler Clementi had come out to both his parents. His father Joseph was supportive, but his mom Jane had to process the information, partly because of her evangelical background.

At college, Tyler's roommate found some of Tyler's communications on some Gay websites. The roommate set up his webcam to record what was going on in their dorm room when Tyler had asked for some privacy. The roommate and a friend observed Tyler and his male friend kissing.

The roommate proceeded to post comments about Tyler on Twitter, telling people where they could go to view his video stream of Tyler and his friend's interactions recorded on two different occasions. Responding to the roommate's invitation, other students were able to view the recordings.

Tyler found out about what had happened and complained to dorm and university officials. But not long after all of this took place, he jumped from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River. His body was found a week later.

In 2011, Tyler's parents established the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which promotes acceptance of LGBTQ teens and others marginalized by society. The foundation is a national nonprofit organization with a mission to end online and offline bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities. It promotes research, development, and education initiatives to determine causes and prevention of teen suicide.

One of the foundation's activities is called becoming an "upstander." In bullying scenarios, there are three roles: the victim, the bully, and the bystanders. Typically the bystander tacitly condones the harassment by observing but not speaking up. The foundation believes that bystanders have a responsibility to get involved and stand up for their peers — becoming "upstanders" instead of bystanders.

The foundation also offers resources to organizations, such as businesses, schools, and churches, that want to actively participate in ending bullying. Materials for the foundation's #Day1 program, which provides educational tools on how to stand up against bullying, can be downloaded on its website.

Also on the website, there are ten projects listed, all of which are aimed at getting the message out to different audiences. One of those is a letter from 14 Catholic bishops supporting the work of the foundation in standing up for at-risk LGBTQ youth and saving their lives. Many Catholic parishes, religious orders, organizations, and schools have signed on in support of this letter, including five in the Seattle area: St. James Cathedral, St. Joseph and St. Patrick Churches on Capitol Hill, Our Lady of Guadalupe in West Seattle, and St. Leo of Tacoma.

Take the Upstander Pledge at the foundation's website: https://tylerclementi.org.