South students respond to recent suicides

Haley DeParde, Staff Writer

On October 14 a candlelight vigil was held at Loring Park in downtown Minneapolis to commemorate the recent suicides of youth due to anti-Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) bullying.  The event was held by Out Front MN, a group focused on GLBT equality. Kelly Lewis, a field director from Out Front MN, spoke at the vigil. “We have challenges ahead,” said Lewis.

The South Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) understands these challenges and has been thinking of ways to get the word out. Through Stand Up Speak Out South High (SUSOSH) last year, students educated their peers about the importance of GLBT equality along with the issues surrounding racism, sexism and ableism. Senior Libby Due, the president of GSA, said that SUSOSH was a “powerful thing that we did, no matter its effect.” She noted that even if it didn’t seem to make a difference in students’ behavior, “it opens their eyes to the fact that this is an issue that kids care about.”

At the Loring Park vigil, South was recognized for its work to end bullying in schools.

Bullying prevention is a controversial issue in schools. In 2009 Governor Pawlenty vetoed an anti-bullying law that would have provided teachers and administrators with training on how to handle and address bullying in schools.

Due said GSA is “aiming to make South a much more open environment, more open than it already is for GLBT students and all student in general.” She explained how as youth, “we actually have the power to change things.”

Justin Aaberg was one of the teens who recently committed suicide due to anti-GLBT bullying. His mother Tammy Aaberg spoke at the vigil: “We are gathered here tonight for those who were bullied.” She noted that she had thought Justin, who came out at age 13, had the perfect life. “We stand here tonight to say no more,” said Aaberg, and directed to GLBT youth, “do not suffer in silence.”

Another speaker, Kendrick Davies, said, “No matter how dark or cold it is, there is light,” which she said is important for youth experiencing GLBT bullying to remember.

To help expand this idea writer Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project. GLBT adults who have overcome bullying and are happy with their lives post videos telling their stories to support struggling youth.  On the projects website ( it states that 9 out of 10 GLBT students have experienced harassment at school.

Many South students have decided to take a stand against harassment and bullying to create a better environment at South.