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Senator pushes antibully legislation

Student’s suicide fuels call for law

By Bruce Shipkowski and Bill Newill
Associated Press / October 8, 2010

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Colleges should adopt a code of conduct that prohibits bullying and harassment following the suicide of a Rutgers University student whose gay sexual encounter in his dorm room was streamed online, US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg said at a town meeting on campus.

Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, told the crowd gathered Wednesday night in memory of 18-year-old freshman Tyler Clementi that he would introduce such legislation. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River on Sept. 22 after the intimate images of him with another man were broadcast. His body was identified days later.

Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another Rutgers freshman, Molly Wei, both 18, have been charged with invasion of privacy, and authorities are weighing whether bias crime charges should be added.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed Rutgers University for e-mails concerning how the school handled complaints from Clementi that his roommate used a webcam to spy on him, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The newspaper reported that prosecutors asked for the subpoenas after investigators felt the state university was not fully cooperating with the invasion of privacy case. The Star-Ledger cited two officials who were briefed on the inquiry but did not name the officials because they were not authorized to speak about the ongoing investigation.

The death of Clementi has prompted a national discussion on the plight of young gay people and bullying, along with technology’s role in it. Clementi typed his intention on the Internet, leaving a note on his Facebook page reading, “Jumping off the gw bridge sorry.’’

A new survey has found that while technology has become so entwined with college students’ often frantic lives, being perpetually connected comes at a cost.

In the Associated Press-mtvU Poll released yesterday, 57 percent of students said life without computers and cellphones would make them more stressed, a significant number — 25 percent — said it would be a relief.

The AP-mtvU Poll of more than 2,000 college students, conducted before Clementi’s death became public, found that 9 in 10 had been on a social networking site like Facebook in the past week. One in five say they have posted public messages on such sites seeking emotional support, while more than two-thirds say they have read public posts by friends pleading for such assistance.

Clementi’s death was one of a string of suicides last month involving teens believed to have been victims of antigay bullying. Just days after Clementi’s body was recovered, more than 500 people attended a memorial service for a central California youth, Seth Walsh, 13, who hanged himself after enduring taunts from classmates about being gay.

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