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Tyler Clementi suicide: Reaction is swift and widespread

But will Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi's suicide make any difference regarding cyber bullying? Will it change the way hate crime laws are applied to sexual orientation?

By Staff Writer / October 3, 2010

Students pay their respects to student Tyler Clementi, 18, who killed himself shortly after being filmed and broadcast over the Internet during a gay encounter at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Two Rutgers undergraduates have been arrested.

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From US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to TV celebrity Ellen Degeneres to students holding vigils on college campuses, the reaction to the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi has been swift and widespread.

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This week will see a series of town hall meetings in New Jersey related to Clementi’s death. Also scheduled is a series of nationwide events tied to "National Coming Out Day" on Monday Oct. 11. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Jersey are drafting a law that would stiffen criminal penalties for harassment via the Internet.

Will it make any difference in the fight against cyber bullying? Will it change the way hate crime laws are interpreted – particularly as they are written and applied to threats and attacks involving sexual orientation?

Mr. Clementi, a freshman at the Rutgers, killed himself Sept. 22 when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

His roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another student, Molly Wei, have been charged with invasion of privacy. Law enforcement officials say they used a Web cam to secretly transmit images of a sexual encounter between Clementi and another man. Officials are investigating whether the pair also should be charged with a bias crime.

Five teenagers have taken their lives

Five teenagers in the United States have taken their lives in recent weeks – all reportedly because they were openly gay or thought to be gay. Most recently, that includes Raymond Chase, a 19-year-old sophomore at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Mr. Chase hanged himself in his dorm room last Wednesday.

"This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay,” Education Secretary Duncan said in a statement Friday. “These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.”

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