On teens, bullying, and gay bashing in Iowa

Are teen bullying and gay bashing events in Iowa typical or an aberration? I haven’t had the time to research it closely and compare data in a state-by-state fashion; that’ll have to wait. But, consider the following list.

  • Jan 2014: News sources in Des Moines (WHO-TV 1 and WHO-TV 2; KCCI; Des Moines Register) reported that 16-year-old Nathan Rogers suffered multiple facial injuries from a beating he suffered around New Years Eve at the hands (literally) of several other teens, who have been charged with felonious assault. Mr. Rogers’ mother alleges that alleges that the perpetrators beat him and then posted videos of the incident on Facebook.
  • Jan 2014: In another report about the beating of Des Moines’ Nate Rogers, 16-year-old Hunter Stoneburner alleged that two of the same individuals had previously harrassed him (Stoneburner) about being gay.

    Hunter Stoneburner, a gay 16-year-old who attends East High School with two of the three alleged attackers, says a few weeks ago, he was also a target of their violence. “Started getting on me about being gay and all this harassment started with all these people posting pictures like ‘ha, you’re gay’ and all this other stuff,” Hunter says.
    Then came the online threats, “I was just really scared to see what would happen to me with all these people saying they were gonna jump me and stuff.”
    Hunter’s mother says she took pictures of the Facebook threats to the school and to the school resource officer. [Read the rest of this, as there's a story here; I hope the reporter follows it.JohnL]

  • Nov 2013: In Souix City, according to KTIV, a junior high school suspended two students after they pinned a fellow student on the floor of a bus, photographed the genitals of one of the students next to the pinned student’s face, apparently shared the photograph electronically with other students, and called the pinned student gay. These events alledgedly came after the boy who had been pinned down on the bus had earlier reported the two perpetrators for bullying another student. It’s not clear that anyone involved actually is gay, but the homophobic flavor of the actions is pretty clear.
  • Bill Coffin, who edits a trade publication to which the mother of Mr. Betts has contributed, published a read-worthy editorial entitled “Bullied to death: In Passing: A.J. Betts (1997-2013).” The title explains why I’ve included it here. It includes a link to a 12-minutes video interview with the mother.

    Jul 2013: Alexander (A. J.) Betts, a 16-year-old high school student at Southeast Polk High School just east of Des Moines committed suicide. According to his mother (as reported by LGBTQ Nation and the Huffington Post), Mr. Betts had been outed as gay a couple of years previously and subjected to bullying about his sexual orientation and mixed parentage (e.,g., other kids started calling him “Gay J.” instead of “A. J.” and, of course, “n—–“) prior to his suicide.

  • Apr 2012: In Primghar, a little while after coming out to his family and friends, 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn found that some other students turned on him and began bullying him. His sister told reporters for the Sioux City Journal and KTIV that, “As soon as he came out, kids started calling him names at school,” Kayla Weishuhn said. “It was pretty bad.” Mr. Weishuhn committed suicide.
  • Aug 2011: Marcellus Andrews, a 19-year-old who lived in Waterloo, died after a brawl that erupted when witnesses and participants say people “were taunting [Mr.] Andrews, calling him ‘faggot’ and ‘Mercedes,’ a feminization of his first name,” according to the WCF Courier.

What’s to be done? Well, there are school bullying programs. What do we know about them?

Research about school bullying programs shows that they have been able to affect students’ and educators’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions, but there is question about whether they have had substantial effects on actual bullying behaviors, according to research reviewed by Ken Merrell and colleagues (2008). In contrast, however, victimization apparently can be decreased by up to as much as one-fifth, according to a review by Ttofi and Farrington (2011). Ttofi and Farrington also reported that effective programs featured longer duration training for teachers, “parent meetings, firm disciplinary methods, and improved supervision” (especially around playgrounds) and that “work with peers was associated with a significant increase in victimization” (emphasis added). So, we have some pretty good ideas about things that ought—and ought not—to be put into practice.

Reducing victimization by up to 20% doesn’t bring bullying to a screeching halt. Obviously something significantly more powerful is needed. I suspect it’ll require a change in a lot of us, in what we say and do, in how we treat each other, and how we model treating each other so that our children and youths experience tolerant, humane, understanding, and caring environments.

I understand that schools and other agencies (e.g., the governor’s office) have supported efforts to prevent bullying in Iowa. Yay. And isolated incidents will occur. Still, these recurring events stretch the bounds of concern. This ought to be a good campaign issue for some politicians, though I suppose it would alienate a segment of the voting public if one took a stand favoring consideration of sissies, fags, dykes, homos, queers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, kids, and others.

Thanks to the folks in Iowa like I Am in Control who open the door for for kids who just need to talk to someone. Meanwhile, look in the rail and find the link for PFLAG.


Merrell, K. W., Gueldner, B. A., Ross, S. W., & Isava, D. M. (2008). How effective are school bullying intervention programs? A meta-analysis of intervention research. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 26-42. doi:10.1037/1045-3830.23.1.26

Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7, 27-56. doi:10.1007/s11292-010-9109-1

1 Comment

Filed under Equity, News, Non-violence, Notes and comments, Peace, Politics, Thanks for reading

One response to “On teens, bullying, and gay bashing in Iowa

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