Eighteen year-old Lance Lundsten, of Miltona, died Saturday night as a result of a suicide attempt. According to KSAX, Lundsten was gay, and his friends say his death was the result of anti-gay bullying at school.
Shari Maloney, of the Alexandria-area Diversity Resource Action Alliance, told KSAX that bullying was a very big issue in Alexandria, where Lundsten attended Jefferson High School.
“I think because we’re in central Minnesota, and we aren’t as diverse as some of the larger Metropolitan areas are, someone who is different maybe draws more attention and it’s not always positive,” she said.
Jefferson High School’s student handbook conforms to Minnesota state statue, barring religious, racial, or sexual harassment and violence. However, the school does not appear to prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity. TheColu.mn has so far been unable to reach school officials to answer questions about the school system’s anti-bullying measures.
Within days of Lundsten’s death, at least one Facebook group – seemingly organized by Jefferson students – has sprung up accusing high school staff of not “protecting us.”
“It’s up to the students to help each other,” the group’s description reads.
Yesterday, Senator Al Franken cited Lundsten’s death as an example of why federal anti-bullying legislation is needed.
“My heart goes out to Lance’s family, and friends and loved ones. It’s a tragic event, not only for them, but for the school, and the Alexandria community and really for all of us,” Franken said in a statement on Monday.
“LGBT kids really do need protection,” Franken said. “They’re two or three times more likely than straight kids to get bullied. Nine in ten LGBT students said they’ve been bullied or harassed and almost two-thirds say they don’t feel safe in school.”