Thursday, July 1, 2010

Teen Launches On-Line Anti-bullying community

Philly teen launches on-line anti-bullying community
Philadelphia, PA - Recently local high-school student Joey Kemmerling was talking to school security, reporting anti-gay graffiti that was aimed at him in a school bathroom. Such instances have become almost commonplace for the Council Rock High School South sophomore, who has decided to fight back against school bullying —— not with his fists, but with dialogue. Kemmerling, 15, launched The Equality Project, an online community that gives victims of bullying a forum in which to share their stories —— and an effort that is growing by the day: At press time, The Equality Project’s Facebook page had more than 4,700 members, started offering its own line of merchandise and recently formed a board of executives. If can be reached at

While The Equality Project is meant to foster awareness and prevention of all types of school bullying, the initiative grew out of Kemmerling’s own fight against anti-lgbt sentiments at both his middle and high schools. The teen said he started to realize he was gay in the fifth grade and made the decision to come out three years later, as a student at Richboro Middle School. Kemmerling said the reaction of his classmates rapidly deteriorated from the initial awkwardness to physical altercations in the locker room. Kemmerling said he and his parents finally went to the police after a student threatened to light him on fire and he saw no support from his school administration. “When I talked to my principal, he said, ‘Well, you know you don’t have to be so open about it, maybe calm it down a little.’” and I said. He says that the bullying has continued in high school.

The pervasive bullying he’s faced has made Kemmerling consider taking his own life many times, he said. It was the Internet that pulled him back. “Every time I thought about killing myself, I’d go on Facebook and talk to guys who’d help me through it,” he said. He had the idea of launching a discussion group dedicated to raising awareness about bullying at his school, but school administrators would not give him the go-ahead, so he brought that effort to Facebook. The Equality Project launched as an online forum for students to share their own experiences with bullying and offer one another the same support Kemmerling saw in his Facebook interactions. Kemmerling said overseeing the site has helped to heal some of his own wounds. “Whenever I get discouraged, I look at the stories and think, ‘OK, I’’m not alone. . . I have to take all of my feelings and put them to good use,” he said. (Philadelphia Gay News - Jen Colletta at

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