Watch CBSN Live

Tyler Clementi Suicide Result of Hate Crime?

The suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi is being called a hate crime by a gay rights group.

CBS News National Correspondent Jeff Glor reported on "The Early Show" Thursday from Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., that a group called Garden State Equality is making the claim, and saying Clementi's case is emblematic of a widespread problem.

Tyler Clementi, Taped Having Sex, Kills Self

Nine out of 10 gay, lesbian and bisexual students are bullied in school, according to a 2007 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. And they are four times more likely to attempt suicide, according to a 2007 Massachusetts youth risk survey.

Clementi, an accomplished violin player, just 18 years old, jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly streamed on the Internet a live recording of him having sex with another man. Officials believe a body recovered from the Hudson River is Clementi's.

A Clementi family lawyer released a statement saying, "Tyler was a fine young man and a distinguished musician. The family is heartbroken beyond words."

Though Clementi's sexual orientation is not known, gay activists, such as David Savage, are speaking out on his behalf. Savage told CBS News, "What gay and lesbian kids most fear is rejection by their family, rejection at the hands of their friends, judgment from their preachers and their teachers."

Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and Molly Wei have been charged with invasion of privacy for spying on Clementi, and could serve five years in prison.

On "The Early Show," co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez said she spoke with someone from Rutgers University. Rodriguez said, "They don't believe it is a case of a student abusing social media, but an isolated incident of one student spying on another."

Is that the case?

Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, an "Early Show" contributor and child and adolescent psychologist, said it's a bigger problem than that.

She said, "It is one thing to spy and watch it yourself, and another to broadcast to thousands who might want to tune in. I think that's really important -- they are missing the boat -- that social media is a major way to get information out and he broadcast it to who knows how many tuned in and watched what was going on."

Hartstein said Clementi was probably going through a number of things after he learned he was spied on.

She said, "He's already more worried about judgments. He's already more worried about how he will fit in and where he fits in and struggling with that, we can assume, as that happens in a lot of gay teenagers. We then have to figure out -- here it is, he's struggling with that already, and then his roommate takes advantage of that and preys on the weakness that is this uncertainty and this fear. So then, now where does he go? Now he's outed, we think, we don't know, but maybe no one even knew (of) these interests, or he was bisexual or if he was gay. And now, everybody knows, and he now has to answer to all of that, and doesn't necessarily know how. And, sadly, the only option becomes suicide, because they don't think they can do kind of enough damage control or deal with it enough."

So what can be done to avoid cases like this in the future?

Hartstein said everyone, from parents to schools to the federal government, should be working to make sure anti-bullying legislation includes LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender) kids and adults.

"I think we have to start at the top and work our way down, and we really need to create no-tolerance," she said. "We don't tolerate bullying of the kid with glasses or the heavy kid, but we do tolerate bullying of gay kids. We say, 'Oh, you're such a fag.' It's not OK anymore. We need to really start to really put that into play consistently -- parents, schools, government, all-around."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue