NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee state representative on Tuesday told fellow lawmakers that failure to instill proper values by parents in the victims of bullying is what leads young people to commit suicide.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) made the remarks during a House floor debate over a proposed cyber-bullying bill, HB 2641.
“We can’t continue to legislate everything. We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them. They committed suicide because they were not instilled the proper principles of where their self-esteem came from at home,” Faison said.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Democratic Party reacted to Faison’s comments, posting this statement on the TDP’s website:
“Faison is apparently blaming the parents of suicide victims for their inability to ‘instill the proper principles’ in their children. What a disgrace. Now, of course a tall and burly Faison doesn’t see any problems with bullying, as he admitted, he was perfectly capable of defending himself or dishing out punishment as he saw fit. But many kids don’t have that ability. That is why laws like these need to be passed.
“It is unfortunate that some in the Republican Party have become the protectors of bullies. Of course, it is not terribly surprising, because as a legislative group they are nothing but bullies, disparaging and demeaning those without power in this country in order to build themselves up. So it is no wonder that they would see no big deal with the problems associated with childhood bullying in this country, and become the defenders of harassment.”
A source in the offices of Tennessee House Speaker, Republican State Representative Beth Harwell, told LGBTQ Nation that Faison may have been referring to the recent suicides by Phillip Parker and Jacob Rogers, both of whom had allegedly complained of being bullied over their sexual orientation.
Late Wednesday evening, Faison issued a statement saying that he regretted the choice of words and that his opposition to cyber-bullying legislation is rooted in a belief that lawmakers should not criminalize childhood bullying.
“After reviewing my comments on the House Floor, I regret what was a poor choice of words. My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals. Suicide has touched my family, and I would never want a parent or family member to feel they were responsible for such an unimaginable tragedy,” Faison said
Tennessee’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill was approved by a state House committee last week. The Tennessee state House Education Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 8-7.
The measure had initially failed on a voice vote, but passed in a roll call vote requested by its sponsor.
The proposed legislation would restrict all sexually related instruction in the state’s schools to “natural human reproduction science” in grades kindergarten through eighth.