Eighteen-year old Lance Lundsten died on Saturday as a result of a suicide attempt, according to KSAX-TV. Lundsten’s friends say he was gay and that he was bullied at Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Minn. Within hours, his death has prompted the formation of an anti-bullying group in the school district. Sen. Al Franken, who is the author of anti-bullying legislation in the U.S. Senate, extended his condolences to Lundsten’s family and friends on Monday evening.
KSAX reports that emergency responders took Lundsten to Douglas County Hospital where he died.
“Bullying is a huge issue, particularly with the youth in our country now,” Shari Maloney, facilitator of the Diversity Resource Action Alliance, told KSAX. “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.”
A Facebook group, Jefferson Anti-Bully Coalition, was organized over the weekend in response to the reports that bullying may have led to Lundsten’s death. “The school’s staff isn’t protecting us, it’s up to the students to help each other,” wrote a student who founded the group.
Franken told KSAX that LGBT students need more protection in schools.
“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.
“LGBT kids really do need [more] 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.”
Jefferson High School does not have anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation or gender identity, only for “race, sex, religion, ethnic background, physical or mental handicaps.”
Updated: According to KARE 11, Lundsten’s father disputes the account given to KSAX.