A Tennessee-based lawmaker raised more than a few eyebrows this week after suggesting that children who were committing suicide were doing so because they "were not instilled the proper principles" at home.
As The Tennessean is reporting, State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) spoke up against a proposed cyberbullying bill, and may have been alluding to the recent suicides by Phillip Parker and Jacob Rogers, both of whom had allegedly complained of being bullied over their sexual orientation in the state.
"We can’t continue to legislate everything," he said in his speech. "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 continued, "Now, instead of sending children to the principal's audience, we're sending them to the criminal court...there's people in this room right here who, at one time in their life, were a bully. But you didn't grow up to be a bad person."
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Democratic Party decried Faison's comments on the group's official blog. "What a disgrace," the spokesperson wrote, slamming what they described as Faison's "boys will be boys" mentality. “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."
Faison reportedly issued a statement in which he apologized for his "poor choice of words, The Tennessean notes. "My true intent was to protect children from becoming criminals," he wrote. "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."
Earlier this month, the state's infamous "Don’t Say Gay" bill reportedly advanced in a House committee by a vote of 8-7 on Tuesday and will now "go to the calendar committee before a floor vote," according to ThinkProgress. That bill would reportedly make it illegal for educators to discuss any sexual behavior apart from heterosexuality with students in kindergarten up through the eighth grade.
Take a look at recent LGBT bullying cases below: