More than a year after the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, his family has created a foundation to discourage peer harassment.
Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after learning that his roommate had videotaped him during a “sexual encounter” with another man and posted the footage online.
The Tyler Clementi Foundation, launched Wednesday, aims to “raise awareness of cyberbullying by promoting responsibility in our children’s personal lives and online presence. We want them to understand the importance of their words and actions,” Joe Clementi, Tyler’s father, wrote in a statement posted on the foundation’s website.
The foundation’s launch coincides with the Clementis’ first public interview since their son’s death.
“Not a minute goes by that I don’t think about him,” Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, told People magazine.
“It’s especially hard right now, because this was his favorite time of year,” she said. “So we’re trying to find a new way to celebrate Christmas. I’m sad – and trying to get through it.”
Dharun Ravi, 19, the roomate who streamed Clementi’s sexual encounter online, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 21. Among 14 other offenses, Ravi is accused of a hate crime; prosecutors say Ravi targeted Clementi because he was gay. Ravi had pleaded not guilty.
The Clementi case, and a string of cases in which teen suicides appear to have been tied to bullying, has led to reforms in New Jersey schools.
Rutgers University announced a plan for gender-neutral housing. The new policy allows students to request roommates of the opposite sex if they so choose, ABC News reported earlier this year.
New Jersey, for its part, has enacted a new antibullying law in reaction to deaths allegedly linked to peer harassment. Activists say that the New Jersey legislation is the most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S., but some educators worry that the strict guidelines place too many burdens on schools, ABC News reported in October.
The Clementis plan to contribute to anti-bullying initiatives through their new foundation.
“It wouldn’t be fair to Tyler’s memory to let this slide,” Jane told People. “Something good has to come out of this terrible situation.”