Posted by: gaybatumi | January 20, 2011

Teenager Death; Friends Say Bullying May be to Blame

MILTONA, Minn. – The news of a high school student’s death and rumored suicide began circling social networking sites Monday morning, after the news began spreading that 18-year-old Jefferson High School student Lance Lundsten had died over the weekend.

Around 10 p.m. Saturday the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office responded to an emergency call at the Lundsten’s residence in Miltona.

When officers arrived, they discovered 18-year-old Lance Lundsten needing emergency medical care. Lundsten was transported to the Douglas County Hospital where he later died.

The Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that the cause of Lundsten’s death was yet to be determined.  Authorities had been working with the Douglas County Medical Examiner’s Office to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.  The cause and manner of death will be determined by the medical examiner after the autopsy process and laboratory testing is complete.

According to his Facebook page, Lundsten was openly gay. On a Facebook memorial page in Lundsten’s honor, friends said that Lundsten had been bullied at school for his sexual orientation. Some students who knew Lundsten believed the bullying may have led to his death.

“Bullying is a huge issue, particularly with the youth in our country now,” Facilitator of the Diversity Resource Action Alliance Shari Maloney said. “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.”

Maloney said she works everyday to make Alexandria a more accepting place for community members and visitors. She said she has seen improvement, but there is still a long way to go.

“I think we are a welcoming community, but I think we are also a very traditional community as well,” Maloney said. “As the world changes, I’m not sure if we’re changing.”

Another Jefferson High School student started a Facebook group following Lundsten’s death called the Jefferson Anti-Bully Coalition.

Since this story’s initial report, a gay recent graduate of Jefferson High School student told KSAX-TV about his experiences, and how he was bullied at the school.

In a letter to staff and media, District 206 Superintendent Terry Quist responded to the teen’s death, and the accusations of alleged bullying at the school.

Senator Al Franken discusses legislation to protect students from being bullied in the classroom because of their sexual orientation.

Story update: Douglas County Medical Examiner:  “Teen did not die from enlarged heart”

Written for the web by KSAX Staff

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