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Parents Speak Out about Bullied Teen's Suicide

By Daniel Wilkerson
By dwilkerson@wbbjtv.com

Authorities said tragedy struck a family in Gordonsville this week as their son, Phillip Parker, 14, took his own life. They said Parker was a target of constant bullying at Gordonsville High School, because he was openly gay.

His parents, Phillip and Gena Parker, said there were numerous instances in which they reported their worries about harassment to the high school, but said their son's persecution was only heightened.

A quote from his father shows just how heavily his death has impacted his family. “I love him. I miss him. He shouldn't have had to kill himself to be brought to life,” said Phillip Parker.

After hearing of the Parkers’ loss, Brad Pamertree, the co-chair of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network ( GLSEN) said, “This shouldn't be happening. Each school in Tennessee should be a safe environment in which to learn and grow. Our Neighbors to the west in Arkansas recently enacted a strong anti-bullying law that explicitly protects all students, but our lawmakers here in Tennessee insist on introducing, debating, and passing bills that don’t just ignore the problem of bullying, they encourage it.”

He also remarked, “Without a paradigm shift in our school culture, things will never get better for LGBT students or even those who are perceived to be. We need inclusive policies that help, not hurt students, and we can’t do that without support from the community, and that includes our elected officials.”

Smith County School officials said they plan to address the issue with students on Monday. Witnesses said more than 100 family and friends gathered in Gordonsville Saturday night for a memorial service for Parker's short life. Those close to him describe Parker as a cheerful, caring, and fun young boy who constantly tried to share his happiness with others.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) said they will convene for a candlelight vigil on January 26 at 8 p.m. in Cookeville in memory and honor of Phillip Parker and other victims of bullying. It will take place in the in the Courtyard Square and candles will be provided.

Organizers said this event is being held to help show support for LGBT youth, not just in the area, but in general.
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