Editor's Note: This afternoon's guest bloggers, the Neergaard family, received national attention when their 11-year-old son Marcel posted about his experience being pulled out of the Tennessee public schools because he was so severely bullied his parents feared for his safety. This experience has only steeled the family's resolve to work for change for Marcel and the many kids like him around the country; this is a thank-you from the family for all the kind words of love and support than have enveloped them in the five days. The family will be appearing on the Michelangelo Signorile show this afternoon at 4:30pm Eastern time.
I don't know how to say thank you enough. Every time I start writing, my eyes well up with tears. There are so many personal stories and so many positive words of encouragement that it is difficult to truly comprehend. We are touched by all of the support. Even as I write that, the words look contrived and don't seem at all expansive enough to fully convey our gratitude. Each person who has taken the time to sign their name to the petition, watch the video, leave a message, or read Marcel's words has given our family more strength and courage to move forward.
I originally believed this was an opportunity for Marcel to regain some of the power the bullies took from him. I saw it as a chance for him to stand up and say "This is not okay!" It turned out to be a chance for people from all over the world to stand with Marcel.
There are people from China, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Israel and many other countries who remind us that Marcel is not alone in his desire to stand up for what he believes. Our hearts break with those who have not been as 'lucky' as Marcel; many times it's difficult to know what to say but those messages strengthen our resolve. The truth is I'm most grateful for each of you who may be a wallflower like me but took the extra step to give a sign of support.
It's easy to question whether any of this was a good idea. Should we have said no when Marcel was pushing us? We see posts that mischaracterize something, or wonder how an 11-year old can know he's gay, and the urge to respond is nearly overwhelming. Then, incredibly, we see that two or three people have already responded.
Marcel's story has become a 'teachable moment'. That is a consequence we could never have planned and one which fills us with pride, not just for Marcel, but pride for everyone willing to participate in the discussion. So thank you.
Thank you to those who have signed. Thank you to those who have shared. Most importantly thank you to those who have helped make our lives filled with a family we never imagined we'd have.
UPDATE: StudentsFirst has responded to Marcel's petition. In a statement entitled "StudentsFirst Stands With Marcel," the organization announced that they will meet all of his demands.
From Marcel Neergaard:
"I thank all fifty-three thousond of you for helping me change StudentsFirst's mind on all of this. Michelle Rhee announced that "I stand with Marcel" and that "Marcel has a lot of courage." She has rescinded her award, and announced that she would support a number of anti bullying legislation I owe this victory to you. It took every and each one of your signatures to get to this point. You got me from a nobody to being on Facebook, Huffington Post Youtube, 50,000 signatures on a petition, and blogs everywhere. Thank you, all of you."