Protecting Gay Kids

Schools are finally getting tougher on gay bullying.

Protecting Gay Kids

Bottle-blond bangs swept over one eye — this, the other boys whispered, was not a man's haircut. One of them — a popular, handsome specimen — grew particularly incensed at his classmate's new look. He formed a posse and found a pair of scissors. After locating the blond boy, the gang tackled him. The boy screamed for help, but none came. Lock by lock, his hair was lopped off.

Soon after, the boy disappeared from school. Eventually, he returned, his hair clipped short and back to its natural brown color.

There was no disciplinary action, but the incident would forever haunt everyone involved, save for the lead attacker, Mitt Romney. He forgot about it, married a pretty girl, produced five handsome sons and made hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he wants to be president.

Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after he and a male date were spied on by Clementi's roommate.
Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after he and a male date were spied on by Clementi's roommate.
Dharun Ravi, center, sits with his attorneys Philip Nettl, left, and Steve Altman, right, as they listen during his sentencing in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man days before the roommate killed himself was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation.
AP Photo/Mel Evans
Dharun Ravi, center, sits with his attorneys Philip Nettl, left, and Steve Altman, right, as they listen during his sentencing in New Brunswick, N.J., Monday, May 21, 2012. Ravi, a former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to watch his roommate kiss another man days before the roommate killed himself was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail. A judge also gave 20-year-old Dharun Ravi three years of probation.

Gay kids have long been a target of bullying. Until recently, incidents could be laughed off as "pranks" and no one suffered any consequences, save for the gay kid. But in the last few years, that has begun to change.

Some say it started the night Tyler Clementi leapt from the George Washington Bridge. He'd just discovered that his roommate at Rutgers University had used a Webcam to spy on a kiss he shared with another man. Police found Clementi's body seven days later.

Clementi wasn't the only gay kid to commit suicide that September — there were 10 in all. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old boy from Cypress, Texas, shot himself in the head with his stepfather's Beretta. Seth Walsh, 13, hung himself in his rural California backyard just a half-hour after his mother had rescued him from a gang of bullies.

"It is a totally unnecessary tragedy for my children," says Wendy Walsh, Seth's mother. "I don't know where all the hate comes from."

Now bullies everywhere are being held to account. Dharun Ravi, the roommate who spied on Clementi, was charged and found guilty of a hate crime — last week he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. The Department of Justice brought harsh sanctions down on Walsh's school district, and the local Legislature passed "Seth's Law," making it mandatory for schools to formally investigate bullying claims. News of 15-year-old Billy Lucas's suicide inspired the creation of the "It Gets Better" campaign, a viral video series designed to show gay kids there's a better life after graduation.

"That September woke a lot of older, grown-up LGBT members to the fact that while it had gotten so much better for us out in the world, there had been the inverse effect of upping the temperature for kids in school," says Dan Savage, the alternative-weekly sex columnist who started "It Gets Better." "I really do think it shifted the culture."

The world swooned earlier this month when President Obama gave gay marriage his personal blessing, but his administration's efforts to combat bullying may actually be his more valuable contribution. Under his direction, the Department of Justice has vigorously pursued schools all over the country for failing to protect gay kids. Obama also endorsed the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken to make homosexuality a federally protected class.

"It gives them sort of the same civil rights as racial minorities got from the '64 Civil Rights Act, that women got from Title IX," says Franken. "I think more people are beginning to see this for what it is.... This is a group of people that just overwhelmingly are the victims of bullying and harassment."

When it comes to gay bullying, society seems to be experiencing something of a paradigm shift.

"I compare it to what happened in the South in the Civil Rights Movement," says Jamie Nabozny, the plaintiff in the country's first gay bullying case. "The fall of 2010 will be comparable to what happened in Selma."
_____________________

Until recently, the only classroom conversation about homosexuality and kids was how to keep them separate. In the '70s, teachers were routinely fired for coming out of the closet. There was no such thing as a Gay-Straight Alliance club in school.

The arrival of AIDS in the '80s forced sex education programs to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality. That in turn triggered a righteous panic. In 1987, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms took to the Senate floor brandishing a Gay Men's Health Crisis comic as part of his successful bid to ban federal funding for AIDS education materials that "promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities."

Eight states still have language on the law books derived from Helms's "no homo promo" policy. In Texas, sex-ed classes are required to teach that homosexuality is "not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense." In Arizona, the law forbids schools from portraying homosexuality "as a positive alternative lifestyle."

"There was this fear that if you were talking about gay people, you were having inappropriate conversations with students about sex," says Kim Westheimer, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Welcoming Schools project.

The gay rights movement began to push back in the '90s. An openly gay teacher in Boston named Kevin Jennings founded the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network to help educators who wanted to offer counsel to gay kids. In 1999, a judge affirmed that Gay-Straight Alliance clubs had a right to gather on school grounds.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
37 comments
Andy
Andy

Hex, of course you do. I think that everyone believes that effort should be made to keep kids from hurting/killing themselves, but what I'm saying is, help the person with the problem... stop making them everyone elses problem.

Andy
Andy

Nice jab at the Republican Presidential Candidate. I notice you didn't take similar issue with President Obamas self-proclaimed bullying of a girl during his school boy days. Personally, I could care less about either instance. Childhood is the time that we humans are supposed to learn how to deal with adversity such as bullies. Kids get bullied. Kids are cruel. It will never change. You can tilt at windmills all you want to and you'll probably reach some kids, but you'll never reach them all and when they grow up their paths will ultimately cross. Who do you think will have the advantage? People commit suicide for all types of reasons, but it ultimately boils down to the fact that the person in question was mentally ill to begin with. You do-gooders are all the same. You don't think things through to the conclusion and NEVER view all of the facts. Just grab hold of a cause, find a couple of poster-kids, and full steam ahead!

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Jessica, Kids attend school in America for approximately 6.5 hours during a 24 hour day and for only 9 months of the year. And at least 70% of their time in school is spent in class studying the curriculum such as chemistry, algebra, history and literature.

When the kids go home after school their parents and 99% of their neighbors have no thoughts about chemistry, algebra, history and literature and spend no time discussing such subjects. There is no prevailing community standards about algebra.

Why would you think the schools - alone - can make even a small dent in changing community standards with respect to whom their children love?

Where are your programming recommendations for a community wide collaborate approach to teaching tolerance and acceptance within the community.

You write like one more 'on-fire' feminist who is going to right some wrong and hasn't a clue how to pull it off ... locally.

Guest
Guest

Another fucking moron.

Kids are bullied for all kinds of reasons, not just because of their sexuality.

HariKari
HariKari

Suicide is a choice. A bad choice. If I choose suicide, no one made me do it but I.

Guest
Guest

So schools are now only interested in protecting gay kids not heterosexual kids?

Garland Norris
Garland Norris

The article says: "In Texas, sex-ed classes are required to teach that homosexuality is "not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense." "

Erm, the sodomy laws were struck down after Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. How can this still be stated?

Anse
Anse

Maybe instead of teaching the children such wussy liberal values as treating each other with a modicum of common decency, we should just build steel cages on campus playgrounds. The schools could hold Thunderdome Fridays, and the children could settle their differences the "manly" way. They could sell concessions. Heck, it could be a money maker, cover the education budget shortfall.

Razor
Razor

So, this whole article was written to campaign for Obama, not to protect gay kids... Right?

Craigley
Craigley

My cat and bird are going to simply LOVE this print edition. And my dead fish too.

Anse
Anse

True. But when one particular reason can be identified, it's important to address it. This notion that we must make no distinctions between the underlying rationale for these incidents of bullying is just another way to ignore the underlying prejudice and pretend that it makes no difference. Once kids realize that mistreating gay people because they're gay is wrong, they might understand that it's not only wrong at school, but everywhere in society. But I suspect that's not really what some folks want. I suspect that some people downplay the underlying reasons for this harrassment because, truth be told, they think homosexuals have it coming.

Yulia Woosan
Yulia Woosan

Maybe with sociopaths who are trying to manipulate someone, but most humans who commit suicide are emotionally wounded and/or truly believe there is no choice. Humans are NOT robots

Rbyrd2531
Rbyrd2531

I think you are missing the point. Always before it was considered ok by society and teachers to bully gay kids.

Craig Malisow
Craig Malisow

Despite the fact that anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional in 2003, the Texas legislature never repealed the section of the penal code criminalizing homosexual behavior (21.06). Technically, the state penal code lists it as a criminal offense, and therefore the Texas Health and Safety Code clauses dealing with sex ed still refer to it as a criminal offense.

VivaLaGalgo
VivaLaGalgo

Let's make it more of a "Hunger Games" themed Friday, how's that?

Craigley
Craigley

The 8-9% of the population is suddenly getting treated like the majority.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Because not harassing gay kids to the point of suicide is a bad thing?

Guest
Guest

Even if you believe that to be true, there is no way to prove it. Therefore I believe that your conclusions are something you just pulled from you nether regions.

In my experience growing, some teachers did indeed turn a blind eye to bullying, but it was due to workload and not wanting to get involved with parents, not because the sexuality of students one way or another.

Plus there are far more gay kids than there were before and kids have always bullied other kids no matter if they are homosexual or heterosexual.

Yulia Wusan
Yulia Wusan

Are school districts actually saying this? Has the state tried to force school districts to abide by this even though the sodomy law is unconstitutional? There are many laws which are simply not enforced

Vonnegan
Vonnegan

So the reporter finds the law and writes about it as if it could legally be enforced, even though it's obviously unconstititional to do so. Lazy, bad reporting.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oh give me a god damn break. Shit, just because people look down upon playing smear the queer, that doesn't mean they are being treated like the majority.

Craigley
Craigley

No. Because we need to start teaching kids who are bullied to fight back. This zero tolerance run and hide approach is making weak kids weaker. Teach kids to fight back and be tough. The world has enough dang wimps.

Anse
Anse

Straight kids are being harrassed for being straight? I didn't know. Got any examples of this happening?

Guest
Guest

You obviously can't read or you just like making shit up.

I never said that it was ok to bully anyone no matter what their sexuality is. It's rather silly and disengenious to focus on bullying just because of someone's sexuality if your are not going to address bullying as it relates to all vulnerable children.

But you and others like you seem too dense to recognize this fact.

And again, your conclusions about the number of gay kids is just something you either heard on TeeVee or from some gay advocacy group, or again just something you made up because you have no rational argument otherwise.

VivaLaGalgo
VivaLaGalgo

Bullying and or harassment for being gay, or for any reason is wrong and inexcusable. Based on your statements, you don't seem to understand that. There are not more gay kids today vs when you were in school, there are just more open gay kids today.

Yulia Wusan
Yulia Wusan

I understand that state lawmakers have consistently discriminated against gays and that the laws technically are on the books, and reflect this trend. But the reporter should have said "that law, technically still in Texas law, was invalidated in 2003 by the Supreme Court" and he should have tried to determine if Texas schools actually follow the command to say that it's illegal in Texas and/or if the TEA tries to enforce it

Anse
Anse

It's not bad reporting. It's the truth. What you ought to ponder is the fact that the state has made no effort to make state law constitutional, which itself betrays a persistent prejudice against homosexuals. I think the point he is making is entirely clear to anybody of average intelligence.

Kenostos1911
Kenostos1911

I believe that Craigley does in fact understand the "Zero Tolerance" policy and takes issue with it as I do. Self Defence is a human right. Bullied kids are left helpless, unable to even defend themselves for fear of scholastic and criminal penalties. Far better to rely on one's self for personal safety than the inept or uncaring personnel in the school. We need to stop teaching kids that being a victim is their only option; bullies seek out those that they perceive as weak. I'd pay good money to see the reactions of bullies after they get their asses handed to them by queer kids.

Anse
Anse

What "real world' is this, anyway? I got through high school without getting teased or bullied; never got into any fights. It wasn't because I was a tough guy. It was only because I wasn't different, which is the only reason these kids are targeted.

But you can teach your kid whatever you want. This will never be taken seriously as an official school policy. It would be insane to think so. Schools demand that students respect their teachers and administrators; in Houston ISD, a student can be suspended or removed from campus for violent outbursts, cussing out a teacher, or other repeated disruptions. Should we tell teachers to just deal with this "real world," just fight back, not expect any help from the administration? Or could we require students to extend that respect to their classmates, too? The truth is that you don't think gay kids deserve this kind of respect. I think you actually believe they have it coming, just because they're gay.

VivaLaGalgo
VivaLaGalgo

Asshole-ness is learned behavior. Kids usually learn from their parents. And Mr Craigley seems to not understand that schools usually have a zero tolerance for fighting, self defense or not. Promoting violence among school kids is, in a word, juvenile.

H_e_x
H_e_x

I say we try to change people and teach them not to be macho assholes who pick on the weak.

H_e_x
H_e_x

I just don't think violence will solve this problem. What if the bully is 150 pounds bigger than your kid? Are you going to tell him to take a swipe? How about we teach our kids not to be assholes? Is that so hard? If you have kids, tell them not to be assholes, please.

Craigley
Craigley

Spoken like the kid-less man that you are.

Craigley
Craigley

I say we prepare them for a life based in reality

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oh damn, we have an internet tough guy. Hey buddy, meet me behind the swings and we can work out our problems. We can them commiserate over gushers and big league chew.

Alnora1227
Alnora1227

They ARE fighting back using the legal system to demand rights they should have as individuals, Americans, and children. Only an ignorant moron would advise violence as the best response to bullying. Kids have already tried that. It's called Columbine.

Anse
Anse

Schools should teach the kids to fight back? What kind of absolute nutcase idea is that? Violence is intolerable to a civilized society, or at least it should be. Or maybe you think we should just arm the children; you know, let them "stand their ground."

What insane crazy bullshit.

 
Houston Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...