Protecting Gay Kids

Schools are finally getting tougher on gay bullying.

There's surprisingly little research on LGBT youth and cyberbullying. One small study out of Iowa State University found that of 444 mostly LGBT students, 54 percent had been cyberbullied in the last month — and 26 percent of those who had been bullied experienced suicidal thoughts as a result.

"It can reach out and get you 24-7. I think that's really hard for youth," says Vickie Henry, senior staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. "We've had situations with youth spending a lot of time online trying to respond to these attacks."

The same Iowa study found that gay bullying victims were less likely to go to an adult for help, especially if their parents were inclined to restrict Internet access or take away their cell phones.

Jamie Nabozny — who won the first gay-bullying lawsuit against his school in 1996 — and fiancé Bo Shafer get measured for their wedding tuxes.
Emily Utne
Jamie Nabozny — who won the first gay-bullying lawsuit against his school in 1996 — and fiancé Bo Shafer get measured for their wedding tuxes.

In an attempt to stop anti-gay harassment, Facebook has stepped up its reporting options and formed a coalition with groups like the Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Advocates have fought in and out of court with districts that claim to be absolved of responsibility for student behavior off school grounds.

Tyler Clementi's parents say that if their son's complaint had been taken seriously by his dorm's resident assistant, their son might still be alive today.

"Maybe if his RA had reported it as a crime right away, if some adults had gotten involved, the police could have assisted Tyler," says Jane Clementi. "We didn't know about it until it was too late."

They hope Tyler's story will open parents' eyes before it's too late.

"We realized that losing a child is probably the worst experience a parent can have," says Tyler's father, Joseph. "We started the foundation to remember Tyler and try to keep other parents from going through this kind of suffering that we went through."

Yet social media has also been an invaluable tool for the anti-bullying movement. After Dan Savage posted the first It Gets Better video, he received 200 submissions in one week. Now the campaign counts 50,000 contributions — everyone from Adam Lambert to the LA Dodgers has participated.

"I just spoke at a high school journalism conference in Seattle," says Savage. "There were thousands of high school journalists, and half a dozen kids approached me and burst into tears because of the difference 'It Gets Better' has made in their lives."
_____________________

When schools tell students they can't have a same-sex prom date or wear a "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe" T-shirt, advocacy firms like the ACLU, Lambda Legal and GLAAD come to their aid. They now also have a powerful ally in the White House.

"Once Obama took office, people started really running," says Deborah Temkin, the Department of Education's research and policy coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives. "We are engaged with nine other federal agencies, and I believe at last count it was 32 offices within those nine agencies all working on this issue, which is unprecedented. We came together without a congressional mandate."

Despite howls of outrage from Republicans, GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings was appointed to the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act became law, making assault based on sexual orientation a federal hate crime.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sent what's known colloquially as a "Dear Colleague" letter to every school in the country declaring this administration would consider discrimination against LGBT students a potential violation of Title IX.

"We're seeing a much more active role by this administration," says Alison Gill, public policy manager at GLSEN. "It's started to create this tipping point."

Two days after the "Dear Colleague" letter, the Department of Justice received a complaint from Wendy Walsh. She wrote that her son was harassed from the day he came out in sixth grade until the day he hung himself. Federal investigators took the case.

"Despite having notice of the harassment, the district did not adequately investigate or otherwise respond to it," the Office of Civil Rights concluded. "Based on the evidence gathered in the investigation, the departments concluded that the school district violated Title IX and Title IV."

New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Corey Stoughton reports that the Department of Justice was eager to help when she sued on behalf of Jacob Lasher, a gay student in the Mohawk school district of upstate New York who dropped out over violent threats from other students and harassment by teachers.

"They called us. They told us they'd been looking for a case to establish this Department of Justice's approach," she says of the DOJ. "The Bush administration never would have done this."

But no school district received as much national attention as Anoka-Hennepin in Minnesota. The district experienced nine student suicides in two years, many of them directly related to LGBT bullying. A district policy mandating that teachers remain "neutral" on topics of sexual orientation left the adults standing on the sidelines.

Six student plaintiffs told of being stabbed with pencils and urinated on in restrooms. The media frenzy culminated with a Rolling Stone article that caught the attention of celebrities including Aziz Ansari and Howard Stern.

"It was the first time anyone had taken any interest in what was actually going on," says Rebecca Rooker, whose son Kyle used to plead to come home from his Anoka-Hennepin school. "We got basically everything we asked for."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
37 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
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.

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.

HariKari
HariKari

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

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

Guest
Guest

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

Rbyrd2531
Rbyrd2531

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

VivaLaGalgo
VivaLaGalgo

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

Razor
Razor

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

Craigley
Craigley

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

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

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

H_e_x
H_e_x

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

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.

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.

 
Loading...