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.
By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
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.
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.
"When Matthew Shepard died, that's when folks really started to really pay attention to what was happening in the lesbian, gay, bisexual community outside of AIDS, and really focusing on youth," says Laura McGinnis, communications director for The Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention group headquartered in West Hollywood, California.
Allies of gay youth compiled research showing gay teens are overwhelmingly more likely than heterosexuals to face harassment at school. The most recent figures from GLSEN reported that 84.6 percent of LGBT students are verbally harassed. A third of gay kids had skipped school within the past month because they were afraid of their classmates.
A Northwestern University researcher just published the first longitudinal study on LGBT youth and suicide. It found that victims of bullying were two and a half times more likely to attempt suicide or hurt themselves. It also showed that even when the kids had supportive figures in their lives, harassment still correlated strongly with suicidal thoughts.
"The vast majority of LGBT youth in our sample had experienced some kind of victimization," says Dr. Brian Mustanski, the lead author and director of the IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program. "People had spit on them or yelled at them, threatened or physically attacked them."
By the time the suicides of September 2010 arrived, the correlation between gay bullying and self-harm was becoming too obvious to ignore.
"We should no longer accept the idea that bullying is a rite of passage for young people," says Carolyn Laub, the founder and executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, based in California. "What we know from years of practice on the ground is that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment and name-calling are learned behaviors, and they can be interrupted and stopped."
What gay students go through isn't bullying as it's conventionally understood.
"Those kids have not been bullied; they've been harassed," says Dr. Susan Strauss, author of Sexual Harassment and Bullying: A Guide to Keeping Kids Safe and Holding Schools Accountable. "It requires the schools to respond differently. It's important for parents to know if the school doesn't respond, they can file charges with the state's Department of Civil Rights."
In one GLSEN survey, a scant 9 percent of school principals believed anti-gay bullying was happening "often" in their schools. Nearly all of the schools had anti-bullying policies in place, but only 46 percent specifically mentioned sexual orientation. Similarly, 49 states have anti-bullying laws on the books, but only 14 of them include protection based specifically on sexual orientation or gender identity.
"You can craft that in such a way that the school has the ability to really step in with any bullying it sees, and at the same time put other schools and students on notice," says Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director with the Human Rights Campaign, headquartered in Washington DC. "There are certain types of bullying that occur more frequently and are a huge problem, and we won't ignore it."
It's not just a matter of semantics. A growing body of research shows that students who attend schools with "enumerated" gay bullying policies heard fewer slurs and were one-third less likely to skip class. A California Safe Schools Coalition report found that kids felt safer in school when they knew they had access to information about LGBT issues.
"We know that there are things that happen in a school that make it less likely for these kinds of behaviors to be enacted," says Dr. Stacey Horn, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
That makes laws that attempt to cover up the gay bullying problem all the more insidious. States that have "no homo promo" laws on the books have significantly fewer Gay Straight Alliances. This year, "Don't Say Gay" laws gained traction in Tennessee, Utah and Missouri — they would make any mention of homosexuality in school impermissible.
And there are troubling new programs schools use to block potentially life-saving information. In Camdenton, Missouri, a school district fought back when the ACLU's Don't Filter Me Campaign asked it to dismantle Web filtering software that prevented access to educational LGBT Web sites like Campus Pride. In the ensuing court case, a federal judge ruled that "Camdenton's Internet-filter system stigmatizes, or at least burdens, Web sites expressing a positive view toward LGBT issues."
Camdenton may not be the worst of it, according to Chris Hampton, of the ACLU's LGBT Project. "We got tons of reports of this going on all over the place," she says. "We even found a few schools that blocked us while 'pray away the gay' Web sites are accessible."
In the Internet age, bullying doesn't stop when kids leave school — it continues online.
Take Zach King for example. A 15-year-old boy from rural Ohio, King was beaten so badly in a high school classroom that two of his teeth were chipped. But it wasn't until King got home and logged in that he realized the beating had been recorded with a cell phone camera.
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.
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."
Years of denial finally ended when the district tossed out its "no homo promo" policy and agreed to five years of DOJ monitoring as well as a raft of anti-harassment precautions.
"This is a groundbreaking, historic agreement that will be used as a model across the country to deal with these issues," says attorney Zachary Stephenson, who helped represent the students.
One of the conditions of the settlement is that Anoka-Hennepin is required to hire several consultants on sex discrimination and mental health. In the running for one of those positions is Jamie Nabozny, who has firsthand experience. Growing up in small-town Wisconsin, he was shoved into lockers, urinated on and beaten so badly in a hallway that he had to have stomach surgery.
In 1996, Nabozny sued the school's administrators. His bully took the stand and testified that their principal knew about the violent abuse. The jury found that Nabozny deserved equal protection based on sexual orientation under the U.S. Constitution and awarded him almost $1 million.
"That hadn't been done before," says Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director at Lambda Legal, the firm that represented Nabozny. "And still we're lacking a federal law that is specific on protection for students on the basis of sexual orientation."
Nabozny realized how little had changed since his experience and started speaking in schools two years ago. He's since received apologies from former classmates and even the children of his bullies.
"A lot of people in the country don't care if gay people have the right to marry — they didn't think too much about LGBT rights," Nabozny says. "Then people saw kids were killing themselves and said, 'Wait a minute, this isn't okay.'"
On a recent evening, Nabozny looked skeptically at his reflection in a multi-faceted mirror. He was dressed in a sleek black tuxedo coat.
"Can't we just wear suits?" he begged.
"No," answered Bo Shafer, the man standing next to him wearing a matching ivory tuxedo coat.
In September, Nabozny and Shafer are getting married in front of 150 guests, despite the fact that the nuptials will not be legally binding.
"We still have people who are very intolerant out there — they're fighting our right to be with who we want to be with, and love who we want to love," Nabozny explains. "The marriage debate is much more heated and controversial. Protecting kids in school is not."
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.
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!
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.
Another fucking moron.
Kids are bullied for all kinds of reasons, not just because of their sexuality.
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?
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.
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.
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
I think you are missing the point. Always before it was considered ok by society and teachers to bully gay kids.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Straight kids are being harrassed for being straight? I didn't know. Got any examples of this happening?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.