Gay bullying must end

In wake of suicides, schools face federal scrutiny

Gay bullying must end
Ellen Weinstein

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.

Top left: Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after he and a male date were spied on by Clementi's roommate. Top right: Seth Walsh, 13, was bullied relentlessly in his California school before he took his own life in 2010. Bottom: Becky Collins says her 15-year-old son Zach King was attacked and beaten in a classroom because he is gay.
courtesy of courtesy of thetylerclementifoundation.org and the ACLU
Top left: Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death after he and a male date were spied on by Clementi's roommate. Top right: Seth Walsh, 13, was bullied relentlessly in his California school before he took his own life in 2010. Bottom: Becky Collins says her 15-year-old son Zach King was attacked and beaten in a classroom because he is gay.
Mitt Romney: Presidential candidate and high school bully
AP Photo/William B. Plowman
Mitt Romney: Presidential candidate and high school bully

Gay kids have long been a target of bullying. Until recently, incidents could be laughed off as "pranks" and no one suffered any consequences, except 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. 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.

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27 comments
rightnow
rightnow

This article is more evidence that bullying is a national tragedy affecting young people across America and throughout Minnesota. We all need to take action against the source of bullying and let kids, parents, teachers, principals and politicians know that bullying is NOT okay. We all need to do something to make a difference. An amazing young singer-songwriter named Becca Levy is doing just that. She has started a music based anti bullying group called Right Now. Here’s a link to her video for a cover of “Right Now” by Van Halen. The purpose of the video is to promote awareness to kids using both music and the Internet. The video begins with a public service announcement and is full of statistics that people of all ages need to see. Becca lives in Washington, D.C. and just turned sixteen years old. Rightnowagainstbullying.com

Ronnie Maccallister
Ronnie Maccallister

I too, was bullied for my sexuality. Many, many times during my middle-school years, the bigger kids (relatively speaking, I was almost the smallest student) would taunt me with revolting, insult-laden scenarios and try to say I was screwing the ugliest, most unseemly-looking..... ....girls. Yes, that's right. I was bullied for my HETEROSEXUALITY. And those bullies would often physically push me into said females, all the while besides themselves with extasy. The point is, there is an infinite number of things aggressive kids can dream up to form a rationale to bully any given student. Shall we make special provisions in school policies and in the law to accomodate equally every one of those aforementioned traits? Not even remotely possible. So my question is, what makes gays so special? What makes them more worthy than me to get the Nations schools to corral resources and amend policies? What makes them more worthy than poverty-stricken kids, fat kids, kids with slight deformaties/odd physical nuances, or overtly religious kids? Whay dont' they get a day of silence? Why don't they get their own programs like Gay-Straight-Alliances? Why does the world stop every time a gay kid gets inconvenienced? Can you say, "Entitlement Status"? How can you possibly form a vedict with so many variables - the social dynamics and surging hormones that paint a teenagers world view; to find incontrovertible culpability to any one stressor and conclusively paint it as the solo cause for any given suicide? You can't, unless you're one who employs these trajedies as public-relations leverage for your social-engineering agenda.

JuliannaSmith
JuliannaSmith

There is nothing wrong being a gay. All of us have our own right to choose whatever we want to be. Discrimination is part of our life and i think all of us suffers from that but it doesn't valid reason to end our precious lives. Instead lets protect ourselves. I would like to share this safety application I found out from safetrec called the panic button. This application is a life saving tool that works on mobile phones. It can easily get help in times of real emergency. For further information about this application, just visit their website at: http://safetrec.com.

demandequality
demandequality

Arne Duncan's Office of Civil Rights is a joke - they do NOTHING to defend the rights of LGBTI children to have a fear-free education. They allowed the Anoka-Hennepin school district admniistrators to get away with murder - the suicides of the children who were bullied to death were swept under the rug. In fact if the children who were part of the lawsuit accuse the school administrators of violating their rights, they have to give their pittance of $45,000 back.

Luke Herbert who lives in Florida was viciously gay bashed in Flagler County School District. His mother filed an OCR complaint. OCR let the administrators off the hook too - they got to stop the investigation by posting this bogus school climate survey - that ANYONE can take https://www.surveymonkey.com/s...

OCR is about letting gay bashing administrators get away with violating the laws. There is not one case anywhere that resulted in the LGBTI student's right to an education without fear being upheld. Most of the students were forced out of school and OCR lied to parents about what they would do for their children. OCR incompetent idiots put the families through an emotional roller coaster. I know because I have been trying to help Luke's family and I experienced first-hand how OCR threw Luke under the bus and then ran him over.

JonnyBeGood
JonnyBeGood

All bullying must end - not just gay.

Deal With It
Deal With It

Bullying is US foreign policy -- how will we impose our failed system upon the rest of humanity in the name of "freedom" and "democracy" without bullying/state terrorism?

CinBlueland
CinBlueland

Just to ask, why is Romney's photo included in this article? Obama admitted to bullying a girl in school yet his picture isn't included? Are you advocating an end to bullying or muddying the waters by including a political endorsement?

Saynotogays
Saynotogays

o, mpt saying anyone should be bullied though. these are my opinions..

Saynotogays
Saynotogays

Maybe they shouldnt express they are gay? It is stupid sex and marriage is suppose to be between a man and a woman not a man and a man or a woman and a woman. the U.S should ban gay marriage and not support it.

Mesears12
Mesears12

And that is why State and Church should not mix. You have your belief's and I have mine, I believe God created all people, and he loves all his children. He made men and women, black and white and he made gay people too. We are free to worship our beliefs in this great country but we are not to impose those beliefs on others. Freedom

DuluthToronto
DuluthToronto

Let me add some food for thought (Jack - choosing to be gay is such a stupid statement that I won't even respond. Just like white people commenting on Native American issues, straight people need to shut up about gay issues. We don't care what you think, you've done enough to damage our lives, and you don't even know what you're talking about).

With that said, the mental health quality of gay men and women must be looked at as a whole. I came out at 14 and was NEVER treated as terribly as I was by other gay people. The comments from straight kids are nothing in comparison to the rejection, unrealistic expectations from other gays (you better be rich, wear expensive clothes, have a masters degree, be able to afford a place in DT Mpls., and look like you've got money. Otherwise nobody's gonna talk to you). So much for 'it gets better' what a load of crap. The problem comes after we all come out, absent of social skills other young adults have, so gay kids each think they individually are these unique, amazingly sophisticated people without realizing hundreds of other gay people feel that way too. We are so selfish in the way we treat other gay people - either you fit 100% of my 'criteria' or don't even bother talking to me (even as friends!). My God! What happened to coming out being an affirmation that being different was okay, differences need to be celebrated and respected, and as gay people only making up 6-8% of the population, there's not enough room for all of us, even if we don't look perfect or are over 40 or live in public housing or work at a supermarket? Why have gays adopted this rich-bitch attitude with each other?

Forwardpride
Forwardpride

Sorry you've had a negative experience--I've been out of the closet as bi since 1978 and have had a GREAT time (and I've always been poor and ugly). Certainly I've encountered some snobbish attitude in the gay community but in my experience it's been just a few people.

Jack
Jack

Hey Tonto, then quit shoving this shit down our throats! NO SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS, just because you are gay does not entitle you to anything. Idiot!

Andy H.
Andy H.

Exactly! No special considerations, just THE SAME CONSIDERATIONS AS EVERYONE ELSE. ALL PEOPLE DESERVE THE EXACT SAME FREEDOMS, RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS. The special treatment gay people are asking for is called EQUAL rights, dumb fuck.

Jack
Jack

go cry to your two Daddy's you stupid girlyboy

Brian
Brian

"NO SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS..." Does that mean that gay couples should also be allowed to marry? Or just straight couples? Remember, you said it: no special considerations.

TheBlob
TheBlob

It kind of sounds like you have your own personal shit to work through that has nothing to do with this article. Maybe others in the gay community haven't accepted you because you're kind of a negative dick. Surely you don't believe that your experience with a small portion of the gay community extends to gays everywhere. That sounds an awful lot like something a homophobe would say.

JonnyBeGood
JonnyBeGood

"straight people need to shut up about gay issues. We don't care what you think"- Obviously you do because you want the majority to vote in your favor on issues that affect you. You, sir, are a complete idiot.

Brian
Brian

Johnny, you just said that all bullying should end, but then you call Duluth a fucking idiot. Irony is not your friend.

Jack
Jack

Dumb article! Why segregate gays? Why not address bullying as a whole? It is crap like this deviding this country! How about the "new kid in town" or " the Foreigner who transfers"? Gay is a choice, just like bullying! Defend all or defend none, but quit believing you are owed special circumstances just because of your perceived issues

Brian
Brian

Exactly! Why segregate gays? Why not let gay couples have the same rights, right? Why not let people love who they want and have the same civil rights. Dividing the country indeed.

What would seem to indicate that being gay is a choice? The APA removed "gay" from the DSM (currently IV) in the early seventies. Science would not be on your side.

Forwardpride
Forwardpride

No one chooses to be gay; it's a beautiful part of nature, like left-handedness. So sad that you choose to be a lying asshole.

Jack
Jack

To bad you are a douche!

scottrose
scottrose

Stop your stupid gay-bashing and the stupid alibis that you then use to defend your stupid gay-bashing.

Andy H.
Andy H.

nice to hear from the mouth breather demographic...

StraightGrandmother
StraightGrandmother

Very Good article. Very well researched and written, loved the fact that the Journalist went and got direct quotes on the topic and didn't just rely on stuff grabbed off the internet.

I clicked on the Authors name and then went and read several more articles by Jessica Lussenhop all were of this same top quality. Jessica nice work, I predict bigger and better things for you in your future.

 
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