Gay bullying must end

In wake of suicides, schools face federal scrutiny

"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.

Jamie Nabozny (right) and Bo Shafer get fitted for their wedding tuxes
Emily Utne
Jamie Nabozny (right) and Bo Shafer get fitted for their wedding tuxes

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," his mother, Jane Clementi, says. "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."

At the same time, social media has 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.

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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.

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.

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?

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

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.

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?

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

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!

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

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.

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...

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.

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.

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

To bad you are a douche!

Jack
Jack

go cry to your two Daddy's you stupid girlyboy

 
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