Schools Ignore Gay Bullying at Their Own Peril

An Education in Abuse

Schools Ignore Gay Bullying at Their Own Peril
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.

Becky Collins (above, right) says her 15-year-old son Zach King (left) was attacked and beaten in a classroom because he is gay.
Courtesy of the ACLU
Becky Collins (above, right) says her 15-year-old son Zach King (left) was attacked and beaten in a classroom because he is gay.
The suicide of Tammy Aaberg’s (above, right) son Justin inspired 
Senator Al Franken (center) to 
pen the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act.
Courtesy of Tammy Aaberg
The suicide of Tammy Aaberg’s (above, right) son Justin inspired Senator Al Franken (center) to pen the federal Student Non-Discrimination Act.

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 past 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 might 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 Senator Al Franken to make homosexuals 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," Franken says. "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 senator 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 (GLSEN) 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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26 comments
Sugarmommydate.com
Sugarmommydate.com

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Jo B
Jo B

I think you tell big lies when you see only victims on your side.Have you ever thought what goes on in someone who got raped by a 'gay'.Protecting children would be a good thing.

I was raped when I was a teen - not by a priest - by a "normal" everyday Gay.And if I withdrew my child from a school with gay teachers, I would be on the "bad" list, maybe even on the sexual danger list.

Mind you, I was teaching not only in universities but also schools (got Ed. Psych. too) and found a boy very disturbed. It turned out: a classmate had blackmailed (only a very minor misbehaviour) to come to his home, received him in his sister's dress and make up, and forced him to be "her" "boyfriend". The background was a very dominant mother, under-heel father, two preferred daughters. Anyway, I was "homophobic", called in a good child psychologist - for both of them, because I dared think that they both needed help. That is, of course, an unforgivable crime against the poor "gay" boy and his "natural" feelings.

Media and "liberal" politicians blame everone whoever is the "suspect of the day" (with exclusion of many real ones on your side), and it is exactly that political campaign that has increased the dangers:

Hyper-liberal "families are rape and violence", "fathers are incestuous", "sex is bad - gender is good" and other "liberal" ideologies have for long worked on the destruction of these places and tradition which contained rules and orders - but were not oppressive, as "liberalism" wished to tell us, but caring, loving, and protective. That's what needs to be turned around. Huxley's "Brave new World" was not a recommendation, but a warning.

Soldeslouboutinfr
Soldeslouboutinfr

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MkeLuv
MkeLuv

But does it really ever get better? The bullying may stop eventually, and while the sense of worthlessness that you're left with for years after you graduate from high school fades, it never really goes away. I mean, getting beat up or fearing getting beat up every day for seven years because of something that is an intrinsic part of you does something to you that never really goes away. Being denigrated for being "queer" and listening to all the gay jokes forces you to internalize your classmates hatred and turn it on yourself. No one deserve that kind of treatment, the kind of self-betrayal and self-loathing that bullying cultivates.

For those of you who believe that this is "just part of growing up" and that bullying "builds character," I'd challenge you to help co-fund longterm longitudinal studies to show how bullied kids fare versus their non-bullied peers, and we can see what turns up. Because I'm willing to bet they'll tell you what I already know instinctually: kids who are severely bullied, for any reason, suffer from its effects for their entire lives.

Ron McCune
Ron McCune

“Romney likes to brag how he took a company named Bain and turned it into a money making machine so we should trust him to run the country because of that. Yet when you look at how he made Bain make money you will get second thoughts about voting for Romney. Investigate how Romney and Bain took over companies, drained their resources to enrich themselves as Romney and the investors took expensive salaries while cutting wages and benefits for workers and then shipped the jobs overseas or closed the company. Many of the companies that Bain took over were doing good until Romney and Bain got a hold of them. The few companies that Bain did take over that succeeded were retail stores like Staples and Sports Authority. However these stores sell mostly foreign made products so they aren’t helping America’s manufacturing jobs much at all. You will learn as this campaign goes on just how Romney and Bain made their money. Romney is not good for the American worker. Romney is only good for the rich as he plans, if elected president, to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich and give the rich other tax cuts and increase military spending, This will lead to higher deficits which will make Romney and the Republicans to cut the budget more which will hurt the middle class and the poor. Then Romney and the Republicans will cut or gut as many regulations and environmental laws as possible. We ALL know that lack of regulations led to the collapse of Wall Street and the BP Oil spill in the Gulf. Do YOU want another Wall Street hustle or another environmental disaster! The Republicans want to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska! What happens if we get an oil spill up there! Heck Romney and the Republicans don’t even care to do anything about global warming! Then Romney says that he wants to overturn Roe versus Wade. If Romney and the Republicans win control of the government in the next election or any election that’s exactly what they are going to do! Think about ALL of this before you vote!

Let’s talk a little more about Romney’s character. It’ been reported in the news that when Mitt Romney was a kid in school he bullied other kids. Romney says that he doesn’t remember anything about it. Let’s take a look at this story. First of all if you ever did something in your life that you know was very much wrong you don’t forget about it. You regret it for life. If you do something seriously wrong but don’t consider it a big thing and then forget about it it shows what a lowlife that you are. But for Romney to act like he don’t remember anything at all is a lie because he did harass other kids frequently so he would of remembered some of things. After all he did say that he pulled prangs on other kids and he remembers that. But Romney wants to lie about not remembering the harassment s that he did to other kids. What Mitt Romney did to those kids as he bullied them when he was young was seriously wrong because those kids felt seriously affected by it. Romney lies as he says that his harassment’s of others had nothing to do with picking on kids assumed to be gay. Yet when he attacked that kid and cut off his hair it was reported that Romney said to his followers that they should attack the kid because he was different than them and he harassed the same kid by saying to the kid in class ‘atta girl’ before the whole class many times over. Romney not only bullied those kids but he was the instigator, the leader of the bullies that harassed other kids. Those other kids with Romney most likely wouldn’t of harassed other kids had not Romney egged them on to harassed other kids. Those other kids with Romney who harassed other kids regret what they did so much that they remember what wrongs that they did. They have a conscience, an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Romney hasn’t much of a good character because what he did didn’t bother him. Romney was rude, inconsiderate, mean, and despicable to others when he was a kid just as he was at Bain and just as he was in the way he was to other Republicans in the Republican primaries. Think of how he will be as president if he wins in November. Your character shows what kind of a person that you are. Romney has shown what kind of character he is and we should be fearful of the kind of character he is to lead our nation. Romney even let an adviser go in his campaign all because the person was gay. He can’t even stand up to the Right wingers of his party as they exert their control over the Republican Party. A lying, despicable, weak spine etch a sketch president is not what America needs.

The ONLY reason that Romney uses to show why he thinks that we should elect him as our president is that he has business experience. Nothing else, no other reason! However when you look at how he operated at Bain you see that he was bad for the American WORKER as he actually cut AMERICAN manufacturing jobs as he and Bain ripped off the finances of manufacturing plants and poorly ran them till they went under and then shipped the company across the border or overseas. Most of the jobs he created were in the retail industry at Sports Authority and Staples which mostly sell foreign made goods. Retail jobs are ALWAYS American jobs because NOBODY comes from a foreign country to work as a retail clerk at ANY American retail store. So add up ALL of the retail jobs that Romney and Bain created and subtract those from how many jobs Romney says he created. Then add up ALL of the American jobs that Romney and Bain cut and let us know NEWS MEDIA! Do YOUR JOB news media and report the facts instead of repeating and echoing Romney’s lies!

Ron McCune
Ron McCune

“Romney likes to brag how he took a company named Bain and turned it into a money making machine so we should trust him to run the country because of that. Yet when you look at how he made Bain make money you will get second thoughts about voting for Romney. Investigate how Romney and Bain took over companies, drained their resources to enrich themselves as Romney and the investors took expensive salaries while cutting wages and benefits for workers and then shipped the jobs overseas or closed the company. Many of the companies that Bain took over were doing good until Romney and Bain got a hold of them. The few companies that Bain did take over that succeeded were retail stores like Staples and Sports Authority. However these stores sell mostly foreign made products so they aren’t helping America’s manufacturing jobs much at all. You will learn as this campaign goes on just how Romney and Bain made their money. Romney is not good for the American worker. Romney is only good for the rich as he plans, if elected president, to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich and give the rich other tax cuts and increase military spending, This will lead to higher deficits which will make Romney and the Republicans to cut the budget more which will hurt the middle class and the poor. Then Romney and the Republicans will cut or gut as many regulations and environmental laws as possible. We ALL know that lack of regulations led to the collapse of Wall Street and the BP Oil spill in the Gulf. Do YOU want another Wall Street hustle or another environmental disaster! The Republicans want to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska! What happens if we get an oil spill up there! Heck Romney and the Republicans don’t even care to do anything about global warming! Then Romney says that he wants to overturn Roe versus Wade. If Romney and the Republicans win control of the government in the next election or any election that’s exactly what they are going to do! Think about ALL of this before you vote!

Let’s talk a little more about Romney’s character. It’ been reported in the news that when Mitt Romney was a kid in school he bullied other kids. Romney says that he doesn’t remember anything about it. Let’s take a look at this story. First of all if you ever did something in your life that you know was very much wrong you don’t forget about it. You regret it for life. If you do something seriously wrong but don’t consider it a big thing and then forget about it it shows what a lowlife that you are. But for Romney to act like he don’t remember anything at all is a lie because he did harass other kids frequently so he would of remembered some of things. After all he did say that he pulled prangs on other kids and he remembers that. But Romney wants to lie about not remembering the harassment s that he did to other kids. What Mitt Romney did to those kids as he bullied them when he was young was seriously wrong because those kids felt seriously affected by it. Romney lies as he says that his harassment’s of others had nothing to do with picking on kids assumed to be gay. Yet when he attacked that kid and cut off his hair it was reported that Romney said to his followers that they should attack the kid because he was different than them and he harassed the same kid by saying to the kid in class ‘atta girl’ before the whole class many times over. Romney not only bullied those kids but he was the instigator, the leader of the bullies that harassed other kids. Those other kids with Romney most likely wouldn’t of harassed other kids had not Romney egged them on to harassed other kids. Those other kids with Romney who harassed other kids regret what they did so much that they remember what wrongs that they did. They have a conscience, an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Romney hasn’t much of a good character because what he did didn’t bother him. Romney was rude, inconsiderate, mean, and despicable to others when he was a kid just as he was at Bain and just as he was in the way he was to other Republicans in the Republican primaries. Think of how he will be as president if he wins in November. Your character shows what kind of a person that you are. Romney has shown what kind of character he is and we should be fearful of the kind of character he is to lead our nation. Romney even let an adviser go in his campaign all because the person was gay. He can’t even stand up to the Right wingers of his party as they exert their control over the Republican Party. A lying, despicable, weak spine etch a sketch president is not what America needs.

The ONLY reason that Romney uses to show why he thinks that we should elect him as our president is that he has business experience. Nothing else, no other reason! However when you look at how he operated at Bain you see that he was bad for the American WORKER as he actually cut AMERICAN manufacturing jobs as he and Bain ripped off the finances of manufacturing plants and poorly ran them till they went under and then shipped the company across the border or overseas. Most of the jobs he created were in the retail industry at Sports Authority and Staples which mostly sell foreign made goods. Retail jobs are ALWAYS American jobs because NOBODY comes from a foreign country to work as a retail clerk at ANY American retail store. So add up ALL of the retail jobs that Romney and Bain created and subtract those from how many jobs Romney says he created. Then add up ALL of the American jobs that Romney and Bain cut and let us know NEWS MEDIA! Do YOUR JOB news media and report the facts instead of repeating and echoing Romney’s lies!

Jade
Jade

It is our responsibility to address the problem. A Presidential candidate that signs a document that may send young men to die on foreign soil has the personage that will acknowledge the gay/lesbian attacks in favor of the individual concept of freedom? I sincerely doubt that level of concern regards that brand of morality.

Andrewwright12
Andrewwright12

Gay kid has bangs cut off, screams, runs away from school....Straight kids get beaten up, deal with it daily.'Adversity strengthens the soul' as a wise dude once said. Get a sense of proportion, folks!

Bev
Bev

Someone once said this so well. "Live and let Live" we should never try and Judge someone forbeing something we do not fully understand.

LIMEN !
LIMEN !

I knew that I was gay by the time that I was 3 years old. I just knew. And no one was going to change me. No matter how many times that I got beaten. At more than 60 years old it disqusting, offensive, and repulsive that people who are not homosexual think that they know what or who a homosexual is. Their the scew-up that need to hate people that they do not even know. The truth is that their not secure or happy with-in them selfs, so they need some one to look down on. They should look real long and hard at the misfit monkey in the smeared mirror. I see GOD my creator as the only one that was the right to judge. For he created me. Iwish that we lived in a better society, country, and world than we do. It's those so called holier than though that are the real f-ups in this world. They take great joy in hurting others that are different than them. In turn they slowly fade away into their patheticness. Your a perfect creation of GOD! Be proud! Heterosexual are way far more miserable than we gays are! It's their karma pay back that they get for hurting us. 1 in 2 marriage end in divorce! Pay backs a real bitch. Love your self as GODS'S gift to you and only you. He loves you. Do not beleive the blind indoctrinated sheepish followers. That can't think it out for them seleves. So they need some one to tell them what to think. Just ask GOD to be your Divine guide under all your lifes circumstances. And know that the true GOD is personified in your being!

Rahiq Syed
Rahiq Syed

If the gays would grow a pair and stop acting like little girls perhaps they would not have this issue. I don't feel sorry for any boy who likes to wear dresses.

DuluthToronto
DuluthToronto

I just want to add that as someone who came out at 14, I saw all sides of this - in fact, other gay people are even more ruthless, rejecting and mean-spirited towards each other, thanks to the absence of social skill development and ability to grow up because we never got a chance. Now all that rage we have from being bullied, we take it out on each other.

Straight friends, if you want to help, help us by including us in your lives. We need to feel like we have a shot at finding friends and relationships just like you do. Supporting gay marriage is nice, but I'm telling you from the front lines that most of us aren't even meeting anyone, if we do, it's over within weeks, and while it's great we come out online, very few gay people are coming out in real life. How are we supposed to find anyone if everyone's hiding at home? There is no excuse for anti-gay bullying, but I'll tell you from experience what makes a gay person end it: once it's realized that not only is the straight world cruel, mean and unkind, but the gay world looks for any spot of weakness amongst its own and exploits it (a la 'Mean Girls' attitudes). Most gay people feel good about themselves when they see another gay person succumbs to suicide or gay bashing (the 'hey, at least it wasn't me! I guess I'm not that bad off after all!'). This has to stop within the gay community. It's not funny, it doesn't make you 'better' and it means you're no different from the bullies because you DID NOTHING to prevent it.

Melissa Alter
Melissa Alter

My brother was bullied for people thinking he was gay...and it was more than horrible...I never thank Presidents for something because I always know there is an agenda behind it...but thanks Obama....the only agenda for anti-bullying is to stop it before it happens

bub
bub

I'm all for the schools not teaching some crap about homosex is bad yadda yadda. But as someone who was a freak in high school and had to fight to survive every day until I finally dropped out, I just wonder how so many people seem to think youth culture is shaped by what Miss/Mr. So-and-so said in health class.

Also, the evangelicals are a factor obviously when it comes to issues like gay marriage, but in my experience the bullies were just dumb nihilist assholes. The abstinence ring wearing, straight-laced goodie-goodies might have all grown up to vote Republican, but in school they were not the bullies. If anything they were another sub-category of outsiders in their own right.

Where I was, the issue was simple enforcement. It was open season on the freaks. Conversely, I was constantly being suspended and even placed in alternative school for defending myself. To give some benefit of the doubt to those who don't deserve it, I'm willing to bet that if every kid who threw the first punch at one of the freaks had been suspended, those kid's parents would have made a big stink about it.

Guest
Guest

This piece makes heterosexuals appear as if they are not human beings at all, but rather barnyard animals.

bobbybluetoyou
bobbybluetoyou

I think you tell big lies when you post here. Clearly, you need your meds. And a gander at Matthew 7 : 1-5

Michaelmous1
Michaelmous1

Good lord what a confused, disturbed individual you present yourself as here. Your remarks have no bearing on the issue of bullying of gay youth but concern a whole other topic (rape). Clearly you are unable to show empathy for gay kids and your hysterical anti-gay rant here is simply bizarre. I have also been abused as you say you have but that does not prevent me from delineating between valid social issues. I find your remarks here deeply homophobic and stereo-typing of Gays as child rapists.Clearly you need help and I hope you find some before you fear and loathing destroys others.

Dog Eater Obama
Dog Eater Obama

al franken must be a cock sucking dope who got bullied...god bless cock sucking al franken.

Jla47
Jla47

Any time any child gets beaten by his classmates, it's wrong. I can agree with that position. What you may not understand is that gay children are singled out far more frequently. Even straight kids who may APPEAR gay to some bullies are tortured. I have spent over 40 years in schools and this issue is clearly not a question of "adversity strengthens the soul." It's an intimidation of a person's spirit and it effects are lifelong.I suggest that you rethink your position.

LIMEN !
LIMEN !

Who the hell do you think you are thinking that you have aright to judge an other person, because that their a transsexual. All true gays or homosexual have an inner feminine soul. No matter how much you can not handle or accept it. The Native Americans called gay men he-shes, and female gays she-hes. And they were not only highly respected and held in high honor! Far greater than we are now. You wipe your rectum your way . And do not think or worry how they wipe their a$$. I would say that you still are very unready, fearful, and incapable in accepting and embracing you natural femininity. Untile you do you will never be full and truly complete, AND TRUE TO YOUR SELF.

guest
guest

Actually, most writers for this mag are hetero, so this feature obviously is not trying to smear heteros. And, is your slur against barnyard animals apt? Though some do, most barnyard denizens do not engage in systematic bullying of their fellow inmates.

LIMEM !
LIMEM !

Your very wrong , chickens are the worst. Where do you think the term, peckking order comes from. I was a farm boy and raised 1,200 a year. And I hate chickens. The word foul is well placed.

 
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