A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: anti-gay bullying

Gay Teen, Bullied, Suicide — Again

Kid Being Bullied

By Meghan Lalonde

Just days have past since President Obama made history by becoming the first president to announce his support for “our gay brothers and sisters” in his second inaugural speech, but it’s clear there’s still a long way to go. It’s been over two years since names like Tyler Clementi and Jamey Rodemeyer made headlines, gay teenagers who committed suicide. Now there’s another name to add to the list: Jadin Bell.

Jadin was a 15-year-old high-school sophomore from La Grande, Oregon, and like many other gay teens, he was bullied both online and in school. Friends remembered him as “an amazing young man” who loved cheerleading and volunteering at a home for senior citizens. Last March, we reported the hopeful news that a group of gay students in Minnesota had settled a lawsuit over their school’s policy that had prohibited teachers from providing help to students affected by bullying. The news of Jadin committing suicide last week reminds us just how painful bullying can be — and sadly, still is.

My father always told me, “Suicide is such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I believe that’s what the bullying problem is: temporary. But for now it exists. There’s more work to be done beyond legally recognizing gay marriage (thank you, Rhode Island). We have to make it better for everyone.

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Anti-Gay Bullying: A Matter of Life and Death

Bullying

By Meghan Lalonde

Adolescence can be tough. Realizing you’re gay makes those years even tougher. It stands to reason that growing up as a gay or lesbian teenager in a conservative area that shuns homosexuals would be even harder.

It is. I know from firsthand experience.

Jamey Rodemayer. Justin Aaberg. Samantha Johnson. These are just a few names on the growing list of high school teenagers who have committed suicide due to anti-gay bullying.

For many students, teachers are a source of comfort and refuge from the daily insults in locker rooms, hallways, and cafeterias. They were for me.

But in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District – the state’s largest – four teenage students committed suicide directly due to anti-gay bullying that their teachers ignored. The teachers weren’t necessarily callous or even unkind. They were just following school policy.

The  “Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy” in effect in that school district –prohibited teachers from discussing sexual orientation with their students. Referred to unofficially as the “No Homo Promo” policy, it stated that teachers and staff must “remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.”  Teachers who violated this policy would face disciplinary action, or could even be fired.

And so gay (or suspected of being gay) students in this school district were often demeaned, ostracized, called “fags”, “dykes”, or worse. Complaints about the behavior were ignored, as teachers and school officials looked the other way or told students to deal with it on their own.

Last July, the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Center for Lesbian Rights sued on behalf of six Anoka-Hennepin students, claiming that the so-called “neutrality” policy created a hostile environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and failed to provide teachers and staff with clear guidelines regarding appropriate responses to sex and gender-based harassment.

School officials settled the lawsuit in Minneapolis on March 5 by a 5-1 vote of the board of education.

There has been some terrific coverage of the bullying (see especially this Rolling Stone article) but LASIS looks inside the situation through the prism of the law.   (more…)

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