One in six students will be assaulted so badly at school that medical care will be required. If this were true of the overall student population, Americans would be up in arms and would not rest until the problem is solved. However, since the students being assaulted are homosexual, less attention is paid and fewer solutions are offered. It doesn’t take an online PhDto recognize that schools need to address this serious problem much more directly.
One in six lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered students faces these horrendous assaults based upon his or her perceived lifestyle. Sixty-one percent of LGBT students report not feeling safe at school and 44 percent report being physically harassed based solely upon their perceived sexual orientation. Comparatively, about 25 percent of heterosexual teens report being bullied at school.
Bullying in any form affects students’ ability to concentrate on schoolwork, but all too often LGBT students go to school fearing for their physical safety. This takes such a large emotional toll that sometimes students believe the only way to resolve the turmoil of their lives is to commit suicide.
Between July and September, 2010, four young men — Justin Aaber, age 15; Billy Lucas, age 15; Seth Walsh, age 13; and Asher Brown, age 13 — all committed suicide. These boys’ families said they had been harassed and bullied for being homosexual. Every year many young people like these kill themselves as a result of anti-homosexual bullying. The true number of victims may never be known because they often don’t feel comfortable confiding in adults about the harassment or the reason behind it.
Another tragedy occurred in September, 2011. Jamey Rodemeyer was a 14-year-old boy who’d been harassed at school and online for more than a year. Jamey had received some notoriety for posting a video on the It Gets Better website about how eventually, the harassment and intolerance for being a homosexual would stop, and that young people who are being bullied, particularly for their perceived sexuality, should not give up. Sadly, Jamey’s own stress proved too much for him to bear.
Since the school shootings of the mid-’90s at Columbine, Pearl, Mississippi, Jonesboro, and other places, schools around the nation have put additional emphasis on preventing bullying and stressing tolerance among students. However, the harm done by bullying related to sexual orientation often isn’t addressed in these lessons.
In a 2009 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight alliance, only 18 percent of teens who responded to a survey reported the anti-bullying programs in their schools addressed the issue of being bullied for perceived sexual orientation. Experts on bullying believe that if the specific behavior that needs to be addressed isn’t mentioned by name, then it probably won’t be changed. Schools want to remain neutral about sexuality issues for fear of public backlash, but so long as students aren’t explicitly told bullying on the basis of sexuality specifically is unacceptable, such harassment is likely to continue.
California’s anti-bullying program does address anti-homosexual behavior specifically. This law drew considerable fire and controversy because religious and other conservatives believed promoting tolerance of homosexuality is wrong and actually pushing a supposed gay agenda. Nevertheless, in July of 2011 Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new bill that requires California schools to teach about the contributions of sexual minorities. Although not the direct objective of the bill, many anti-bullying advocates hope students will grow more tolerant of the LGBT community through awareness of their historical accomplishments.
Every day, students in America are being bullied because of their perceived sexual orientations. The result is all too often physical harm, whether from assaults by others or at suicidal students’ own hands. America still has a long way to go to ensure liberty and justice for all, even among schoolchildren.
Special contributor: Elaine Hirsh – She is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.