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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | LGBTI / Queer
Religious Right Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for LGBTI Students
The religious right is trying to protect bullies that instigate with LGBTI students, claiming that the rights of the bullies to express themselves freely is being infringed. Instead of trying to make peace with students of different sexual orientations the religious right wishes to further increase suicide and violence in schools by becoming enablers of hostile bullies. The protectors of bullies will have more blood on their hands as school suicide and violence isn't getting better, now this pro-bullying campaign by the religious right is making the situation even worse.
entire article here;
Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids
"Students deserve an education that is free from bullying and harassment, and in many districts parents, teachers, principals, community members and students are working together to create a safe and welcoming environment for all children. Bullying can impede learning and ruin lives. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said, “bullying is doubly dangerous because if left unattended it can rapidly escalate into even more serious violence and abuse.” Close to nine in ten Americans believe that bullying is a “serious problem,” and many communities are directly challenging harassment and violence in schools.
However, many Religious Right activists want to derail efforts to combat bullying. An increasing number of conservative leaders and organizations have fiercely opposed anti-bullying programs developed by schools and education groups for the sole reason that such programs identify and attempt to combat the widespread bullying of LGBT youth.
Rather than recognize and address the problem of bullying against students who are gay or perceived to be gay, Religious Right groups want schools to embrace a policy of inaction. Many resort to repeating discredited lies about sexual orientation and vilifying the LGBT community and its allies to back up their opposition to anti-bullying programs that mention anti-gay bullying. Concerned students, families, teachers, education professionals, and public officials should not be fooled by the far-right’s attempt to smear anti-bullying programs, and should instead ensure that schools address bullying with a direct, honest and comprehensive approach.
Facing the Problem
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and those perceived to be LGBT, encounter unique problems at school. LGBT youth are often not open about their sexual orientation to their families or friends, who are often an important support network for young people who are bullied. In many cases these children even face hostility from their families, other students, and school officials because of their sexual orientation.
The bullying of LGBT students has become a full-scale crisis: the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that close to 85% of LGBT students reported harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and nearly 20% reported “being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.” GLSEN found that peers and school officials frequently dismiss or mistreat LGBT youth who seek out help. According to GLSEN, more than six in ten LGBT students “reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation,” and LGBT youth were far more likely than other students to miss class or school “because of safety concerns.” Not only does bullying damage academic and social prospects and emotional wellbeing, it has also contributed to dramatically higher rates of homelessness and suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center reported in 2008 that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth “are nearly one and a half to three times more likely to have reported suicidal ideation” and “nearly one and a half to seven times more likely than non-LGB youth to have reported attempting suicide.”
“It would be difficult to overstate the impact of stigma and discrimination against LGBT individuals in the United States,” the researchers said, adding that “stigma and discrimination are directly tied to risk factors for suicide.”
Just in the past month, numerous stories have emerged about the harassment gay and gay-perceived youth face every day at schools. A North Carolina girl who was president of her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club was physically attacked by a fellow student, and the school failed to conduct a serious investigation; a gay Wisconsin teenager encountered death threats but received no support from his school or law enforcement; a gay Florida student’s teacher openly mocked and criticized his sexual orientation in class; and a California teacher “drew an ‘S’ on a student’s hand and repeatedly referred to the student, who was wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Gay is Good,’ as a sinner throughout class.”
But Religious Right groups demand that schools deliberately ignore the harassment of gay and gay-perceived students, and believe schools should pay no attention to anti-gay bullying when formulating bullying reduction plans. This resistance to building an amicable and nonthreatening environment for LGBT youth in schools has its origins in right-wing conspiracies about the gay community and the education system.
Blaming the Victims
In one of the crudest aspects of the Religious Right’s desperate efforts to block schools from putting anti-bullying programs in place, many right-wing activists are suggesting that the LGBT community should be blamed for bullying. Their stigmatizing and demonizing rhetoric only exacerbates problems by making bullies feel justified when they torment their gay peers while pushing gay youth on a path of shame, depression, and self-hatred.
AFA’s Bryan Fischer blames LGBT suicides on gays and lesbians who allegedly “recruit” students through “brainwashing” in school. “I’m suggesting that adults that pressure these students to declare a disordered sexual preference when they are too young to know better, that they share some culpability for those who take their life,” Fischer explains, “it would be just like an adult encouraging a young student to experiment with injection drug abuse.”
Barber of Liberty Counsel maintains that gay youth commit suicide because they intuitively know what they are doing is “immoral.” Barber claimed:
“Kids who are engaging in homosexual behavior often look inward and know that what they are doing is unnatural, is wrong, is immoral, and so they become depressed and the instances of suicide can rise.”
FRC’s Perkins wrote in the Washington Postthat gay rights groups are “exploiting [youth suicide] tragedies to push their agenda.” He said that the gay rights community is to blame for cases of suicide among gay teenagers, rather than the people who condemn and attack them:
Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal--yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are ‘born gay’ and can never change. This--and not society's disapproval--may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.
Like Perkins, Barb Anderson of the Minnesota Family Council suggested that safe school organizations such as GLSEN “are creating an environment where these children that are sexually confused suddenly become affirmed as a homosexual or that they are born that way, and then these kids are locked into a lifestyle with their choices limited, and many times this can be disastrous to them as they get into the behavior which leads to disease and death in some cases.”
Linda Harvey of Mission America said that LGBT students feel “utterly hopeless” after undergoing a process of “cruel sexual manipulation.” “As the supporters of homosexuality nudge kids into a known risky behavior,” Harvey said, “they simultaneously suppress, marginalize or mischaracterize traditional views that discourage homosexuality.”
Proponents of discredited ex-gay “reparative” therapy believe that rather than addressing anti-gay bullying, schools and society should stop tolerating and affirming LGBT students and instead encourage them to alter their sexual orientation.
Focus on the Family’s True Tolerance campaign launched what it calls a “Day of Dialogue” to challenge GLSEN’s April 15 “Day of Silence,” an existing program designed to allow students to bring awareness to the issue of bullying targeting gay and lesbian students.. On the “Day of Dialogue,” taking place on April 18, Focus encourages high school and college students to speak to their peers about their opposition to gay rights. According to Jim Daly, head of Focus on the Family, the Day of Dialogue is needed because students who oppose gay rights face a “discouraging” environment and “one-sided” views on sexual orientation.
The Day of Dialogue is the successor to the “Day of Truth,” which was founded by the Alliance Defense Fund and then led by the “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International. One of the Day of Dialogue’s top coordinators is Jeff Johnston, a prominent “ex-gay” activist and past director of Exodus, who sees the Day of Dialogue as an opportunity to encourage students to help those who are “messed up sexually” and for gay students to take “the road out of homosexuality.”
Identifying, addressing, and tackling the problem of anti-gay bullying is an essential part of any bullying prevention program.
The Religious Right’s staunch opposition to comprehensive anti-bullying programs is symptomatic of the movement’s opposition to any recognition of the rights and dignity of LGBT people. The movement’s efforts to block anti-bullying programs by perpetuating groundless myths of indoctrination, special rights, and reparative therapy should be rejected by school officials and other policymakers.
Ignoring the clear signs of bullying directed towards gay and gay-perceived students does more than perpetuate the problem and lend undeserved credibility to Religious Right attacks on LGBT people and their allies. It undermines the creation of safe and welcoming schools, and puts the well-being and the very lives of American students at risk."
BTW - Bullying in schools isn't just towards gay students, anyone different can be targeted by bullies. Though this went on for decades prior to Columbine, the recent school shootings and cyberbully suicides on the internet have brought this issue to the forefront. Bullying is considered enforced social conformity, the "normal" kids target the "different" kids as the minority group. This could be for racial, religious, sexual orientation (perceived or real), size (too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny, etc...), wearing glasses (geek, nerd, etc...) and countless other reasons of difference.
What happened decades prior to Columbine was that bullied kids often "went quietly into the night" and were never heard from again. Shamed of suicide (by religion) prevented families from discussing the loss of their loved one openly. Those who were able to survive bullying remained closeted and buried the feelings to get by, though often suffered from stress related illnesses in their adult life.
If bullying in schools isn't addressed in a responsible manner, and officials do not recognize their inability to enforce this when contradicted by religious extremists, there will be more Columbines to come. We cannot expect youth to "go quietly into the night" as in days of old. The message is to stop bullying or allow students who do not fit in to be home schooled or have other schools specific for bullied students.
If bullied students are forced to attend schools with their bullies as Noel Estevez (perceived gay) was in NYC, then we will certainly witness more violence and bloodshed in schools.
Adults should have more compassion for teenagers and those younger who suffer through bullying in schools and often develop mental health problems that may last into adulthood. Any wonder why so many adult criminals have a history of either being bullied or were bullies themselves? This bullying also creates "aggressive victims" or "bully/victim" who are extremely unstable and describe the two Columbine shooters as well as others.
Some simple advice to avoid "piling your teens' bodies up to the sky";
Religious folks need to treat their faith based beliefs like their genitals; Do NOT display them in public (including schools!) and do NOT shove them down you children's throats.
If this simple advice isn't followed, the result will be a continuation of already existing violent suicides as emotionally stressed bullied teens are forced to take matters into their own hands. There are no adults in the room at the public schoolhouse, so what does anyone expect?
"Load up on guns, bring your friends..."