Calls on Secretary of Education to Take Action
WASHINGTON – Today the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – issued a nationwide action alert following news of a number of bullying and harassment-related suicides around the country. The alert asks Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to speak out immediately and to push every school in the nation to implement anti-bullying policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. HRC’s Welcoming Schools program provides a model of best practices for elementary schools in order to teach children respect and tolerance early on to prevent violence later in middle and high schools.
“Our schools and our nation cannot sit back and wait for the next tragedy,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Tools and resources are available to protect our children and it is adults who must act to put strong laws, policies and procedures in place.”
In the past several weeks the media has reported on a number of tragic suicides precipitated by bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. Among them are: 13-year-old Seth Walsh who after months of relentless bullying hung himself from a tree outside his California home this week; Billy Lucas of Indiana, 15, who hung himself after being called a “fag” over and over again; Asher Brown, 13, whose classmates teased him without mercy and acted out mock gay sex acts in class, shot himself in the head last Thursday; and Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi who killed himself by jumping off a bridge after his roommate secretly recorded him with another male student, then broadcast the video online. Additionally, a single school district in Minnesota has seen seven suicides in the last year by young victims of intolerance.
“This isn’t a new problem. It’s been happening for decades,” added Solmonese. “Too often, administrators fail to act, even after parents complain about the bullying at school.”
The HRC Foundation has developed Welcoming Schools – an innovative program that gives elementary school teachers, parents and students across the country the tools to help stop the name-calling, bullying and gender stereotyping that so many students face every day. It helps kids learn respect and tolerance early on, to prevent violence later in middle and high school.
Studies consistently show that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students are more likely to attempt suicide and to face violence at schools than are their heterosexual peers. In 2009, The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network surveyed 7,261 middle and high school students and found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Additionally, the alert asks people to take additional steps to help deal with the crisis of bullying in our schools. The alert allows one to write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper as well as encourages sending a link to the Welcoming Schools site to school administrators.