The tragedy endured by LGBT teens bullied at the hands of their classmates hit close to home last month when a gay Cypress student committed suicide. In late September, Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head as an escape from the taunting of classmates at Hamilton Middle School, his parents believe. According to local news reports, Cy-Fair ISD officials claim to have never received complaints from Brown’s parents, school officials, or other students about Brown’s treatment in school. Brown’s parents vehemently refute those claims. “That’s absolutely inaccurate—it’s completely false,” Amy Truong told the Houston Chronicle. “I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals.”
Students and families who believe their complaints to school officials regarding bullying and harassment have fallen on deaf ears now have an alternative to turn to. In September, the national office of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) announced it has joined with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to launch the Claim Your Rights campaign, an effort to empower students and their allies to report incidences of bullying, harassment, or discrimination to the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Education Department.
The campaign launch coincides with the release of GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey, which found that nearly nine out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students report being harassed in school in the past year due to their sexual orientation or how masculine or feminine they are in appearance or behavior.
“When students and teachers, parents and allies make reports of bullying, harassment, or discrimination directly to the Education Department, they are building a record that will confirm what we know through research and personal narratives alike: bullying and harassment is widespread, pervasive, destructive, and must be addressed,” said Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG executive director. “It is our hope that our colleagues within the Obama administration and our elected officials will take action immediately to remedy these disparities that far too many LGBT students experience daily,” Huckaby continued.
The new web project includes a basic tool kit and instructions on how to submit a report online that can be found on both the PFLAG and GLSEN’s websites (pflag.org and glsen.org). — Nancy Ford