Tag Archives: Bullying

Matthew Shepard: 13 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

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Texas Teacher Harassed by “Christian” Student Claiming 1st Amendment Rights

28 Sep

Dakota Ary

Some of you may have heard about Dakota Ary, the Fort Worth high school student who claims he was suspended for expressing his religious beliefs. Ary claimed that his German teacher broached the topic of homosexuality and Christianity when Ary stated “I am a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong.” Ary was then sent from the classroom and suspended for 3 days.

Up until today, the teacher in question had not been allowed to speak about the incident, but via the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., a rather different story is being told. According to teacher Kristopher Franks, a group of four students, (of which Ary is one) has been harassing him based on their suspicion that he is gay. Franks’ version of the story follows:

On the particular day in which this incident occurred, Mr. Franks was opening class when the topic of Christianity in Germany was broached by one student, who asked what churches were there, another whether they read the Bible in English, etc. Franks asserts that the topic of homosexuality was not broached in any way, and that Ary‘s assertions to the contrary are entirely false. At this point, Ary declared, with a class audience, “Gays can’t be Christians; homosexuality is wrong,” looking directly at Mr. Franks. Franks says he understands and affirms students’ right to free speech, and that he is perfectly prepared to lead a respectful discussion on topics such as gay rights that allows for the assertion of opinions with which he disagrees. He has led such discussion in the past in his sociology classes. But in this case, hr feels the context makes it clear that this remark was made ad hominem, aimed specifically at him to devalue him and any information he might share on the topic of religion, on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation.

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. goes on to request assistance in making sure Franks’ side of the story is heard fully. The contact info will be at the end of this post. One can’t help but consider the case of another student who took it upon himself to spread his beliefs about homosexuality while still young, impressionable and naive. We’ve written about Ryan Miner here before and his crusade to keep a Gay Straight Alliance group from forming on his former college campus. Miner  said some rather vile things in the press and like former Senator Rick Santorum, he now finds himself with a Google problem.

When Miner has applied for jobs, he’s admittedly found a great deal of difficulty in getting hired due to his previous bigoted statements. In this day and age, let’s face it – unless you’re working at the National Organization for Marriage, you will have to work with some LGBT people – and who wants to hire someone who is a known bigot and will likely cause friction among their coworkers? Miner has recently issued an apology for the things he said, though in an effort to discover Miner’s earnestness, we requested he do more (i.e. volunteer for an LGBT charity, donate to LGBT causes, etc). Our requests for Miner to back-up his new found “respect” for the LGBT community have gone unanswered.

Please read the rest of the post from LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S and help in any way you can.

It would be very helpful, and a grace rendered to the threatened teacher, Mr. Franks, if you and other community members would write letters and/or email messages to the school board members, assistant superintendent, and Western Hills High School principal, calling on them to give a respectful, caring, and full hearing to Mr. Franks’ side of the story. Time is of the essence: He is being interrogated by an external investigations group today, though no specific allegations have yet been made against him by the ISD. I will post their names, phone numbers and email addresses below. Please keep all messages respectful and restrained, calling simply for a fair, respectful and caring hearing of Mr. Franks’ side of the story, unswayed by the public outcry generated by the slanted media coverage. Do not go into the speculations or reports of his side of the case; that is for him to present.

Walter Dansby
Interim Superintendent
Fort Worth ISD
Email: walter.dansby@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.871.2000

James Wellman
Principal
Western Hills High School
Fort Worth ISD
Email: james.wellman@fwisd.org
Phone: 817.815.6000

Ray Dickerson
President
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: ray.Dickerson@fwisd.org

Carlos Vasquez
Board Member, District 1
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: carlos.vasquez@fwisd.org

Norman Robbins
Board Member, District 7
Board of Education
Fort Worth ISD
Email: norman.robbins@fwisd.org

Is it Getting Better? 14-Year Old Gay Bullying Victim Lost to Suicide

20 Sep

Jamey Rodemeyer

This weekend, after years of bullying, and telling anyone who could listen about it – 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer took his own life.

Since 5th grade, Jamey had been dealing with taunts from his classmates and routinely blogged and posted online about what he was going through. He would speak against bullying frequently and even call out his own school which he said was doing nothing about it. Just last week, Jamey wrote:

“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me fag and tearing me down.”

His attentive parents frequently would speak to him about what he was going through and in recent months, it seemed as though either the bullying had subsided or that Jamey had learned how to brush it off. but then late Saturday night, Jamey posted two final comments to his Tumblr blog – the first saying how he wanted to see his Grandmother (who had recently died) and another was a message of thanks to Lady Gaga. The following is a line from Lady Gaga’s song, “The Queen”

According to Buffalo News, “He touched so many hearts, so many people,” said his mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, who met with some of his grief-stricken friends at Williamsville North on Monday. “I didn’t realize how many people he touched. He was the sweetest, kindest kid you’d ever know. He would give all his heart to you before he gave any to himself.”

Olivia Rinaldo, an eighth-grader at Heim Middle School, said she was drawn to his outwardly upbeat and extroverted personality. He made friends of the friendless, she said.

“He was always putting people first,” she said. “He always wanted other people to smile, even on the worst of his days.”

Jamey also had a Formspring account which allows anonymous comments to user’s posts. In recent months, some of those commenters said things including:

“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT ANND UGLY. HE MUST DIE!”

“I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it 🙂 It would make everyone WAY more happier!”

Jamey is another in a long line of teens who’ve succumbed to endless bullying and torture. This is not a rite of passage. Being tormented can make some stronger and cause them to come out of it and succeed in spite of their bullies. But some of us aren’t prepared for the kind of harassment young LGBT kids receive.

We need to be doing more.

Just a few months ago, young Jamey made this “It Gets Better” video. It’s very difficult to watch knowing what this child was going through when he made it. Despite his own circumstances – it was important to him that he help other kids feel better about themselves. Please watch and share Jamey’s story so that maybe one more kid won’t have to go through this.

Tennessee HS Student Threatened With Suspension for Attempting to Start GSA

9 Sep

Nathan Carroll

Tennessee High School Senior Nathan Carroll has been bullied most of his life for being gay. The openly-gay teen attends Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, TN and decided a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is needed at his school.

Nathan started a petition at his school to get support to start a GSA while kids opposing it started a similar petition. Despite Nathan’s efforts and the nearly 150 teens who’ve signed the petition, when he brought it to Principal Maurice Moser, he was threatened with suspension should he proceed in trying to form the GSA. Additionally, the Principal said that any students found with one of Nathan’s petitions would have the petition torn up and thrown away and that they be sent immediately to his office for further punishment.

Of course students are legally allowed to start the club should they find an adviser, which according to WATE Channel 6 News in Tennessee, is close to happening.

We put in a call today to Principal Moser and are awaiting a response as to why he would threaten to suspend students wanting to start this club.

UPDATE: Please see our follow up Exclusive: Tennessee High School Principal Responds

The school already hosts a student club called Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). According to the FCA Website:

“Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.”

No clubs recognizing any other faith or denomination can be found on the school’s website.

Miami-Dade Schools Increase Protections for LGBT Students, Staff

21 Jul

Save Dade's CJ Ortuno (Photo by Jamie McGonnigal, EqualityPhotography.com)

According to a press release from Talk About Equality friend, CJ Ortuno at SaveDade.org, Miami-Dade Schools have just announced increased protections for LGBT students. Three years after having passed the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act,  which prohibits the bullying or harassment, including cyber bullying, of any public K-12 student or employee, Miami-Dade County Administration amended their policy to be explicitly inclusive of students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The policy will now include “sexual orientation and gender identity” providing clearer protections for LGBT students.

“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.

According to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (84.6%) experienced harassment at school in the previous year. Miami-Dade County provides significant support through public school programs and nonprofit organizations for LGBT students.

“SAVE Dade’s contribution is to strengthen policies in hope that it provides some clarity for adults and students on the frontlines of bulling – if a teacher knows and understands that gay students are explicitly protected from bullying, it could result in a report that saves a young person’s life,” said Ortuno.

The new policy updates will go into effect Friday, July 22, 2011. An English version will be posted on the school board’s website at that time, with Spanish and Creole versions to follow.

The new policy language will read:

“Bullying, Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Discrimination (as referred to and defined herein) encompasses, but is not limited to, unwanted harm towards a student or employee based on or with regard to actual or perceived: sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical, mental, or educational), marital status, socio-economic background, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, linguistic preference, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or social/family background. This policy prohibits bullying or harassment of any student by any Board member, District employee, consultant, contractor, agent, visitor, volunteer, student, or other person in the school or outside of the school at school-sponsored events, on school buses, and at training facilities or training programs sponsored by the District.”

 

Christian College Freshman Harassed By Students and Professors

9 May

Isaia Thomas (photo by John C. Whitehead for The Patriot News)

Openly gay freshman Isaiah Thomas has discovered Messiah College in Grantham, PA is not quite a good fit. According to PennLive, The student has been through hell at the Christian College – from having his wallet, room key and student ID stolen just a month after school started to having a professor call him “an abomination” in class to receiving a death threat on his facebook page. Isaiah has decided to transfer at the end of the semester.

The Christian College requires all students to sign a “Community Covenant” which forbids homosexual behavior, according to school provost Randy Bassinger. he also claimed the school had a very strict harassment policy and has investigated the claims from Isaiah, but they refuse to release the results of any of those findings.

What we find most interesting about Isaiah though is not that he was harassed and is leaving, but he actively worked to change the school’s policies. He is the secretary of the multicultural council, a member of the black student union and by invitation, vice president of the Middle Eastern Student Association. And when Isaiah learned about the Covenant, he actively worked for more inclusion, but each teacher he spoke to defended the covenant.

Back in March, we reported that another Christian school, Harding University was under fire from LGBT bloggers and press after they blocked an HU gay student website from being accessed from on-campus. The University defended it’s bigotry and it’s censorship of several students continues.

WATCH AND SHARE: The Kids Are Listening

4 May

With the non-stop influx of social media nowadays, it takes something really special to break through and make you take more than a glance at something. And today, this little video popped up on my facebook feed and I knew I had to do more than take a glance:

I followed through to the website listed on the video and I discovered what looks to be a moving and desperately-needed campaign aimed at improving the lives of LGBTQ foster youth. This is quite clearly the most underserved portion of our community and we must do more to include these kids in our conversations around equality.

According to the campaign running The Kids Are Listening website:

The Opening Doors Project works to make life better for LGBTQ youth today. The project is dedicated to training and supporting the legal and social service professionals on the front lines to ensure that LGBTQ foster youth have the support they deserve and the rights they demand.

Through on-the-ground trainings, local task forces and comprehensive research and training material The Opening Doors Project provides the legal community with the advocacy tools they need to successfully represent LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Also on the site, you can sign up to receive more information from the campaign. The pledge you sign is also linked to the It Gets Better Project.

So many organizations and campaigns come and go and I truly hope to see more from the people who put together this stirring video. Please share the video wherever you can and visit their site to find out more.