WASHINGTON – Buried in the proposed rewrite of the nation’s massive education law are protections for gay and lesbian students that its supporters liken to the landmark 1972 protections for the rights of female athletes in high school and college.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday released a 1,150-page revision of the law governing the nation’s elementary and secondary schools, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but more commonly called No Child Left Behind.
In it, they include student nondiscrimination language that, if passed, would threaten schools’ funding if gay and lesbian students are bullied or harassed.
The supporters praised the language as similar to Title IX, the federal law chiefly known for mandating gender equity in high school and collegiate sports.
The legislation’s text on gays and lesbians begins on Page 694 of the massive school bill.
“This is a significant moment for our nation’s education system and one that addresses the vital needs of all students in K-12 schools,” said Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “We are thrilled that the Senate is moving to address the long overdue issue of school bullying and harassment. This bill includes critical components to ensure safer learning environments.”
The bill bans discrimination against students who are gay – or who are perceived as gay – in any program that receives federal education dollars. Schools that do not provide sufficient protection to gays and lesbians could find their dollars cut.
“No child should dread going to school because they don’t feel safe,” said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin. My proposal extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who shouldn’t ever feel afraid of going to school.”
Two years ago, Franken offered a similar provision to the same education bill and likened it to Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women.
At the time, Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wanted the rewrite to have bipartisan support coming out of his committee. Franken withdrew the provision.
The full Senate did not vote on the 2011 bill.
This time, Harkin, D-Iowa, applauded the protections “because every child deserves a safe and healthy place to learn.”
“These provisions will help to ensure that all students, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, are treated fairly and afforded equal opportunities to succeed in the classroom,” Harkin said.
The provision was not highlighted in the news release announcing the bill, which would rewrite parts of the 2001 law to give states greater flexibility in improving schools.
Harkin’s committee planned to start work on the bill on June 11, but Democratic aides said the bill had not yet been scheduled for consideration by the full Senate. Aides suggested it could be autumn before it reached all senators.
The gay protections are a minor part of the sweeping bill that governs all schools that receive federal dollars for poor, minority and disabled students and those whose primary language is not English.
Twenty-nine percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied at school or online, according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. Its definition of bullying included name-calling, rumors, physical harm or exclusion from activities.
The statistics do not indicate a cause for such bullying.
The most well-known parts of the education law up for debate are its one-size-fits-all national requirements. Under Harkin’s rewrite, states would develop those standards for themselves but they would require Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approval.
The state-by-state approach to education standards is already largely in place in the 37 states that received waivers to the requirements in exchange for customized school improvement plans. Some of those states already operating under waivers would have to tinker with their improvement plans to comply with the proposal. Other states would be forced to develop their own reform efforts.
The overhaul faces an uphill path and its gay provisions weren’t expected to win it support from Republicans.
A politically polarized Congress has failed to renew the law since it expired in 2007. Harkin’s Republican counterpart, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has supported updating No Child Left Behind, but his approach has not always melded with Harkin’s.
Lawmakers in the Republican-led House, meanwhile, were reluctant to take steps that could be seen as telling local schools how to best teach their students and enrage tea party activists. Many GOP lawmakers also have been critical of Duncan’s tenure as secretary and are unlikely to rush to give him more authority.
A separate legislative wrangle over student loans is certain to get higher priority. Interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans are set to double on July 1 without congressional action. Competing versions of legislation to avoid that increase on students are making their way through the House and Senate.
from The Associated Press
Archive for the ‘Gay Bullying’ Category
WASHINGTON – Buried in the proposed rewrite of the nation’s massive education law are protections for gay and lesbian students that its supporters liken to the landmark 1972 protections for the rights of female athletes in high school and college.
OHIO – Faggot. Queer. Girl.
That’s what Will Baublit says classmates called him every day in the fifth grade.
They tripped him in the hallway, knocked his books out of his hands, threatened to bust his head open. At a football game, a group beat him up.
The year before, the classmates had been his friends. They’d known one another since the first grade at East Knox Middle School in rural Knox County northeast of Columbus. But in fifth grade, Will revealed that he was gay, and everything changed.
After repeated requests to school administrators to stop the bullying, the family sued the district in federal court. Though the district denied the claims, the lawsuit was settled in the family’s favor.
Now, two years after the bullying started, Will and his mother, Kari Baublit, are sharing their experience in the hope that their story will help other bullied children.
“I felt betrayed by the friends I’d had,” Will said. “I had a lot of friends. But once I came out, they were like, ‘We don’t like you anymore. I don’t want a gay friend.’??”
Normally chatty and cheerful, Will withdrew from those around him.
“I’d come home very angry,” he said. “They’d say stuff all day.”
He begged to stay home from school.
“He’d say, ‘My elbow hurts,’ or ‘My hair hurts,’??” his mother said. “Anything he could think of. He was to the point where he was saying he hated me because I made him go to school.”
The harassment got so bad, Will said, that he thought about killing himself. His parents were afraid to leave him alone even after he promised his mother he wouldn’t take that ultimate step.
Complaints to teachers and school administrators brought assurances that the bullies would be “ talked to.” Mrs. Baublit said she spoke more than 30 times to the middle-school principal, the high-school principal and the district superintendent.
“They always tried to turn it around, to say, ‘What did he do to make them do that?’?” his mother said.
When Will showed a teacher a text message calling him a girl, the teacher told him he wouldn’t be harassed “if you wouldn’t act like one,” he said.
The bullying — and his mother’s complaints about it — followed Will into sixth grade. In November 2011, Mrs. Baublit pulled her son out of East Knox and began home-schooling him.
About the same time, Columbus lawyer Alexander M. Spater volunteered to investigate Will’s claims. His law partner, C. Raphael Davis-Williams, sued East Knox administrators, staff members and school board members on behalf of Will and his parents in December 2011.
The federal lawsuit accused the school district of acting “with deliberate indifference to the known acts of sex-based harassment,” which it said were “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that Will was “effectively barred” from an education in the district. “We just wanted him to be able to go to school without getting picked on,” Davis-Williams said.
In court records, the district denied the claims in the complaint. As hearings, depositions and motions in the lawsuit rolled along, home-schooling continued for Will until his family was able to move out of Howard in Knox County into a home in Mount Vernon, about 8 miles to the west. Now 13, Will enrolled in Mount Vernon Middle School as a seventh-grader late last fall.
“I enjoy going to school now,” he said in a recent interview. His mother said that statement was music to her ears. That doesn’t mean he isn’t sometimes called a name or made fun of. It happens occasionally. But that’s quite different from having an entire class picking on you, he said.
“At Mount Vernon, when a person is being bullied, that person and the bully both go to talk to a counselor,” he said. The subject also is discussed in class; Will’s teachers are aware of his earlier problems.
“If you bully other people, it shows you don’t have self-confidence and you hate the whole world,” Will said. “I tell kids who are gay that there are going to be people who make fun of you. But not the whole world.”The lawsuit against East Knox was settled in February. The district did not admit guilt but agreed to pay Will $45,000.
District staff members and administrators won’t discuss the case, on the advice of their attorneys, district Superintendent Steve Larcomb said. He succeeded Matthew Caputo, who was superintendent when Will attended East Knox and is now a school principal in another district.
Also gone is high-school Principal Ryan Gallwitz, who had been assigned to handle student bullying at the time. He’s now a middle- and high-school principal in another district.
Davis-Williams said he couldn’t discuss the settlement because of its confidentiality clause. But he knew that, around the time Will withdrew from East Knox, the district was setting up a program to discourage bullying. He said he has been assured that the program has been instituted.
“There’s going to be another Will,” Davis-Williams said. “If we don’t do something about this 11-year-old kid, what will happen to the next 11-year-old kid?”
Seeing the district make changes was the main objective, the Baublits said.
“We just don’t want this to happen to somebody else’s kid,” Mrs. Baublit said. “They need to know it’s OK to be different. They just want to be accepted, accepted for who they are. Somebody out there is going to benefit from this story.”
from The Columbus Dispatch
FLORIDA – Florida school officials may be liable for blocking a protest of gay bullying but an injunction is unnecessary to protect the same event scheduled for next week, a federal judge ruled.
Amber Hatcher sued the Desoto County School District Board of Education and three school officials after they allegedly prevented her from organizing and participating in a National Day of Silence honoring the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who face bullying and harassment.
Hatcher claims that she wore a “non-vulgar” T-shirt for the Day of Silence on April 20, 2012, and remained silent at school. Though the day proceeded without incident, Hatcher says she was removed from her third period class and disciplined because of her First Amendment activities.
Desoto County High School principal Shannon Fusco later attributed the disciplinary action to Hatcher’s protest activities. Fusco said in an email that “only two students received any consequences from protesting for LGBT day of silence.”
Fusco and the board moved to dismiss, but U.S. District Judge John Steele preserved most claims Friday for trial.
The 15-page ruling dismissed a claim for damages against the board and Fusco in her individual and official capacities for violation of equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and Section 1983.
In upholding the other claims, Steele noted the allegation “that Principal Fusco refused to allow plaintiff to engage in any of her requested activities relating to that year’s National Day of Silence.”
“At least some of these proposed activities were well within the First Amendment and required no approval by any school official, e.g., remaining silent outside of class, communicating in writing or by dry erase board outside of class, non-vulgar conversations about the upcoming National Day of Silence,” according to the ruling. “Plaintiff has also satisfactorily alleged, based upon the emails of the defendants, that there is an established unwritten policy or practice absolutely banning all ‘protest’ speech at the Desoto County schools that is contrary to the School District’s written policy and the First Amendment. … A blanket policy against ‘protest’ speech of any description is incompatible with longstanding First Amendment principles.”
In a separate opinion, Steele refused to grant Hatcher an injunction that would block school interference with the National Day of Silence planned for April 19, 2013.
“The attorney for the school board has stated that plaintiff may engage in literally all the conduct described by her attorney to the court,” Steele wrote. “While plaintiff is skeptical, counsel for the school board also pointed out that both the principal and the superintendent involved in the conduct underlying this case are no longer employed by the school board. The court has no basis to believe that the school board’s counsel has misled the court in his representation, or to believe the school board will not honor the position its authorized legal representative has articulated.”
A properly phrased injunction is unlikely to solve the First Amendment issues of this case, according to the ruling.
“The court finds that short of saying ‘obey the law,’ there is not a preliminary injunction which has been suggested that is sufficiently unambiguous as to the conduct proscribed so as to provide meaningful guidance as to the conduct being enjoined,” Steele wrote.
from Courthouse News Service
How Dare You Be Quiet In Class?
EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS – A “bully” at Mason Clark Middle School in East St. Louis wrote a word often used as slur against homosexuals on the neck of a student, according to the victim’s mother.
Ruth Childs said the incident happened on Monday and school officials confirmed that it did happen.
“He was resting his head on his desk and a boy wrote it on his neck,” Childs said. “I saw it when he got home and called the school after taking a picture of it.”
Caylend Childs spent the entire school day with it on his neck.
“He did not know it was there, but all the kids were laughing at him,” Childs said. “It was written in permanent marker.”
Childs said her son was also attacked in school bathroom this school year.
“They kicked in the stall door and kicked Caylend in the back.” she said. “Urine got all over him.”
School officials released the following statement:
“Each incident was investigated and the students responsible were immediately disciplined according to district guidelines.”
However, Childs said her son has been “damaged” by the incidents.
“It has really changed him into someone who tries to get out of going to school,” Childs said. “It is heartbreaking for me.”
School officials said Caylend would be monitored to make sure nothing else happens.
“We just want it to stop,” Childs said.
from FOX 2
CANADA – This was never meant to become a battle, and Evan Wiens didn’t expect to find himself in the thick of it. Instead, it all began as routine: Manitoba’s government, spurred by the high-profile suicide of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, tabled a bill that would beef up its bullying laws.
Worded as a largely boilerplate protection of “a safe and inclusive learning environment,” Bill 18 drew little attention at first. But it has become a flashpoint. Opponents say the bill threatens religious freedom by broadly defining bullying and protecting gay-straight alliances (GSAs) but not mentioning faith groups.
The backlash is most acute in Steinbach, a small city of about 13,500 people southeast of Winnipeg. It’s there that the local MP – cabinet minister Vic Toews – has joined the local MLA and religious leaders in speaking out against Bill 18.
And it’s Evan’s home.
The 16-year-old is trying to start a GSA at the public Steinbach Regional Secondary School, where he’s the only student who has come out as gay. He’s become the face of Bill 18 in the city where it’s most strongly opposed. And it’s not easy.
During Evan’s interviews, with cameras rolling, other students shout slurs at him. He shrugs it off as best he can, saying he’s fighting for those who feel they can’t speak out.
“They should not have to feel ashamed, and they should not have to feel like they have to hide themselves,” said the 16-year-old, who was shy, at first, about his fight. “But then I thought about it, and I thought if a church is allowed to vocally oppose a bill, what’s so bad about me standing up for my rights?”
He has many opponents. In a sermon last month, Steinbach pastor Ray Duerksen of the prominent Southland Church called Bill 18 “the biggest challenge the Canadian church has ever faced.” He opposes bullying of any child, but argues the bill protects gay kids more than religious ones.
“It’s going to be the beginning of an incremental attempt to destroy the Christian church. That’s what’s taking place. That’s the agenda behind the scene,” he said in the sermon, likening same-sex intercourse to adultery, bestiality and pedophilia. A local Christian high school held an information and prayer session on Bill 18 later that night.
Mr. Toews, a lawyer, said in a recent letter to constituents he believes Bill 18 represents an “unconstitutional infringement upon the freedom of religion.” Through staff, he declined an interview.
Specifically, critics say the bill defines bullying very loosely and offers no clear punishments in the guidelines. “The issue we have here is how do we get a bill that protects all kids?” said Kelvin Goertzen, the local Progressive Conservative MLA. Bill 18 has “gotten more attention than any bill I can remember,” he said.
The bill allows schools to respond to bullying that takes place after-hours, including text messages and social media, while GSAs – clubs for all kids who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights – would be specifically permitted.
“The sad reality is homophobic discrimination is still an accepted form of discrimination in some circles. And Bill 18 is the best way to support some of our students,” Education Minister Nancy Allan said, adding: “This is about safe schools, young people reaching their potential.” She spoke to Evan earlier this month, congratulating him. “He is just remarkable,” she said.
Manitoba’s education system is the latest in Canada to find itself weighing religious and gay rights. GSAs saw the Toronto Catholic District School Board square off with the Ontario government. A Catholic high school in Whitehorse was under fire this month for saying homosexuality is immoral. Alberta passed a law four years ago allowing parents to pull children from any class in which sexual orientation would be discussed.
Randy Dueck, the superintendent overseeing Evan’s school, said current policy already allows for GSAs, and Bill 18 wouldn’t change that. But Evan said current rules ban him from putting up any posters as church groups do.“They already have all the freedoms. I’m just trying to put up a poster,” he said.
He laughs when asked about the big names opposing him, saying it’s empowering. “People never expect a youth to challenge the government, or challenge what your local MLA’s stance is on something,” he said. He has a simple message for bullied teens.
“I’ve gone through a lot of hard times, but I’ve grown as a person. I want them to know that it’s not a bad thing to be yourself, and you don’t have to be ashamed to walk down the hallway and say, ‘Hey, this is who I am.’ ”
from The Globe And Mail
It really does get better for gay and bisexual teens when it comes to being bullied, although young gay men have it worse than their lesbian peers, according to the first long-term scientific evidence on how the problem changes over time.
The seven-year study involved more than 4,000 teens in England who were questioned yearly through 2010, until they were 19 and 20 years old. At the start, just over half of the 187 gay, lesbian and bisexual teens said they had been bullied; by 2010 that dropped to 9 percent of gay and bisexual boys and 6 percent of lesbian and bisexual girls.
The researchers said the same results likely would be found in the United States.
In both countries, a “sea change” in cultural acceptance of gays and growing intolerance for bullying occurred during the study years, which partly explains the results, said study co-author Ian Rivers, a psychologist and professor of human development at Brunel University in London.
That includes a government mandate in England that schools work to prevent bullying, and changes in the United States permitting same-sex marriage in several states.
In 2010, syndicated columnist Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” video project to encourage bullied gay teens. It was prompted by widely publicized suicides of young gays, and includes videos from politicians and celebrities.
“Bullying tends to decline with age regardless of sexual orientation and gender,” and the study confirms that, said co-author Joseph Robinson, a researcher and assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. “In absolute terms, this would suggest that yes, it gets better.”
The study appears online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, said the results mirror surveys by her anti-bullying advocacy group that show bullying is more common in U.S. middle schools than in high schools.
But the researchers said their results show the situation is more nuanced for young gay men.
In the first years of the study, gay boys and girls were almost twice as likely to be bullied as their straight peers. By the last year, bullying dropped overall and was at about the same level for lesbians and straight girls. But the difference between men got worse by ages 19 and 20, with gay young men almost four times more likely than their straight peers to be bullied.
The mixed results for young gay men may reflect the fact that masculine tendencies in girls and women are more culturally acceptable than femininity in boys and men, Robinson said.
Savage, who was not involved in the study, agreed.
“A lot of the disgust that people feel when you bring up homosexuality … centers around gay male sexuality,” Savage said. “There’s more of a comfort level” around gay women, he said.
Kendall Johnson, 21, a junior theater major at the University of Illinois, said he was bullied for being gay in high school, mostly when he brought boyfriends to school dances or football games.
“One year at prom, I had a guy tell us that we were disgusting and he didn’t want to see us dancing anymore,” Johnson said. A football player and the president of the drama club intervened on his behalf, he recalled.
Johnson hasn’t been bullied in college, but he said that’s partly because he hangs out with the theater crowd and avoids the fraternity scene. Still, he agreed, that it generally gets better for gays as they mature.
“As you grow older, you become more accepting of yourself,” Johnson said.
from The Associated Press
TULARE, CALIFORNIA – The bullying began in the seventh grade for 17-year-old Calen Valencia.
He struggled through rampant homophobic taunts and other harassment at the hands of his peers after coming out as bisexual. So much so that his parents transferred him out of his Tulare-area middle school by the eighth grade.
“It was a really bad and toxic environment to be in,” said Valencia, a high school senior who adopted the name “Calen” and now self-identifies as a transgender, and as a male.
Students and advocates say too few outreach services and support networks exist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in Tulare County.
That’s one of the reasons why Valencia started a Gay-Straight Alliance club on his high school campus a year ago. The meetings, thus far, have been well-attended by a crosshatch of the school’s population, and the immediate support has made Valencia feel less isolated, he said. But the efforts outside of the school setting, he said, have not gone as far.
“There’s this stigma about LGBT youth,” Valencia said. “People here are taught not to speak about it.”
Despite anti-discrimination laws and growing sentiment toward the gay rights movement, gay and lesbian teenagers who live in rural and high-poverty communities face increased amounts of bullying and harassment than their peers in suburban and urban areas, according to a 2009 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network published in the “Journal of Youth and Adolescence.”
“This is not really a supportive place for LGBT youth,” said Alicia Crumpler, a professor of criminal justice at College of the Sequoias and the co-advisor of the college’s Pride Club.
In the past month, she said, the college has had to help two students who had been kicked out of their homes after coming out to their parents. She said COS has been supportive to its LGBT population, but disapproval among some staff and students does exist.
“It can be difficult for those students growing up here,” Crumpler said. “We have so many students who have become disenfranchised or who have been disowned from their families.”
“We don’t have a lot to offer students here in the South Valley,” said Crumpler, despite local chapters of high-profile organizations like Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Trevor Project and the Visalia Pride Lions Club.
Bullying and teasing, both online and in person, has long been noted as a troubling trend for gay, lesbian and questioning youth. Though experts say that it is worse for secondary school students, it doesn’t always clear up by the time students make it to college.
It can happen here
When Eric James Borges hung himself in January, news of his death sent shockwaves throughout the Central Valley’s LGBT community and supporters. Borges, 19, was an outspoken advocate for gay rights who volunteered for the national nonprofit organization The Trevor Project.
LOS ANGELES – For Elliott Sitz, fifth grade was a bully-plagued blur.
One day his elementary school classmates’ taunts focused on his long brown hair, the next on his friends, all of them female.
“They would say, ‘Oh, are you gay?’ ” Sitz, now a junior at Downtown Magnets High School, recalled. “It would happen every single day, all day long.”
By middle school, hallway shoves and a barrage of gay epithets became the norm. He dreaded school.
For students such as Elliott, a newly forged partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, among others, seeks to change the district’s culture and attempts to eliminate bullying. The groups got together after a cluster of gay teenagers nationwide committed suicide after being bullied.
Project SPIN, which stands for Suicide Prevention Intervention Now, was officially launched Wednesday at a news conference at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex.
Board of Education President Monica Garcia hugged Lorri Jean, chief executive of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, saying the two groups have worked hard to help Los Angeles’ gay, lesbian and transgender youth.
The two met a couple of years ago after Jean, appalled by the student deaths, reached out to Garcia.
“The school district had a long history of helping these youth,” Jean said. “But we knew even more could be done.”
The district spent the last two years working with and learning from the gay and lesbian center.
“We have spotlighted these issues,” Garcia said. “We have brought it up a notch.”
Training is one of the program’s biggest efforts. About 3,700 people within the district — teachers, administrators, students and parents — have received training in such matters as suicide prevention and how to create a safe classroom climate. Sometimes, the sessions’ goals are as seemingly simple as becoming more comfortable with the word gay.
Project staff also get involved in campus situations.
A tussle broke out at a district school recently, for example, and a gay student, the target of the fight, was expelled along with the rest of the group, according to Sara Train, Project SPIN coordinator.
“We jumped in and said, ‘You cannot expel the victim here,’ ” Train said.
This isn’t the district’s first foray into these issues.
In 1984, Virginia Uribe, a science teacher at Fairfax High School, started Project 10 — named for the percentage of the population some believe to be homosexual.
Then in 2005, the district became the nation’s first to adopt a high school health textbook with a chapter covering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. And last year, a state law required school districts to use textbooks and lessons that highlight contributions from those groups.
Judy Chiasson of L.A. Unified’s Human Relations, Diversity and Equity Office said the new program sends the district’s long-standing message of acceptance, but in a louder voice.
“It’s a bigger statement,” Chiasson said. “These two huge leaders from different sectors are saying, ‘We’re here for you and we believe in you.’ ”
For Teresa Sitz, Elliott’s mother, the district was her backbone.
“Beyond just helping us get through it, we got eased into becoming advocates,” she said. “It gave us power to reach out and help people, which I thought was really brilliant.”
from The Los Angeles Times
INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Public Schools did nothing to stop the “relentless, severe harassment” of a gay student at Tech High School, according to a lawsuit filed against the district Friday.
Darnell “Dynasty” Young, 17, and his mother, Chelisa Grimes, are suing the district, seeking unspecified damages over a series of alleged bullying incidents that led Young to fire a stun gun at the school this spring to scare away bullies.
The family’s attorneys say the district discriminated against Young because, despite repeated complaints, IPS didn’t protect him from bullies who taunted him for being gay.
“All students should be able to get an education without fearing for their physical safety, and they should be able to rely on school administrators to protect them when abuse does occur,” Christopher F. Stoll, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights who is working on the case, said in a prepared statement.
According to the suit, the assailants used homophobic slurs, spat at Young and threw rocks and glass bottles at him, but administrators blamed Young, who carried his mother’s purses and wore her jewelry to school.
“Rather than take effective measures to protect him, school staff told him that he was to blame for the harassment because of his appearance and told him to change his dress and behavior to conform to stereotypical ideas of masculinity and to be less ‘flamboyant,’” the suit says.
The family’s attorneys claim in the suit that the district violated Young’s civil rights and the U.S. Constitution because, among other things, it discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation and it tried to get him to change the way he dressed, a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
The district, the School Board, IPS Superintendent Eugene White, Tech Principal Larry Yarrell and Assistant Principal Debra Barlowe are named as defendants.
IPS spokesman John Althardt said Friday that the district’s attorneys would “review the information and we will respond accordingly,” but he would not comment further.
Grimes has said she gave Young the stun gun so he could protect himself because she feared he would be hurt.
He fired it in the air during a passing period April 16 when six kids allegedly approached him and threatened to beat him up.
Young was expelled until January for having the device, but in August, the district reduced the penalty so he could start the fall semester on time. However, IPS said he would have to go to an alternative school. Young declined to come back to IPS and is attending Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, a charter school, for his senior year.
The suit also questions whether the district followed proper expulsion procedures. It alleges that Young was told he would have to “dress and behave in a manner that conformed to Principal Yarrell’s notion of appropriate masculinity” if he wanted to avoid expulsion.
The school hasn’t punished the people who allegedly threatened him because Young couldn’t identify them, Yarrell said this spring.
In a prepared statement, Young and Grimes said they pursued the suit to make sure other students who are bullied get help.
“The harassment and abuse I went through at Tech was horrible,” Young said in a prepared statement Friday. “I want to make sure that no other student in the Indianapolis Public Schools ever has to go through that. I hope this lawsuit will get IPS to change the way it deals with kids who are being harassed. Schools should protect students like me instead of telling them to change who they are.”
from Indy Star
Darnell ‘Dynasty’ Young Has Encounter At Mall
Gay Teen Expelled For Using Stun Gun
Bullied Gay Student Faces Expulsion After Firing Stun Gun
VIRGINIA - College student Jordan Addison may have had to drive a car with its windows bashed in and the words “die fag” keyed into his door for four months, but this Monday, a Virginia auto shop surprised him with a big gift.
Richard Henegar Jr., the manager of Quality Auto Paint and Body in Roanoke, teamed up with 10 other businesses to repair the Radford University student’s car, which Addison says was vandalized on four separate occasions because he is gay.
“I was entirely speechless,” the student told the Daily News. “I just walked around saying, ‘Oh, my God, this is not my car.’”
Henegar and fellow volunteers spent 100 hours and over $10,000 adding a new scratch-resistant paint job, new tires, tinted windows, a new stereo, and a new security system to Addison’s 1999 Volkswagen.
“We don’t take kindly to discrimination of any sort here,” Henegar told the Daily News. “I was bullied in high school and a little bit in the service and I saw an opportunity to help somebody out.”
Henegar, who was informed of the situation in the spring by a friend who works at Radford, said he was shocked when he first saw Addison’s trashed car. The student had tried — unsuccessfully — to hide the slurs with spray paint and because he couldn’t afford new tires, had fitted several mismatched pair to his axles.
“As soon as I saw his car, I said, ‘We’re gonna fix this, it’s the least we can do,’” he said.
Getting local businesses to pitch in took a few months, but Henegar says just about everyone he contacted in the industry was more than happy to help.
The effort came together in beginning of August. First, Addison was given a small, red Fiat thanks in part to an Enterprise car rental agency for the two weeks of repairs. At that point, Henegar had only told Addison that his door would be repaired.
Working at night after hours and on weekends, Henegar and his team repaired the damaged car, inviting Addison back in August 20 for his big surprise.
“It just restored my faith, my good faith, in people,” Addison said.
The aspiring Ph.D. student moves back to college on August 23. He said he plans to park his revamped car in a gated parking lot with camera surveillance.
“It’s a spot that I paid for so no one will mess with it,” he said.
from The New York Daily News
Patrick Schwarzenegger is only 18 years old, but he’s already following in his famous father’s footsteps in the acting profession. One of his latest projects is a public service announcement to promote Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and ET went behind the scenes of his photo shoot.
“The overall campaign is like a movement to spread kindness,” Patrick said during a break from shooting. He also said the campaign comes at the right time — with kids returning to school in a process that can be nerve wracking and scary — and described the PSA’s message as “promoting bravery and acceptance.”
Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation has teamed up with Office Depot’s Back-to-School Kindness Campaign — allowing students to purchase gift cards, post-it notes, bracelets and other items containing positive messages. Office Depot gave $1 million to the Born This Way Foundation and is also donating 25 percent of sales from campaign-related products.
Patrick said he was excited to get involved in the campaign with Lady Gaga, whom he admires for her anti-bullying efforts. “She was bullied and obviously some people were cruel and mean to her when she was growing up. But I think the world and society accepted who she was. And now her level of fame and success shows other kids that they can really be who they are.”
from Entertainment Tonight
Patrick Schwarzenegger For Hudson Jeans
Parents are urged to teach their kids to speak up if they witness school bullying in new ads that target an issue that top Obama administration officials vow to make a national priority.
A long-term campaign featuring television, print and web ads was unveiled Monday and will start running in October. The campaign is a joint effort by the Ad Council, a nonprofit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, a group that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda and Mel Brooks.
In one television ad, two girls are seen bullying a schoolmate, mocking her appearance and telling her that nobody likes her. A fourth girl looks on but doesn’t intervene.
“Every day, kids witness bullying,” says a narrator. “They want to help, but don’t know how. Teach your kids how to be more than a bystander.”
Online and print ads will warn parents that their kids regularly encounter negative messages such as “you’re worthless” and “everybody hates you.”
The ads were unveiled Monday at an annual anti-bullying summit hosted by the Department of Education in Washington, where lawmakers, educators and government officials convened to develop a national strategy aimed at ensuring a safe, healthy learning environment for students. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the summit Monday, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver a keynote speech on Tuesday.
Once considered an unpleasant but inescapable part of adolescence, bullying has been thrust into the national conversation by a string of high-profile suicides by students who were later revealed to have been bullied.
Of particular concern to education advocates is bullying directed against students perceived to be gay or lesbian – such as Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old who killed himself in 2010 after allegedly being bullied online by his college roommate, who was convicted of invasion of privacy and other charges for using a webcam to film Clementi and another man kissing.
Sebelius told the summit that suicides by teenagers and children had served as a national wake-up call.
“Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up,” Sebelius said. “It’s a systematic situation that threatens the health and well-being of our young people. It’s destructive to our communities and devastating to our future.”
Sebelius said school districts and states are aggressively working to quell school bullying, noting that 36 state anti-bullying laws were enacted in 2009 and 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added bullying to its regular survey of risk behavior in schools.
She added that cyberbullying has become a top concern as students increasingly communicate through social media, text messages and the Internet.
“We are all responsible for our children’s safety,” Sebelius said. “And no one can afford to be a bystander.”
from The Associated Press
CHILLICOTHE, OHIO – A Ross County school district has agreed to pay up to $35,000 and improve its anti-bullying policies in a settlement with a gay high school student whose videotaped beating went viral on the Internet.
The Union-Scioto school board last night approved an agreement stemming from another student’s assault on Zach King, then a 15-year-old freshman, in a Unioto High School classroom on Oct. 17.
King and his mother, Rebecca Collins, claimed that school officials “fostered an atmosphere” that permitted the bullying of students who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender while disregarding his reports of harassment.
The district admitted no wrongdoing in the agreement in which the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio represented King and his mother.
“We hope similarly situated students don’t have to go through what Zach went through. The school district has made a commitment to try to avoid incidents like this in the future,” said James Hardiman, a Cleveland lawyer and the legal director of ACLU of Ohio.
The school district’s insurer will pay $20,000 in damages to the Kings, provide up to $10,000 in reimbursement for medical and counseling expenses and pay $5,000 in legal fees to the ACLU.
Union-Scioto school officials also agreed to develop “acceptable policies to address the alleged intolerant behavior … against LGBT students,” create an effective complaint program and train staff on “cultural understanding” of harassment of LGBT pupils.
School officials referred questions to their lawyer, Rick Ross, of Columbus. He called the assault on King “very unfortunate,” but said the district does not believe it contributed to the incident.
“They’re reviewing their processes and want to put this behind them,” Ross said. “They are interested in protecting the safety of all students.”
King was known as Zach Huston when he was attacked last fall. His assailant, then a 15-year-old student, was sentenced to 90 days in a juvenile-detention center after pleading guilty to the assault.
The case gained national attention when a cell phone video of the attack shot by another student was posted on the Internet and attracted tens of thousands of hits.
from The Columbus Dispatch
ACLU Threatens Lawsuit Against Unioto High School
For gay Indianapolis teen, incident at Circle Centre mall adds to anguish
The community will rally today in support of a gay teen who was expelled from an Indianapolis high school last week and, police say, recently attacked at Circle Centre mall.
Darnell “Dynasty” Young was banned from Tech High School for bringing a stun gun to school to protect himself from bullies. Friday, police say, he was attacked in the mall food court by a 34-year-old man who had recognized him from media coverage about his circumstances.
The man, Khyran R. Delay, Indianapolis, has been charged with battery and remains in the Marion County Jail.
The rally had been planned before the mall incident and aims to raise awareness about bullying. It will start at 6 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Plaza with speeches and be followed by a march to the Indianapolis Public Schools administration building to protest as School Board members begin their 7 p.m. meeting.
Young will speak at the rally.
“We’re not just fighting for me,” he said. “We’re fighting for other children that lost their lives. We’re fighting for people that’s going through stuff that I’m going through.”
He said he fears for his life after the bullying and the incident at the mall, where he works.
According to court documents, Delay told mall security officers that he recognized Young from news coverage and tried to talk to Young about it. He said Young got in his face and that he pushed Young.
But Young and Donald Richardson, a janitor who witnessed the incident, told police that when Young walked past Delay’s table in the food court, Delay told Young to get away from him and used homophobic slurs. They said Delay pushed Young and then hit him in the face, according to court documents. Richardson radioed for mall security, and Delay, angered that security had been called, approached him. Security officers arrived and detained Delay.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer Eric Simmons, who investigated the incident, said in court documents that he noticed redness in Young’s left eye where Delay allegedly struck him.
Delay was arrested, and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office has charged him with a misdemeanor count of battery. Delay is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.
He declined an interview from jail Monday.
Young said mall security has offered to escort him to and from the shop where he works.
Young’s mother, Chelisa Grimes, said she was glad that the mall was taking precautions. The family has said that officials didn’t do enough to help Young when he complained about bullying at school. Students taunted him with homophobic slurs, followed him home from the bus stop and some threw rocks at him as he walked home from his job at the mall. She said the school told her that he was too flamboyant because he wore her jewelry and purses, so she gave him the stun gun to protect himself.
Young took out the stun gun and fired it in the air April 16 when he said a group of students approached him and threatened to beat him up.
Grimes said she hopes people who attend the rally today realize that, while arming children might not be the answer, people do have the right to protect themselves.
“It’s not wrong to stand up for yourself,” she said. “It’s not.”
Some protesters have signed up to speak at the IPS school board meeting.
Kim Hooper, a spokeswoman for IPS, said the group has the right to rally and those who have signed up in advance will be allowed to speak at the board meeting.
The protesters plan to be peaceful and to focus on their message, said Graham Brinklow, education outreach coordinator for Indiana Youth Group, which provides support and programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens. Indiana Youth Group is supporting the rally, and Executive Director Mary Byrne is expected to speak at the school board’s meeting.
“All in all,” Brinklow said, “we want safe schools for all children.”
from The Indianapolis Star
Gay Teen Expelled For Using Stun Gun
Bullied Gay Student Faces Expulsion After Firing Stun Gun