It’s National Gay Straight Alliance Day!

While Idaho lawmakers hammer out an anti-bullying bill and Rep. Bob Nonini (R-Post Falls) decides whether or not to introduce his bill that would require parental consent for student participation in school clubs and activities, GSA clubs across the state and around the country are observing  the first ever National Gay Straight Alliance Day!

According to the National GSA Day website,”As of 2011 there were approximately two dozen states that have a state GSA network in some capacity.  A majority of these organizations are completely led by volunteers.  Less than half a dozen have full time paid staff.  Some of the state networks are housed within a larger LGBT organization within their states.”

A study released last fall showed that:

-Students at a school with a GSA were less likely to experience depression and more likely to have higher self-esteem.

-Students at a school with a GSA were less likely to drop out and more likely to succeed in higher education.

-Participation in a GSA was associated with fewer problems with substance abuse, depression, and lifetime suicide attempts.

-Having a perception that a GSA effectively promoted school safety was associated with less depression, fewer problems with substance abuse, and greater college  attainment.

The National GSA  Day website recommends adults use the day to acknowledge the courage and bravery of students involved in making their schools safer for LGBTQIA students.

It also suggests using your Facebook page, blog or Twitter account to tell the world about how important it is for LGBT and allied people to come together to fight homophobia, transphobia, bigotry and hate. Mentioning that you’re a parent or family member, teacher, counselor, school or college administrator or school board member will be powerful and you can be as creative or simple as you want!!

 

 

For more information on forming a GSA in your school contact the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition or shoot an email to 2great4hate@gmail.com.  To learn more visit gsaday.org.

Latest Teen Suicide underscores need for Idaho’s Anti-Bullying Bill

14-year-old Phillip Parker,”was known as the boy who told everyone they’re beautiful. ” The Gordonsville, Tennessee teen, who was openly gay, took his life last Friday afternoon.

The boy’s grandfather, Paul Harris, told News Channel 5-TV over the weekend that,”After he did what he did, we found out a lot that we didn’t know and there is a lot of bullying that goes on at the school.”

WSMV.COM reports that,”Phillip’s family said they reported their concerns over their son’s bullying to Gordonsville High School on multiple occasions, but the bullying by a group of students just got worse.”

Now the Parkers are seeking answers from school leaders who apparently did little to stop the harassment.

Sadly, the news of Parker’s death swept through the LGBTQIA media on Monday which also marked the kick off to No Name-Calling Week.

According to the Gay, Lesbian and  Straight Education Network (GLSEN), No Name-Calling Week was inspired by a young adult novel entitled “The Misfits” by popular author, James Howe. The book tells the story of four best friends trying to survive the seventh grade in the face of all too frequent taunts based on their weight, height, intelligence, and sexual orientation/gender expression.

“The project seeks to focus national attention on the problem of name-calling in schools, and to provide students and educators with the tools and inspiration to launch an ongoing dialogue about ways to eliminate name-calling in their communities,” says a website devoted to the week.

Parker is the third  known gay teen in the U.S. to take his life due to bullying and harassment in less than a month.

Particularly disturbing in his case was the apparent lack of  school intervention.  According to groups like GLSEN, many schools may be unfamiliar with the resources available to educators to help combat the bullying epidemic.

According to a study released last week, more than 75% of students in the 3rd to 6th grade report that students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity.

Here in Idaho, a bill that would require school officials to intervene in cases of student harassment and bullying was introduced to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

The bill, presented by the The Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho, would require individual schools to set specific policies for dealing with which a student  harasses, intimidates or bullies their classmates.

(If you or someone you know needs help or is considering suicide you owe it to yourself to visit The Trevor Project’s website or call them at 1-866-488-7386. In the U.S. you can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or visit stopbullying.govYou can also visit Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) website for more resources.)

Utah School “Outs” 14-year-old Student to Parents

“Fears that he would be bullied” led administrators at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi to out a 14-year old boy to his parents after the student chose to write about his sexuality for an assignment.

MSNBC reports, “When the teacher approached him on December 6th about whether he wanted to share that information publicly, the boy said he did. The teacher decided to involve the assistant school principal, who spoke with the boy and counseled him on talking with his parents.  The student was hesitant to approach his parents, but agreed “reluctantly” to let the administrator to speak with them, Bromley said.  At the boy’s request, he was not present when his parents were told.”

“Because of that concern about bullying, on Dec. 7 the assistant principal called the student into her office. The boy told her that his parents did not know about his sexual orientation. The administrator felt the parents needed to be aware of the potential bullying and safety concerns, and called the parents into her office. At the student’s request, the boy was not present when his parents were told about what had happened at school,” reports the Daily Harold.

In a statement released Wednesday, Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, (GLSEN) Executive Director Eliza Byard was critical of the administrator’s handling of the Situation. “Schools should not out LGBT students without their consent. Outing a student not only violates their right to privacy, but also could compromise their safety. Parents can be notified of their child being bullied at school, but without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, tells MSNBC,  “Family rejection is a real risk, and some young gay teens have found themselves homeless as a result. The school “could very well have worsened that situation considerably,” he said.”

Contrary to some news reports, the boy was not suspended, though his parents chose to keep him out of school for the week. A spokeswoman for the school says the boy was never in trouble and the goal of the district was “to keep him safe”.

Idaho Lawmaker Plans to Re-Introduce School Club Parental Consent Bill

Less then a month after the Meridian School Board rejected the requirement, a Republican state lawmaker says he plans to re-introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session that would require parental consent for student participation in school clubs and activities.

The Spokesman-Review’s Huckleberries Online reports that Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Post Falls “mentioned his intention to do so during the weekly luncheon meeting of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans.”

One can only guess that Nonini’s bill is in direct retaliation for the Meridian Board’s move that cleared the way for a Gay-Straight Alliance Club at Mountain View High School.

“In the 2006 Legislature, Nonini pushed a school-club bill in response to the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at Lake City High. The bill squeaked through the House before dying in Goedde’s Senate Education Committee,” Huckleberries reports.

In response to the 2006 legislation the Coeur d’Alene School District caved and changed its club policies requiring parental consent.

Former High School GSA club leader Eric Anderson was one of many who testified during a school board hearing in September. He told the Idaho Agenda that the problem with requiring parental consent for clubs like Gay-Straight Alliances is that “it puts up a lot of unnecessary barriers for students who already face more challenges then their hetrosexual peers.”

Anderson pointed out that some students wouldn’t join for fear of having to disclose their sexual identities to their parents, others he says, “wouldn’t join just because of the hassle involved in having to have a parent fill out a form.”

An extremist group founded by hate group leader Don Wildmon, James Dobson and others targeted the Meridian School district with a flurry of words for not passing the parental consent requirement. Late last month the Alliance Defense Fund issued a statement saying the district was “duped” by gay rights activists into ditching the proposed parental consent policy.”

Here is Nonini’s contact info:

email: bnonini@roadrunner.com
phone: 208-765-1904

Study Shocker: Nearly Fifty-Percent of Teens Sexually Harassed at School

A new study just released by the American Association of University Women finds that more than half of the 2,000 students, grades 7-12, surveyed have experienced some form of sexual harassment at school.

The New York Times reports that,”Over all, girls reported being harassed more than boys — 56 percent compared with 40 percent — though it was evenly divided during middle school.  Boys were more likely to be the harassers, according to the study, and children from lower-income families reported more severe effects.”

The study defines sexual harassment  as,”unwelcome sexual behavior that takes place in person or electronically.”

“52 percent of girls said they had been harassed in person, and 36 percent online, compared with 35 percent of boys who were harassed in person and 24 percent online.

“I was called a whore because I have many friends that are boys,” one ninth-grade girl was quoted as saying. An eighth-grade boy, meanwhile, reported, “They spread rumors I was gay because I played on the basketball team,” reports the Times.

If you’re tempted to think that it might not be a big deal, think again. Care2, reports that researchers found that ,”The consequences of sexual harassment on the students were isolating and many times physical.”

“The girls reported greater negative consequences with 37% saying they did not want to go to school after being harassed as opposed to only 25% of boys. In addition, 22% of girls reported having trouble sleeping after experiencing harassment versus 14% of boys and 37% of girls said they felt sick to their stomachs following harassment compared with 21% of boys.

Students who experienced both in-person and online harassment fared worst – 46% said they did not want to go to school, 44% felt sick to their stomachs, and 43% found it hard to study.”

You can read the full report for yourself here.

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