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Posts Tagged ‘schools’

My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.

 

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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Corporal Punishment in schools is legal in 21 states! That means that in 21 states it is okay to hit students who have misbehaved.

Check out this policy from an Oklahoma School District:

 

Corporal punishment is administered to students according to the following policy:

1. Corporal punishment is a form of discipline when the infraction by the student is considered serious or is a repeated infraction of school rules.

2. Corporal punishment will be administered by a certified staff member in an office or designated area and in the presence of another certified person. Punishment must be appliedto the buttocks only. The witness should be informed of the infraction in the presence of the student.

According to this publication by Human Rights Watch, corporal punishment is disproportionately applied to students of color.

This fact both shocks and disgusts me. How am I living in a country that still tolerates this behavior, and why isn’t this a bigger issue?

Also check out this post on Feministe, for a mother’s perspective on the issue.

 

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