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airowDee's avatar

What should we do with bullied GLBT teens?

Asked by airowDee (1788 points ) October 10th, 2010

There are commonly two solutions when it comes to confronting the problem of bullied queer teens. A school trustee candidate suggested that we should consider expanding alternative schools for GLBT kids (i agree this is a good temporary solution for some children and teens), but I also believe we should have the responsibility to make sure our public school system promotes the acceptance of homosexuality despites the opposition from religious parents.

I believe that if a school board does not promote homosexuality as an acceptable sexual orientation and transgenderism as an acceptable expression of gender identity, than they have bloods on their hands.

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24 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think we need queer schools just so that queer kids can be safe though schools like the Hetrick-Martin Institute have been incredible for teens that can’t be in ‘normal’ schools any longer. And I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement. As we were talking on a similar question some weeks ago, some administrators and teachers and staff are worse than students in their homophobia and transphobia.

anonynon's avatar

It needs to be brought into the public school curriculum. Students need to learn in school that bullying homosexuals is wrong, that it is bigotry, that it can lead to hate crimes.

Students already learn that racism is wrong, they need to learn that bigotry against homosexuality is wrong.

muppetish's avatar

The idea that an alternative school should be constructed for LGBTQ students is (and I apologize if this comes across as harsh) ridiculous. Many queer students don’t even feel comfortable creating a dialogue with their parents about their sexuality / gender identity. How would they be able to bring the topic up with administrators in order to access a different educational facility? Even those students who do feel comfortable with their identity and strong support at their home base… the very idea that one of the few solutions to subverting bullying would be to attend a “special” school is patronizing. It won’t erase the fact that they will be judged. It won’t make them any less likely to be subject to the pressures and prejudices of others.

I think every school should have a guidance office with easily accessible material (pamphlets, books, websites) for LGBTQ students to find the support they need. Beyond the bullying, they need to know they aren’t alone. That they are loved. And that there is nothing wrong with them. In my perfect world, every school with have a counselor who is prepared to listen to these students and help them (not to mention an established Q*Safe or a similar student organization) but I don’t know whether this is realistic or not.

Schools need to have blanket zero tolerance policies for bullying, not just to protect queer students. It disgusts me how much administrators brush bullying aside. I know because I was bullied and have friends who were bullied for a variety of reasons. Something needs to be done. I’m not sure what, but I wish I did.

I agree wholeheartedly that it should be implemented into the curriculum. There is no reason to tip-toe around these issues. Now that it is becoming a hot issue in the media schools that don’t take a step forward are just asking for a rain of lawsuits.

ETpro's avatar

I think the choice of wording, “Promotes homosexuality…” is way too loaded. Those parents already angry over protection of gay students are only going to hear those two words. The news will be all over the town that the school board “Promotes homosexuality” as if gay activists are being brought into the school to try to actively convert straight students to gay.

I think we want to protect all students from bullying whatever the reason might be that bullies are targeting them. It should be clear to all students that bullying will not be tolerated. It’s every bit as tragic when a kid commits suicide because they have too many zits, or are afflicted with downs syndrome, or just don’t fit with the in crowd as it is when the suicide is driven by homophobic students making their lives hell.

MissAusten's avatar

Don’t you mean to ask, “What should we do with bullies, schools that don’t enforce anti-bullying policies, and parents who let their children get away with this horrible behavior?”

These recent stories make me so ill. I have an 11 year old daughter, and I swear to God, I will go into her school and personally kick the principal’s ass if she is ever treated the way these kids were treated and the bullies aren’t dealt with immediately and effectively. No one should be able to get away with that kind of behavior. Schools, parents, and other kids are all responsible for making it stop. If it happens at school, the bullies should be expelled. If it happens at home, the parents should be held responsible. There really needs to be some kind of system or protection in place that makes it a criminal act for bullies to continue to harass their victims once the victims have spoken up and sought help.

If I ever even get a whisper of this kind of nonsense coming from my own kids, they will be so technologically and socially cut off they will think three or four times before so much as looking funny at another person. They might think they know what it means to be grounded or lose privileges, but just let them try bullying someone and they will find out fast what a cushy life of luxury they’ve been living.

I get so mad thinking of this, because I always imagine it happening to my daughter. :(

But yeah, I think asking what should be done with gay teens, or any teens who don’t quite “fit in,” is focusing on the wrong aspect of the problem. It’s the people doing the harm that have to be dealt with. They should be removed from the schools and denied access to technology that enables cyberbullying. It’s an awful circumstance. My daughter, in 5th grade, came home from school crying because she was so upset by a video she watched at school about cyberbullies and online predators. I’m glad she is aware of it, and I hope this early education prevents some kids from becoming bullies in the future because she needs to know about. Still, it makes me so completely sad that it’s something she has to know about. I’m sure I’ll go through this all over again when my boys reach middle school as well.

Nullo's avatar

Third option: tell ‘em to stand up for themselves. Bullies bully more or less indiscriminately; everybody has to deal with them.

Creating gay schools would set back the whole “homosexuality is normal” cause by a lot. I don’t think that you want that.

airowDee's avatar

Telling a gay kid to stand up for themselve against the bullies and an uncaring school administration is like telling a Palestinian rock thrower to stand up against the zionist settlements on west bank.

Nullo's avatar

@airowDee So you’re saying that gay kids differ substantially from straight kids who also have to deal with the bullying and an uncaring school administration?

The universal trait of a bully is that he picks on people that he perceives to be weak – in short, he is a coward. If you’re wussy, he’s going to pick on you. If you’re not wussy, he’s going to leave you alone.

Certainly, it’s not good for the administration to kick back and let abuse happen. But that’s what they tend to do, more often than not. So you have a choice to make: let yourself be bullied (and whine about the injustices of the world), or do something about it. You can’t always have Mama or the board or Big Brother come in and pull you out of the fire, because one day, they’re not going to be there.

Self-reliance is critical to being a strong person.

airowDee's avatar

You can’t compare a straight kid with a gay kid because they operate under different circumstances. We have had this conversation since 2009! , noodle, you should have known by now that gay kids, especially kids who violate gender norm, are specifically targeted not only by other kids, but as well as ADULT bullies, such as those who work at the Pentagon (don’t ask don’t tell policy), and those who do their work in the church (love the sin, hate the sinners) , as well as the co workers and supervisors and bosses who spread their prejudices and homophobia to produce a hostile and unwelcoming workplaces for others.

I do wish bullied kids can grow stronger and not give up on hopes, but they deserve more and better from the adults.The fact is that queer kids, unlike straight kids, have to UNLEARN years of hateful messages and socialization in order to gan the same level of self esteem as “normal” people.

As you know, I am a trans woman and I know many people would think very little before saying hurtful things about trans people in front of me that they would not dream of saying to non transgender people. It’s beyond naive to compare the social context from which I must live in to those who do not have to ever think about their gender identity or expression.

Anyways, on a personal note, its nice to see you are still here. I miss the old days, well, there are both good and bad memories to airow.

Nullo's avatar

@airowDee Yes, I am still here. I am a barnacle. Airow’s illegitimate child is up. It’s not the same, though. Alec, surprisingly, is there.

I can so compare gay kids to straight kids; all that needs is a common denominator, and there are oodles of those. But what I’m doing is saying that they’re not that different with respect to bullies.

Read @mowens’ post in this thread. He was in this same situation. His grandfather counseled him to bean his bully with a rock, and he did. After that, he and his tormentor became friends.

And it’s “hate the sin, love the sinner.” You had it backwards.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

I don’t think the question should be “What should we do with bullied GLBT teens?” but “What should we do with straight teens to enlighten them about the problems that GLBT teens constantly face?”

We need mandatory courses in schools, starting at the earliest levels, to educate straight kids about the injustices gay kids have to deal with, courses that not only educate and enlighten, but promote empathy and compassion. These courses should be an ongoing thing, like math or English, and should encourage youngsters to band together to discourage bullying and discrimination in their schools. Young people are impressionable and are easily influenced by peer pressure, so schools which have programs that involve all kids to “do the right thing” and get them to take a proactive stance against bullies and negative stereotyping of GLBTs would go a long way in dealing with this problem.

Nullo's avatar

To be honest, I don’t think that we’re ever going to see the end of schoolyard bullies; they’ve been around for as long as there has been public education.

downtide's avatar

The idea of separate schools is just appalling to me. Ghettoise them even further? Provide a place where the homophobic bullies can gather at the gates to beat them up as they leave school? Riiight.~. It will wipe out all the progress in LGBT rights that’s been made since Stonewall. Segregation is what Aparteid was all about.

No, no, no and no. What’s really needed is education – to teach that bullying is wrong. And support from the staff who too often turn a blind eye.

Kayak8's avatar

I, for one, was bullied. It could have been because I was the new kid and it could have been because I was perceived as being a lesbian (but I don’t think so). It was an experience that has had repercussions for me throughout my life.

Some gay kids, particularly those who appear to others to really push the boundaries of gender norms, may be well served by alternative educational arrangements. Some (like me) have parents that could never be approached about attending a GLBT school, but some other alternative might have worked (e.g., a school for the arts or online schooling, for example).

I also agree that there will always be bullies who, because of their own self-esteem issues, will target other kids We even see this behavior in the early elementary grades in the US. I think any school program should have active (not passive) concern for student self-esteem as it will benefit both the bullies and those being bullied.

However, with “no child left behind,” school resources are ALL going to prepare students to take specific tests or to care for those who are not expected to do well academically and there is not much time or money left to do much else. Schools can go a long way toward helping all kids have a safe learning environment, but the root of bullying (like so many other aspects of abject school failure) is in our society.

The behaviors shown by bullies are modeled by adults and it is pervasive in our culture. I certainly don’t know how to even start fixing the myriad problems (poverty, racism, homophobia, religious persecution, etc.) that are alive and well among the adults. My solution, for myself, was not to have children which may be the saddest testament to my world view.

GladysMensch's avatar

Let’s use technology to solve this. Someone invent a device with a tiny video camera (like the front facing camera on the iPhone) that can be hidden and wirelessly transmit video and sound to a flash storage device. The storage device would only need to store 1–2 hours of footage, so it could be held in a pocket or backpack. Why only 1–2 hours? There’s no need to record class time, just before school, after school, and in between classes. Build in a motion detector to turn the camera on when the body is in motion, and off when the body is sitting for more than 5 minutes. Of course, the wearer could turn the camera on/off manually as well. The camera wouldn’t need to shoot HD quality… just good enough to positively identify anyone close enough to do harm. At the end of the day, the footage could be deleted, archived, or viewed. If your kid tells you he’s being bullied, simply go to the footage and identify the perpetrators.

Nullo's avatar

@GladysMensch Just use video phones, then. Start recording when the bullying starts.

@MRSHINYSHOES Rather than trying to brainwash the kids into a more liberal mindset (that will not go over well with the parents), just teach them to be nice to people. We don’t need to preoccupy elementary-school kids with that thorny ethical thicket that is Gay Rights™.

GeorgeGee's avatar

Here’s a paradox: If you want them to be treated like all other students, mainstreamed in other words, they will be bullied, as surely as all other students are bullied. Are you asking that they NOT be bullied while straight students ARE bullied?
Of course it’s easy to say as an adult, “everyone should just play nicely, and not hurt anyone’s feelings,” but let’s see if you’re really willing to put your money where your mouth is. How many additional guards and counselors per school will YOU be willing to pay for eo enforce that? And how many hours PER DAY will you be willing to volunteer to do the same when the additional guards and counselors proposal is turned down by taxpayers?

MissAusten's avatar

@GeorgeGee Why would the schools need additional guards and counselors? Isn’t there at least one teacher in every room, a vice principal, a principal, a school nurse, at least one psychologist, a librarian, special ed teachers, and several other kinds of staff? What is so difficult about the adults already in the school enforcing rules? I know teachers have too much to do already, and in some schools are overwhelmed from a lack of involvement from parents. If they can call the cops to deal with kids who bring drugs or weapons to school or get into fights, why can’t they call the cops if they get repeated reports of one kid harassing another? If a teacher or counselor is approached by a victim, especially more than once, why is the bully still at school? If parents of a victim call the school to ask what can be done, why isn’t more done?

Kids can be expelled for having Advil in their backpacks. If there’s a “zero tolerance” policy for drugs and weapons, why isn’t there a zero tolerance policy for bullying?

It would take even less time if parents would take matter into their own hands once they were informed of their child’s behavior by the school. Instead, parents make excuses, ignore it, or don’t do anything that effectively stops the kid from continuing to be a bully. The kid still has a cell phone and a computer, plus parents who probably don’t monitor what the kid does with those devices.

There are probably some victims of bullying who are too embarrassed to report it to a school or a parent. I would hope, in a case like that, another kid who sees what is going on would talk to someone who would care enough to get involved and try to help.

By the way, I believe there is a difference between typical kid behavior and bullying. Kids can be mean, they will pick on other kids and tease them. I doubt if there’s anyone who wasn’t teased or picked on at school at some point. The kind of bullying described in these recent cases of suicide seem to go far beyond that. A kid is singled out and constantly targeted and attacked verbally, emotionally, and physically, both at school and online. That is not “kids being kids” or normal teen behavior. It’s much more extreme. I don’t think a kid who cracks a joke at someone else’s expense should immediately be expelled from school and denied access to the internet or a cell phone. I do, however, think that if a kid reports consistent harassment by another student or group of students, this crosses a line and must be dealt with immediately and without any excuses.

airowDee's avatar

Speaking from personal experience, kids are not likely to stand up for someone who is perceived to be gay or is gay or transgender. It was hard to find someone who sticks up for me in school because homosexuality or transgenderism is not something kids are taught to be openly discussing, unless they are used in the context of an insult or a slur.

If educators and parents dont feel comfortable discussing diversity as related to queer issues, kids especially wont have the courage to defend someone from queer related attacks.

And lastly, It is embarrassing for teens and youths to discuss the fact about them being bullied for queer related reasons. Teens need constant reassurance and support and unconditional love from their parents in order to have the strength to be who they are, and a lot of parents are not anywhere even close to giving that type of acceptance to their queer children and teens. Many adults still cannot openly discuss their homosexuality or transgender identity due to realistic or unrealistic fear.

There is no silver bullet solution. Its a work in progress.

GeorgeGee's avatar

@MissAusten, I honestly believe most schools, most administrators and most teachers want to avoid bullying in their schools. Despite their best efforts, it continues. THAT is why it would take more counselors and more security. I don’t believe there’s a shortage of people reporting problems either, but often the solution suggested is that the bullied student stay inside at recess or other such solutions that effectively punish the victim. Merely punishing the perpetrator often doesn’t solve the problem since others might well take his place and attack the student who reported the problem.
I don’t believe in zero tolerance policies because I find they are even worse than the problems they are applied to; when for instance a six year old being expelled for bringing a squirt gun to school.
http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/10/06/toy.gun.expelled/
But the one thing that seems effective is having many eyes watching kids at all times. Particularly parent volunteers, since they have a vested interest. But most parents would rather have a root canal than volunteer their time at their kid’s school.

MissAusten's avatar

Kind of off-topic, but I saw this sermon from an Episcopal church that makes me so happy. Christians tend to get such a bad rap for conservative views, especially on homosexuality, and it is truly refreshing to read a message like this coming from a church. It’s a bit long and wandering at the beginning, but when he gets to the point at the end, it’s pretty great.

@GeorgeGee I don’t know where your kids go to school and what kind of teachers they have, or where you go to school and what kind of teachers you have (I’m guessing it’s one or the other since you seem to have strong opinions about schools and what goes on there), but I feel very, very lucky that our schools are not what you describe. There are many parent volunteers, more than the schools can often use. My kids have had problems with other kids and have not been punished for it—the bullies themselves have been dealt with directly and the bullying stopped. It is possible to handle it, but someone needs to get involved and not just tell kids to ignore it.

There are problems with zero tolerance policies, mainly a lack of common sense. With the kind of bullying and harassment this question refers to, however, something similar to zero tolerance might be called for. Not for any little teasing thing, but for the kind of malicious targeting I described above.

Nullo's avatar

@airowDee That’s why I said that self-reliance is important.

@MissAusten Unfortunately, the Episcopalians have a tendency to take liberties with Scripture. That sermon is one such case. They have the right attitude, certainly, but they arrive at a conclusion (It’s OK to be gay!) that is condemned repeatedly in Scripture.

MissAusten's avatar

@Nullo Well, there are quite a few things in Scripture that are ignored, particularly from the Old Testament. I doubt there’s any denomination that doesn’t take liberties with Scripture.

Nullo's avatar

@airowDee You might consider changing the acronym that you use. ‘GLBT’ reminds many too strongly of the BLT, which is considerably more popular.

@MissAusten My denominations haven’t ever ignored Old Testament scripture. The prescriptions of the Law – stoning, for instance, or avoiding shrimp – are explicitly set aside in the New Testament, being, as they were, pertinent to the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was replaced with the New Covenant on the day now commemorated as Good Friday, reflecting a change in the state of the world. Even so, the Old Testament is an excellent educational resource, among other things.
The morals encoded in the Law is the same, since it was based on God’s morals, and God does not change.

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