Thursday, July 01, 2010

Homo High? Is Segregation the Answer?

It should come as no surprise that LGBT students are much more susceptible to harassment, bullying and discrimination than just about any other group, with the exception of possibly obese students [which unfortunately may become the norm in the near future, considering one in three children/teens in the US are overweight or obese].

The GLSEN National School Climate Survey study found that 86.2 percent of  LGBT students reported varying degrees of bullicide during school hours due to their sexual orientation. And 61%  who identified as LGBT indicated they felt unsafe at school.  The hostile environment leads to a high dropout rate for these kids.

No federal laws currently exist that specifically protects young LGBTs.  But Minnesota Democratic senator Al Franken has introduced a bill,  the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA),  that would make anti-gay bullying in schools a federal offense. (Click here and here and here to support)

"Our nation’s civil rights laws protect our children from bullying due to race, sex, religion, disability and national origin. My proposal corrects a glaring injustice and extends these protections to our gay and lesbian students who need them just as badly." - Al Franken
So, are exclusive  LGBT schools the answer?

Well, the issue at hand is whether the creation of separate schools will become an excuse for those in public administration to avoid implementing reforms that will protect LGBT students from discrimination and bullying regarding their sexual orientation. Moreover, there is the issue that segregation might prolong the existence of homophobia by bolstering the average homophobe's belief that gay people are unlike "regular" people.
“If we create ‘Homo High,’ we don’t have to prohibit this behavior in other schools.  The reality is, we have to live as neighbors. We have to learn to tolerate one another, if not accept one another. All our kids should be safe in all our schools; segregation is not the answer.” - Rick Garcia, political director for the LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois
Kevin Jennings, the founder of the GLSEN network, and now the "Safe Schools Czar" , or Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools that President Obama appointed in 2009,  who has been the target of right-winged witch hunts ever since, disagrees. He said, "We can continue to do nothing, and we know the results, or we can save young people’s lives and offer them an education and a future.”

There is no question that there should be alternatives to mainstream education for some LGBT students.  However, as more than ever before, young Americans are choosing to live openly as LGBT, which challenges the deep-seated societal bias toward homosexuality, segregating gay students at this time may halt any progression that has already occurred.  And then there are the students who will never enroll in these schools, either who may need the most protection due to hostile family situations, or who are not yet ready to confront the possible consequences that identifying as gay may present.

Links:

Antibullying Bill Passes N.Y. State Senate According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, “The bill creates tools for school administrators, teachers, parents. and students to address bullying and bias-related behavior of all kinds that interfere with student safety and learning. Key provisions include developing rules to prevent and respond to discriminatory harassment and hate violence; establishing teacher, staff, and administrative training guidelines; incorporating discrimination awareness into civility and character education curricula; and required reporting of incidents of bias harassment to the state education department.”

Gay and Lesbian Rights/Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Your Rights Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Strategies to Prevent Homelessness, Strengthen Services and Build Support for LGBTQ Youth - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's final report of recommendations from the City’s Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Runaway and Homeless Youth. The Commission began its work in October 2009 and was charged with developing strategies to address the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.

Massachusetts Rights of LGBT Public School Students

If you or someone you know is a victim of a hate crime, or if you have direct knowledge of such a crime, please contact your local FBI office . The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 protects all persons equally regardless of immigration status. Reporting the incident to the FBI is a necessary step to ensuring justice for all victims of violent hate crimes.

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