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Ending Violence Against LGBT Students

JadenBell

Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in schools and colleges provide a safe, welcoming, and affirming physical and emotional space for LGBT students and today is National GSA Day. According to National GSA Day, “Violence and discrimination against LGBT students is the rule, not the exception, in American schools. It is a national disgrace that students feel threatened in school simply because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Jadin Bell, a 15-year-old high-school sophomore in La Grande, Oregon, recently hung himself on a playground structure after being bullied for being gay. He was taken off life support last week. His friends at school remember him as an “amazing young man” who loved cheerleading and volunteered to help older adults.

Salon staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams comments:

In a conversation with local news station KATU on Tuesday, family friend Bud Hill told reporters that Bell had been bullied both in person and online, and that he’d asked his parents to home-school him. The boy had recently communicated about the problem with school officials, who told KATU that they were in the process of an investigation when Bell hanged himself. “He was different,” Hill said, “and they tend to pick on the different ones.”

So for all the strides we’re making, we need to remember that teenagers are still killing themselves because bigoted monsters are making their lives hell. Tyler Clementi. Seth Walsh. Kenneth Weishuhn. Josh Pacheco, just last month. And families and friends are left shattered and grieving because we still live in a climate where bullying is too often not taken seriously enough, and where LGBT individuals are subject to institutionalized discrimination and flippant homophobia on a regular basis. It does get better, and a whole lot of things in this country have gotten better, but as long as kids are dying because hateful creeps are pushing them around, we have miles and miles to go. As Bud Hill told the La Grande Observer, “It should not have come to something like this.” Not for Bell. Not for any kid. Not again.

GSAs are a tool to help end violence and save student lives. GSAs can be “defined as a youth-led, school- or community-based group that provides a safe, welcoming, and affirming physical and emotional space for LGBT students, as well as those who are perceived as LGBT, those who are questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, children from LGBT families, and heterosexual students who want to be allies of their LGBT peers.”

Starting GSAs

Start a GSAThe Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has created a series of 8 how-to guides for new and already established GSAs. The resources take you through the process of establishing your GSA, identifying your mission and goals, and assessing your school’s climate. Learn how to make your school a safer place for all its students.

Jump-Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances

How Can People/Communities of Faith Get Involved

Parents, Families & Allies:

  • Let young people know that you are an ally (or LGBT!)
  • Tell them how proud you are of them and the their work to create safe schools
  • Provide support for young people if they are trying to start a GSA and face resistance from their school or college
  • Get educated on LGBT issues and the importance of GSAs
  • Advocate for GSAs with other parents, families and schools

Pastors:

  • Get educated on LGBT issues and the importance of GSAs
  • Provide community space for a GSA if necessary
  • Serve as an advocate for students if they are trying to start a GSA and are facing resistance from other school/college administrators or school board members (which can include connecting students to local, state and national organizations that help students create GSAs)
  • Let students know that you are an ally (or LGBT!)
  • Tell students how proud you are of them and the their work to create safe schools

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