We live in a nation where authenticity and diversity is valued and encouraged. Yet many times when it comes to the LGBT community, their differences have unfairly subjected them to a life of inequality. In our society, this group has been the target of constant mistreatment and segregation. This exploitation has spread to America’s schools and has sadly contributed to a spike in teen and young adult suicides in the LGBT community.
Recently, the campaign “It Gets Better” was created by journalist Dan Savage, aiming to empower LGBT young adults and encourage those who are suffering. President Barack Obama is the latest public figure to join the campaigns message with his recent “It Gets Better” video saying, “We have to expel this myth that bullying is a normal rite of passage. That it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that schools are safe for all of our kids.” But are colleges, schools and administrators doing enough, Or are students’ civil rights being overlooked until tragedy strikes?
We all have witnessed harassment of students in our schools and universities; some may have taken part, and many have even been the victim. We have also seen our administrators and teachers ignore the obvious signs of bullying in the classroom, making what should be a safe-haven for students another place to be scrutinized. When those who are meant to reprimand choose to be oblivious to cruelty based on the student’s sexual identity, it is no longer just an issue of the “student-bullies.” It is the adults, too. It seems that due to the LGBT community’s controversial nature, some teachers may find their abuse excusable.
Anti-bullying laws have been put in place to protect students from racial, national origin and religious harassment. But usually provisions for the LGBT are left out. Provisions protecting LGBT students are being considered after the torment has been so great that students are turning to suicide. This community needs these specific articles to be a part of their anti-bullying laws to feel that schools have acknowledged them.
According to the “It Gets Better” project’s website, nine out of 10 LGBT students are being bullied in school for their sexual orientation. They are bullied two to three times as much as straight students and more than one-third have attempted to commit suicide. With numbers like this, you would think schools are rushing to get legislation protecting LGBT youth in schools. Yet GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, only lists 13 states as having anti-bullying laws in defense of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Virginia is not one of those states. Still, no matter what new laws are passed in the future, the most important part is actually enforcing them.
Any individual that needs guidance, support or protection should not be disregarded just because a teacher, preacher or school district does not agree with who they are. Since this is a “gender-stereotyping” issue, the mistreatment of the LGBT community should be seen as violation of civil rights. And our rights have been given to us under no specific “sexual orientation” clause.