Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mass. tragedy highlights problem of antigay bullying in schools

ABC News this morning has a major story on anti-gay bullying in schools (especially middle schools) after a suicide by an 11 year old boy at a well-regarded Springfield, MA charter school. The story is by Susan MacDonald James with link here. This incident happened in the first state to give legal recognition to gay marriage.

The story reports anti-gay taunts in schools against students who had not identified themselves as gay, over gender stereotyping. They have also involved students whom one would think are too young to be subjected to this sort of gender-related attacks. Some of the problems may be as related to male “competitiveness” as to gender-specific behaviors. That is pretty much what I experienced in the tween grades in the 1950s. The story discusses a lawsuit over another tragedy in Ohio. In the Massachusetts case, however, the boy played football (I did not) and was a boy scout (I never went beyond Cub scouts).

Administrators in many schools find this problem very difficult to deal with and seem to have a hard time enforcing anti-bullying (and anti-cyberbullying rules), perhaps because they feel or fear that they would antagonize many parents if they enforced them.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is sponsoring a national Day of Silence on April 17, as explained on its website here. GLSEN has a story about the Springfield incident (by Daryl Presgraves) here.

I would add that the military “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, when heard about by kids, just furthers stigmatizes those among their peers whom they perceive as “gay”.

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