Gay Rights are Human Rights: All Kids Deserve to be Safe in School
In pre-school we are taught to share, be nice, and respect the feelings of others; but as we become adults some lose these essential values. Nationally racism and sexism have become less acceptable by society, but what about homophobia? With no federal anti bullying laws in place, kids, specifically LGBT youth, are not feeling safe in schools. While national political debates about gay rights commonly center on gay marriage and more recently on discrimination in the work place, how much attention do the rights of LGBT kids and youth in schools receive? Statistics that have been put out by organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the Human Rights Campaign, agree that LGBT youth are victims of bullying at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts. It is because of these findings that federal legislation such as the Obama administration endorsed Student Non-Discrimination Act is necessary to protect all students.
According to the recent publication of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s 2011 National School Climate Survey, an alarming 81.9 percent of the youth who participated in the survey reported verbal abuse. Worst yet, more than half of the participants also reported homophobic remarks from teachers and other school staff. If students reported hearing adults at their school make racist or sexist remarks at any rate the teachers would be placed under investigation. This is the case in a New Jersey high school at which a teacher is under investigation for bullying students. Unfortunately, research shows that LGBT kids and youth are facing more than verbal abuse at their schools.
The 2012 infographic on The Unhealthy Impact of Bullying on LGBT Youth put out by Fenway Health, shows that four of 10 LGBT students have been physically harassed in school. The infographic also shows that LGBT youth are at a higher risk of smoking, dating violence and suicide attempts. When adults do not support a measure as basic as including gay history in education, they send the message to kids and youth that LGBT people are different and unworthy. For example, how do you explain to a child that despite the adversities that Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay officials faced, his name and accomplishments should not be included in the history books?
In 2011 California Governor, Jerry Brown passed the California Senate Bill 48 for inclusive education to include the contributions of LGBT people, people with disabilities and those of several ethnic groups in history and social study courses. The Class Act Initiative to repeal SB 48, which fortunately did not pass, argued that it would teach children to accept and endorse homosexuality. Although the opposition to bills such as SB 48 continues, the fact that gay history will be included in California is a sign of hope. Hope that some day all kids in school will feel safe despite their race, sex, abilities, and sexual orientation or identification.