August 28, 2007

Back to School.....And Bullying?

School can be a difficult social environment for youngsters and young adults in college under the best of circumstances. If you are gay or lesbian, it is still not the best situation in many schools around the nation. This is from a survey by the organization GenderPAC:

A recent GenderPAC survey found that, of 651 students currently enrolled at US-based colleges and universities, 30% have been harassed or discriminated against on campus because they didn't fit expectations of masculinity or femininity; 13% have been harassed for using a restroom because they didn't fit expectations of masculinity or femininity; and 25% have felt unsafe in campus housing because they didn't fit expectations of masculinity or femininity.

GenderPAC also supported a University of Illinois study of 200 high school students in suburban Chicago. 62% of the students saw peers who weren’t masculine or feminine enough being called names and verbally harassed; 46% saw peers who weren’t masculine or feminine enough ostracized and excluded from groups; and 21% saw peers who weren’t masculine or feminine enough physically assaulted: pushed, shoved, or hit.

For those at schools without GenderSAFE protections, life can be unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. Students across the country have been mobilizing on their campuses to get the more inclusive policies and practices enacted.

More on the same theme is contained in this piece posted by Equality Texas:

Texas has never been known for stellar education.

However, there is a curriculum in Texas schools, available only to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. This curriculum includes the hallmarks of education, in contexts that are personally relevant to the student.

Our queer students learn READING - not just the classics, but reading between the lines.
Does that glare mean that a fellow classmate is having a bad day, or does that glare promise, "Hey, dyke, you just wait until after class and I'll teach you what you've got coming?"

Our queer students learn WRITING. We write to elected officials, pouring out our hearts to demand protection in our schools and receive a form letter in response, accompanied by the knowledge that no one is reading the reality of our grief. We write letters and journals full of fear, grief and pain. And, most tragically, queer students write suicide letters when daily abuse takes its toll.

Our queer students learn ARITHMETIC. We add cruel words, scars, tears, and bruises to sum up the value of our humanity in the eyes of our peers. We subtract daily from the list of people we can trust with our full selves.

Our queer students learn VOCABULARY. We learn that faggot, dyke, queer, deviant, and whore are synonyms for people like ourselves. We learn that these words outweigh words like friend, child, sister, brother, person, and human.

Our queer students get a daily education in how to DRESS for success. We learn to question, "If I wear this shirt today, will I be wearing a cast for the next eight weeks?" We learn to weigh our desire to be comfortable in our skin with the desire to avoid being beaten and forced into our lockers.

Our queer students learn ETHICS. We begin to understand that it is allowable for students to be beaten, harassed, even killed - as long as the students are queer. We learn there are teachers who look the other way to allow our peers to reinforce these lessons. We learn that rules of human decency do not apply when our dignity is concerned.

Our queer students learn about CIVICS and the function of government. We begin to understand that our elected officials don't care about the abuses we suffer, or if they do care, they can't be bothered to pass legislation to ensure our physical and emotional safety in our schools. We learn that our basic human dignity can be sacrificed at the altar of the anti-gay political agenda.

These lessons are teaching our students the depth of unfathomable pain.

We cannot pretend to be concerned with the quality of education in Texas unless we are willing to advocate for the protection and safety of ALL our students.

We need educational reform - not just a discussion of testing or class size, but rather a discussion of the most simple reality: students cannot learn if they are fearing for their lives.

Please join us in teaching ALL our students that they are valued and protected.

I can't imagine there's a more important lesson anyone could learn this school year.

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