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GUEST COMMENTARY: Help stop bullying

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:33 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hung himself in his family's barn on Sept. 9 in Greensburg, Ind.

After eight days on life support, 13-year-old Seth Walsh died Sept. 28 after hanging himself from a tree in his family's backyard in Tehachapi in Kern County, Calif.

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Eighteen-year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi took his life Sept. 22 by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Thirteen-year-old Asher Brown shot himself on Sept. 23 in Houston.

The fifth suicide following anti-gay bullying in September alone occurred when 19-year-old Johnson & Wales student Raymond Chase hung himself in his dorm room on Sept. 29.

It is almost impossible to ignore the media coverage around the country that young people who identify — or are simply perceived to identify — as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning have been taking their own lives one after the other.

Each and every one of them had something in common: These young people felt alone, broken, isolated, abandoned or ashamed.  No matter in what states these lives are lost, communities are left to wonder, “Is there something that we could have done to prevent this?”

I would say, “Yes.”

I remember growing up in a rural Missouri town not far from St. Louis and what it felt like to haunt the halls filled with lockers, books and classmates all around me, and still I felt broken and alone. It’s not far from the normal teen angst, but when compiled with bullying and unsupportive schools, teachers, or families, depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts are quick to come.

LGBTQ youth are four times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide — that number is eight times higher when the youth comes from an unsupportive family, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

In St. Louis, Growing American Youth works to allow LGBTQ and ally youth a safe, supportive place to socialize and simply be who they are; that organization saves lives and prevents suicides each day.

The Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth, also saves lives every day, and if you feel alone or know someone that should call, don’t hesitate. It is important that you reach out as soon as you can. 866-4U-TREVOR

Although I would not expect that everyone agrees on all LGBTQ issues, I do hope that everyone could agree that youth need to know they are not isolated or alone; they need to know they will be accepted as they are; they need to be able to go to a school that is free from bullying and harassment; and they deserve the dignity that all students deserve to learn and grow.

Youth get teased, and, yes, that is part of growing up, but in an ideal world we as parents, teachers, mentors and just members of the human race have been called to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Period.

In Missouri, our current anti-bullying law does nothing to protect youth but states — in severely vague language — that students should simply not be bullied.

State Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, is the sponsor of a fully inclusive and comprehensive anti-bullying bill that would reduce the reported cases of bullying by 30 percent, according to "From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America," research completed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

You can get involved with efforts to protect a student from being bullied or teased. You can save the life of someone that might be on the edge, and you don’t even have to know his or her name. Your church, your business and the organizations that you belong to can join the Missouri Safe Schools Coalition. We are going to be sharing our stories, organizing ourselves and changing the way that youth are treated in schools.

We can do something to help our neighbors and reach a young person that believes that they are alone and broken.

I know because at one time I was the youth who felt like I was broken because I was LGBTQ.

We can stop bullying in our schools. Each and every one of us — including you — have the power to stop bullying and change a student's life, or even your own life. Even more, you can save a student's life.

Go to  www.MissouriSafeSchools.org for more information.

Morgan Keenan is a Missouri Safe Schools coordinator.


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Comments

Ray Shapiro October 20, 2010 | 1:02 a.m.

While I think it's commendable that the author is using his victimhood to address bullying in a proactive manner, I am confused by the statement, "I know because at one time I was the youth who felt like I was broken because I was LGBTQ."
Can an individual be a Lesbian, Gay, BiSexual, Transgendered, Queer all at once? Is he trying to make sexual orientation a special protected class in the public schools? What makes his bullied experience and pain any worse than any straight, asexual or shy child's experience, if bullied? What about being bullied for being "teacher's pet" or the smartest kid in class? How about being bullied for not using drugs or having a good relationship with your parents?
No matter what, bullying behavior of over aggressive students in the public schools should be addressed both by the administration and parents...
http://education.byu.edu/youcandothis/bu...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 20, 2010 | 1:39 a.m.

I knew this article smelled bad.
It's not so much about bullying. It's more about moving the LGBTQ agenda forward into the realm of making it a hate crime for public school students to voice their uneasiness about having gays in their midst.
There is a difference between overt bullying and expressing disagreement towards sexual lifestyles. This article, by focusing on LGBTQ, comes up short in addressing bullying as inappropriate behavior. I would go as far too say, schools should also have policies with sexual expression in the hallways, classrooms and closets for ALL students.
I can not support Sara Lampe's secular lefty liberal progressive stance on this attempt to stifle religious views towards homosexuality in the public school arena. Christian children opposed to gay activities in the public schools should not be branded bullies. Likewise, the LGBTQ community should not become bullies themselves, via this kind of legislation.
http://tehjuggernauts.blogspot.com/2008/...
Seems to me that the LGBTQ community can be pretty intolerant themselves.

(Report Comment)
Susan Freck October 20, 2010 | 9:53 a.m.

"There is a difference between overt bullying and expressing disagreement towards sexual lifestyles" I agree however, with lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth being up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007), this has clearly become much more than "expressing disagreement". Every child needs a safe place and far too many do not have that. It is our responsibility as adults to step up and protect these children. If their parents and educators will not, I for one will!

@Ray Shapiro, I encourage you to educate yourself on the epidemic that is killing our youth today (www.thetrevorproject.org).

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush October 20, 2010 | 10:29 a.m.

"Christian children opposed to gay activities in the public schools should not be branded bullies. "
They're not. Bullies are branded as bullies. One can be opposed and not be a bully. I, for one, don't have a problem with discriminating against intolerance.
Keep up the great and necessary work, Morgan. The future depends on us.

(Report Comment)
Linda Dunne October 20, 2010 | 4:47 p.m.

The more our kids start seeing adults respect themselves and each other for being different and have opposing views, that's when we'll see bullying going down. Where do you think the kids learn it from? You can't blame music, games, and tv for everything. Everytime a child hears an adult talk about another adult in a negative, hateful, demeaning manner, that's where they learn it from. I was visiting w/ my 5 yr old niece one day and we were talking about her going to a wedding and how I thought she looked so pretty. Her response to me was, "No I didn't. I looked fat Aunt Lala!" She was serious as a heart attack and it crushed me. Well guess where she learned that from..her mom..because her mom stands in front of the mirror saying how fat she is along with other negative things about herself. So let's stop finding ways to hate each other and ourselves, and find ways to make our children's future brighter, safer, and stronger.

(Report Comment)
Linda Dunne October 20, 2010 | 7:37 p.m.

Also there's a HUGE difference between disagreeing with who someone IS, and abusing them for who they are. There are things that other people do that I don't agree with, however do I care who someone chooses to love, no. The things that I don't agree with, I have no problem with telling someone without demeaning them, ridiculing them, and causing harm to their person whether it's verbal, mental, emotional, or physical. You can disagree with someone and still be respectful. When you tease someone in a hateful manner that's not disagreeing with someone. That's being hateful. When you can sit there and say, "Look, I don't agree with who you choose to love, I think it's wrong. Now that is respectfully disagreeing with someone. The tone of voice and the way something is said also is how something is meant to come across. Cmon now seriously, anyone should know the difference between disagreeing w/ someone and not liking them and still know how to be respectful and kind, and what a bully is.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 26, 2010 | 6:19 p.m.

Linda Dunne said:
("You can disagree with someone and still be respectful. When you tease someone in a hateful manner that's not disagreeing with someone. That's being hateful. When you can sit there and say, "Look, I don't agree with who you choose to love, I think it's wrong. Now that is respectfully disagreeing with someone. The tone of voice and the way something is said also is how something is meant to come across. Cmon now seriously, anyone should know the difference between disagreeing w/ someone and not liking them and still know how to be respectful and kind, and what a bully is.")

Unconditional Love should not be legislated by the laws of the land.

Seems like you want to give overly-sensitive people the legal right to have police arrest "impolite" people.
Are you are for legislating etiquette and legally punish individuals who tease or taunt?

Does the Department of Education have the constitutional right to declare that students of colleges and public schools are to be treated the same way as if they are employers of a government agency in their interactions with other students?

We now have a situation where the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is advising school administrators that they are violating some kind of civil rights laws if they don't clamp down HARD on kids being kids, adolescents being adolescents and those over 18/21 from teasing or taunting.

Seems like a hammer and a sickle is being used instead of common sense.

Problems of bullying can and should be handled by the local school boards, not by the FEDS and not by Unions.

Just seems like another step to federalizing the schools. The next step will be federalizing the cops.
Then freedom of speech goes down the tubes and the progs will be in total control of their social engineering campaign...
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39858027

(Report Comment)
Abigail Williams October 20, 2011 | 8:05 p.m.

I, for one, would be APPALLED to learn that someone would interfere with your right to speak!

(Report Comment)

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