Two more school districts in B.C. have joined in adopting anti-homophobia policies to help put an end to bullying.
This encouraging news is particularly timely. Earlier this month, Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old student in the United States, hanged himself, unable to bear the taunts and harassment at school. Billy may or may not have been gay, but the bullies all thought he was and harassed him relentlessly for it. It’s especially heartwrenching news because stories like Billy’s are completely preventable. Anti-homophobia policies work, noticeably lowering incidences of bullying.
Still, there’s work to be done. Programs, like those being introduced in B.C., face opposition. Just last May, pressure from a handful of parents lead to the cancellation of anti-homophobia events at Columneetza Secondary School in Williams Lake, B.C. The events were to feature assemblies including guest speakers and a short video about the impact of homophobic bullying in schools. It’s particularly shameful that parents were responsible for the cancellation, sending a signal to the entire school that anti-gay attitudes aren’t just acceptable, they’re important and require parental interference to defend their presence.
Luckily, schools are slowly starting to get the picture, and—in the meantime—there’s lots of other help available. My favourite advice columnist, Dan Savage, recently started the It Gets Better Project. To start it off, he and his husband Terry have posted a video on YouTube sharing their experiences being bullied in school, emphasizing how much better things have gotten since then. It’s an important message, and one that I can personally attest to. I was bullied relentlessly throughout junior high. Other kids taunted me for my skinny build, shoved me against lockers, pushed me to the ground, called me gay and other homophobic slurs, and the Catholic school administration did nothing to help. It was the worst years of my life, but I made it through. And after that, things got a whole lot better.
As for B.C., eleven schools districts now have full anti-homophobic bullying policies enacted, prioritizing the well-being of their students over the misinformed and insensitive complaints from a handful of parents. Here’s hoping the other 60 districts will follow suit.
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