OK, kiddo! Here are all the fantastically amazing posts tagged with Bullying
If you’re a student in Alberta hoping that the school boards will offer some official protection from anti-gay bullying, it looks like you’re going to have to keep hoping. Last week, the Alberta School Boards Association rejected a proposal to adopt a province-wide anti-bullying policy aimed at protecting GLBT students and staff.
Now that the boards don’t think anti-gay bullying requires any special action, what advice do they have for all you gay students? Well, according to Dale Schaffrick, one of the 62 percent of board members who voted against the proposal, you could try acting less gay. “Children with a gay tendency,” Schaffrick told the media, could simply hide their gayness and be “less identifiable.”
“I think for their own benefit, it would be helpful,” he continued.
Gee, why didn’t any gay students think about this concept before? Hiding who they are so that bullies won’t pick on them. It would almost be as if they were hiding in a closet of some sort. You know, a metaphorical one.
For those of us thinking it might be better to try condemning the bullies’ behaviour rather than the victims’, it looks like we’ve got some work to do in Alberta. The Edmonton School Board, which introduced the policy to the ASBA, has successfully been running their anti-bullying program for a year now. Other school boards will follow suit, but it looks like some pressure will be needed before students can feel protected province-wide.
Hundreds of students from schools across Vancouver have collaborated to create a YouTube video called the Pink Project, a creative effort to help spread the message that bullying is not OK. The video features students from eleven different schools dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” all wearing pink shirts with the message “Acceptance; Born this way.” It’s pretty great, and looks like it was a lot of fun to do!
Of course, some people just don’t like the sound of childrens’ laughter. Take Burnaby Parent’s Voice, for example. They’re the anti-gay lobby group that was formed exclusively to oppose the Burnaby School Board’s anti-homophobia policies. They’ve written the Premier of British Columbia in an attempt to stop the Pink Project video from being posted online.
Hey, let’s see if they were successful.
Hmm… Seems OK to me. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s fabulous!
- Parents protest students’ Lady Gaga video [Burnaby Now]
- Burnaby Parents Voice calls for halt to Lady Gaga Pink Shirt Day video project [Burnaby News Leader]
- Anti-bullying Pink Project 2012 [YouTube]
How about I share some encouraging news for a change? The Québec government has officially launched their Lutte contre l’homophobie, a five-year program to combat homophobic bullying and discrimination.
The program, which was announced in 2008 but came into effect last month, has seven million dollars allocated toward over 60 anti-homophobia measures, including support for independent community organisations. (Organisations that would like to apply for financial support have until December 1st under this program.)
While I don’t expect this will rid the province of homophobia overnight, I’m confident it will help—and it’s a far cry from government policies that actively oppose equal rights for GLBT citizens.
Good for Québec!
- Quebec government to spend $7M fighting anti-gay bullying [Vancouver Sun]
- The fight against homophobia [Justice Québec]
A new study being released today by the University of Winnipeg has found that homophobia has become a normal part of school life in Canada, with a direct impact on student safety.
Homophobic harassment and comments, sometimes even uttered by teachers, is commonplace. 64% of GLBT students actually report feeling unsafe at school. 21% have even reported being physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation.
The study also revealed a bit of hope, though. Both verbal and physical harassment were found to be significantly reduced in schools that have explicit anti-homophobia policies compared to those that did not. A clear majority of straight students, 58%, also reported homophobic comments to be upsetting, meaning that most students you meet will be an ally.
Anti-homophobia policies are finding organized opposition from church groups, as was seen in Burnaby this week, but academic research like this certainly outshines any imaginative misinformation and demonstrates a clear need for programs to make schools safer.
So, to all you guys having a rough time in school, hang in there! Things are getting better!
A group of parents, organised by a handful of churches, rallied yesterday to protest a non-discrimination policy introduced by the Burnaby school district. The draft policy, which has yet to be finalized, addresses the unacceptably high levels of bullying that GLBT students face in comparison to other students.
This doesn’t sit well with some people, though. James Gray, one of the protest organisers, explained his objections to the press: “I have two young children in the school system and I don’t want any adult to look at them in a sexual way. Whether or not my daughter is heterosexual or a lesbian in none of their business.”
Whoa there, tiger!
I’m not sure what Mr. Gray thinks he’s protesting, but he won’t get very far with this sort of hyperbole.
Mr. Gray should try a thought experiment and imagine growing up in a world where everyone—his teachers, his principal, his parents—assumed that all students, including him, were gay. As a (presumably) straight male, would he have had a problem with this? Would he feel sexualized? I suggest this experiment, because any objections he has should be identical to those of gay people growing up in today’s school systems.
You see, the new policy has nothing to do with “sexualizing” schools, but rather the reverse. With respect to teaching staff, it trains them to remove the assumption that all boys will end up falling in love with girls, and vice versa. Students are not assumed to be either way, because the assumption would inevitably be wrong for some of them. With respect to students, it means that bullying and harassing students for being (or appearing to be) gay will not be tolerated; being a “fag” will no longer be a focus in the schoolyard.
The policy also means that staff will be better trained to deal with crises. Today, GLBT youth have the highest rate of suicide and depression of any other identifiable group, and proper support systems have demonstrated clear improvements to this statistic. If a student discovers that he or she is different and needs to discuss anything, the school will be prepared to lend any special support that student may want. Students can feel safe with the knowledge that teachers and councilors have not made any assumptions about them and will be open to helping.
Larry Hayes, the Burnaby school board chairman, put it best: “It’s all part of creating a safe, caring and respectful environment for all of our students.”
- Parents protest new gay-friendly policy for Burnaby schools [Vancouver Sun]
A new study out of Montréal’s Concordia University has linked homophobic bullying to hormonal disruptions that can make youth more prone to memory loss, cardiovascular problems, bone density depletion, and even higher rates of suicide.
The research involved questionnaires and saliva swabs from 63 gay and lesbian youth. Results suggest that participants who endured the most bullying in day-to-day life had a higher rate of cortisol disruptions, which can cause negative health effects.
While I suspect that bullying of any kind would produce such a correlation, GLBT youth are indeed particularly prone to harassment.
Relatively unique to GLBT youth, the study also showed that having supportive family and friends who are responsive to gay issues significantly improved resiliency to homophobic harassment, making support groups a great countermeasure to the hormonal disruptions.
- Study links homophobic bullying to suicide, memory loss [Vancouver Sun]
Two weeks from today is Pink Shirt Day, a movement started in 2007 by two high school students—David Shepherd and Travis Price—after they saw a new student being bullied and harassed for wearing a pink T-shirt. That evening, they purchased as many pink shirts as they could find and then distributed them around the school the next morning, flooding the halls with pink. Since then, the day has become an annual event to help put an end to bullying in schools.
It’s a great idea, so consider this a head’s up for anyone who works at, or goes to, a high school in Canada. Visit http://www.pinkshirtday.ca/ to learn about how you can get your own pink shirt, or make a bulk order for your Gay-Straight Alliance, if you have one. All proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada.
Toronto’s Gay Village is a little on edge recently after a rash of slushie attacks.
Groups of teens from a nearby school, Jarvis Collegiate, have apparently been trolling the neighbourhood during lunch hour, picking anyone strolling along Church street and hurling slushies at them, à la Glee. Unlike Glee, they’re also hurling some nasty slurs.
Paul Winsor, a local florist and slushie victim, said that the slurs happen often, but didn’t think the attacks are specifically targeting the gay community. “In my mind, it’s a bunch of teenagers behaving badly all around,” he told the Toronto Star. “I think it’s general hooliganism; it’s a crime of opportunity—whoever happens to be around.”
Considering that Jarvis Collegiate is right in the middle of the Gay Village, and not all the victims have been gay, I’m inclined to agree. Although the slurs and general behaviour is certainly revealing of a larger homophobic problem in schools. After all, if this is the stuff that leaks out of the school into the general public, imagine what it must be like inside for students who are gay or perceived to be gay.
As for the slushie-slinging squad, may they all get brain freeze.
Today is Spirit Day, and I’m wearing purple. Anti-gay bullying has always been unacceptable, but with the increased reporting of teen suicides in the past months, people are finally starting to notice the gravity of the problem. In the original Pride flag, the purple stripe represents spirit—something that we will not allow to be extinguished, and that’s the essence of Spirit Day.
Wearing purple isn’t a solution, of course; but I hope that bullied kids will notice the extra colour in the halls today and recognize that they’re not alone. I hope they’ll see there are allies out there—people they may not know or ordinarily wouldn’t speak to. I hope the friends and family of those who have lost loved ones due to harassment and bullying will see that there are people who remember their tragedies and are fighting to change things. Even if you don’t see much purple today, I guarantee there are people across the continent who care about the well-being of all GLBT youth and will not tolerate homophobic bullying any longer. I’m one of them.
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.
A new study out of Iowa State University suggests that gay and lesbian teenagers are among the hardest hit by cyberbullying, a phenomenon unique to today’s youth. With the popularity of social networking, bullies have found new venues to harass and ostracize their peers, often without the threat of adult intervention.
The numbers aren’t terrifically encouraging. 54% of gay youth and friends of gay youth reported being cyberbullied within the thirty days prior to the researchers’ survey. The next highest group was females, at 21%.
Less encouraging still, victims of cyberbullying reported feeling helpless, with 55% saying that their parents couldn’t do anything to stop it, and 57% saying they don’t believe school officials could help either.
To help ameliorate the situation, I’ve decided to make an actual cybernetic bully, programmed to protect gay youth against its human counterparts. Any investors?
- Cyberbullying hits LGBT youth especially hard [CNET News]
Gay teens are nearly twice as likely to be bullied as straight ones, according to a new study conducted out of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on a survey of 7,559 teens and young adults. While the number of out teens in the sample was relatively small, the results still re-confirm that GLBT youth are at a higher risk of being bullied, likely because bullies tend to target anyone perceived as being different.
Bullying is a huge problem—a problem with lasting, negative effects, and one that will not disappear on its own. Schools must train their staff to recognize and put a stop to it, or the problem will only continue.
Good news coming out of Chilliwack, British Columbia. The Chilliwack Board of Education has voted to update their bullying and harassment policies to directly address the homophobic bullying that has been making life very difficult for gay students there.
Great news, marred only by two trustees that actually opposed the anti-bullying measure: Heather Maahs and Martha Weins. Maahs explained her opposition to the press:
If you open the policy up for one group, you’d have to open it up for all groups of students. Nobody deserves to be harassed or bullied, but it’s difficult when you take one group of students and write a policy specifically for that group.
I won’t even justify that with an invective. If gay students are being tormented in ways that other students aren’t, it is the school board’s duty to address it with as many specific policies as required.
The school board already had a general bullying and harassment policy, but there was no official denunciation of homophobia, nor any specific training for educators and staff in the old policy. Without these in place, few bullied GLBT students feel comfortable to approach anyone for help. I say this from personal, painful experience—and with that in mind, the new anti-bullying policies get my enthusiastic, prolonged approval.
- Gay students get protection [BC Local News]
A professor researching harassment of gay teens is calling high school “the land that time forgot,” a place where aggressive anti-gay sentiment pervades student life.
Catherine Taylor, a professor of education and communications at the University of Winnipeg, regrets to have discovered that virtually all gay teens are verbally harassed, with a startling number even being physically abused. Worse, homophobia so ingrained in school culture that very few students step up to condemn the abuse.
This is the same study, incidentally, that was forbidden from being conducted inside several Catholic school boards in Canada. The study is currently in its second phase, and is seeking funding for its third and final phase to take place early next year.
- Gay teens ‘terrorized’ in Canada’s schools: prof [Ottawa Citizen]
A nation-wide study on homophobia and bullying in high schools was launched on Friday as a collaborative effort between the University of Winnipeg and Egale Canada. The ambitious study hopes to gauge the social climate in Canadian high schools by surveying 10,000 students before the end of June.
Not all students will have the opportunity to participate, however. Three Catholic school boards in Ontario and Alberta have refused to co-operate with researchers and barred the survey. Helen Kennedy, Egale’s executive director, expressed surprise at the Catholic boards’ decisions:
The study is not about sexual behaviour; it is about social behaviour. It’s about bullying, harassment and taunting in our schools.
A worthwhile effort, and it’s unfortunate that not everyone is sensitive to the cause. Even more strange, though, is the rationale for the research ban. Reverend Dennis Noon of the Wellington Catholic District School Board, who refused his students’ participation in the study, told the media that homophobia was simply “not a big issue” in Catholic schools.
Gee, where have I heard that before?
Having gone through the Catholic school system, I don’t buy it. I’m not alone, either; Ontario’s Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynee, expressed disappointment at the school boards’ dismissal of the research, saying she hopes for more open conversations with the boards.
As for Reverend Noon and the other board representatives, if they don’t think that homophobia is a problem, then why not allow the researchers to conduct their survey? Given the harm caused by bullying, I think the Catholic school boards ought to face the issue for a change and acknowledge when gay students are being harmed in their schools.
- Catholic schools reject participation in homophobia survey [CBC News]
- Survey of homophobia in schools underway [Canada.com]
The B.C. provincial government has cancelled the fall legislative session, citing a lack of business to discuss. Premier Gordon Campbell adding that skipping out on parliamentary sessions “is an organized, thoughtful way of proceeding with the public’s business.”
Of course, that’s entirely relative, as there are seven private member’s bills waiting to be discussed—including a “Safe Schools” bill designed to protect gay students from harassment and discrimination.
Steve LeBal and James Chamberlain, of the Gay and Lesbian Educators of B.C. (GALE), were understandably upset:
It’s incomprehensible to have a government that sits once a year. My main concern is that [the Safe Schools bill] will die and won’t be reintroduced. We’ve been waiting 10 years for this. It’s long overdue.
So for all you gay students in B.C. putting up with harassment, rest fully assured! Your government may, eventually, whenever parliament reconvenes—which it will, just not soon—there will, probably, be a discussion of whether or not to further discuss, and possibly vote on—if you’re lucky—a bill to protect you!
Pending a lengthy review process and additional senate discussion, of course.
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