The feelings of those moments flood over me. I remember clearly their favorite words, “Faggot and flamer,” interchanging them through sentences to construct new ways of taunting me. And yet, no one said anything; no one cared. I found myself asking my teachers for help with bullying and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s words still linger in my mind, “Maybe you shouldn’t be so openly gay.” The cold uncomfortableness of my high school environment brings back memories of fear and anxiety that I will never forget. High school was supposed to be a place to develop and express myself openly, yet it became a nightmare that introduced me to a world of rejection. Educators in public high school institutions in America are supposed to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for each individual student. Yet, in spite of their responsibility to create such an environment, homosexual students, more so than others, continue to face violence, threatening circumstances, and other significant impediments to learning. Public high schools do not take an active approach in decreasing violence directed toward homosexuals; they give no special attention to this rising outbreak.
This reoccurring form of discrimination toward homosexuals continues to unfold within public high schools across the country. For years GLSEN, commonly known as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, has been documenting the school experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. They have found the prevalence of anti-LGBT language and victimization and witnessed the negative effect that these experiences have on LGBT student’s achievements and abilities. In a survey done in 2009, GLSEN examined the experiences of 7,261 students between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one from fifty states and the District of Columbia. These surveys included questions regarding homophobic remarks made within school, feeling unsafe because of sexual orientation, missing classes due to safety reasons, and physical and verbal assault regarding one’s sexual orientation. The study found that 84.6% students were verbally harassed hearing derogatory remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” and 40.1% of students were physically harassed receiving unpleasant attacks. However, studies also showed that 62.4% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported the incident to school staff because they believed little to no action would be taken. In addition, 30.0% of students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Students were three times as likely to have missed school in the past month if they had experienced high levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation (Kosciw, et al. 17-21). These studies showed that students exposed to such discrimination, such as verbal and physical assaults, were drastically and negatively affected.
The voices of the victims of homosexual bullying sometimes fall on deaf ears. Jamey Rodemyer, a student at Williamsville North High School, endured harassment by students making gay references toward him. Students verbalized their hatred and animosity toward Jamey’s homosexuality openly. One student expressed to Jamey, “I wouldn’t care if you died. No one would. So just do it. It would make everyone way more happier!” On September 8, Jamey wrote on his Tumblr site, “No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, you’re the ones calling me faggot and tearing me down.” In attempt to ask for help from school officials, he put up a separate post that day letting everyone know it was National Suicide Prevention Week, and yet no one listened. A few days later, he hung himself outside his home in suburban Buffalo, New York. Jamey’s story embodies the lack of attention schools direct toward LGBT students who are bullied. The negative effect of bullying denies the education students deserve. Jamey’s desperate call for action from his high school was ignored. Everyone posses an inalienable human right to feel safe and protected, and yet Jamey’s tormenters seized his right when they bullied him, a right his school should have upheld.
Homosexual students attending public high schools become targets for bullies because public high schools do not promote acceptance. The creation of supportive resources such as Gay-Straight Alliances and a curriculum that is inclusive of LGBT related topics encourage students to be open to other peers. Michigan state Senator Glenn S. Anderson states, “No matter where they attend school, every child has the right to have a safe, nonthreatening environment. People need to hear from their local communities that all bullying based on sexual orientation is a problem that really needs to be addressed” (Watkins 75). The creation of clubs such as “Pride,” a group at Fordham University which encourages homosexuals to accept themselves and others to be accepting of their homosexuality, allows schools to open a new idea of acceptance within the minds of their students and is one way to address this call of action Anderson request of people.
Many people argue that schools are institutions solely established for educational purposes, they believe that homosexuals would not have problems involving bullying if they kept secret about their homosexuality, and they also believe that schools take the most active approach they can with such delicate matters regarding bullying. However, schools not only have the responsibility to educate, they also have the responsibility to provide a safe environment. Jamey’s death was caused by acts of bullying that the school failed to address. If public high schools truly believe they take an active approach toward decreasing violence directed toward homosexuals, why did Jamey Rodemyer commit suicide? How many more suicides are needed for a school to address this problem of bullying toward homosexuals? How many losses of life need to occur before schools realize their inaction continues a cycle of death? Any loss of any life is a destruction of beauty and the world can no longer lose something so priceless to that of homosexual bullying in public high schools.
Kosciw, Joseph, Ph.D. G., Emily, Ph.D. A. Greytak, Elizabeth, M.A. M. Diaz, and Mark, M.S. J. Bartkiewicz. “The 2009 National School Climate Survey.” The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. Print.
Thompson, Carolyn. “Jamey Rodemeyer’s Suicide Leads To Bullying Spotlight, Caution.” Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Web. 01 Nov. 2011. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/jamey-rodemeyers-suicide-_n_987054.html>.
Watkins, Christine. “Gay Teens Are At Risk.” Teens at Risk. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2009. 69-76. Print.