Caylend Childs, a 7th grader who attends Mason Clark Middle School in East St. Louis, Illinois, spent the entire day Monday with the word “Fag” scrawled on the back of his neck in permanent marker.
While he was resting his head on his desk during one lesson, another student thought it would be hilarious to brand him. Childs spent the entire day being laughed at by other kids, and he didn’t know why.
Childs’ mother found the slur and reported the incident to the school. Childs’ mom says her son has been the victim of bullying before, telling Fox2Now that students broke into a bathroom stall Caylend was in and kicked him in the back. He ended up covered in urine. He now no longer wants to go to school.
The school, which has reportedly confirmed the incident, says the students responsible will be disciplined per district guidelines. The district does have a sexual orientation-inclusive anti-bullying policy which also covers “derogatory slurs.” Many districts do not have such policies. Several simply ignore them.
Hesperia Unified School District received a letter from The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California this week accusing the district of allowing a climate of anti-LGBT bullying to persist at one of its high schools despite state law and district policy prohibiting it.
The letter, which you can read here (.pdf), goes further than that, actually. It claims that administrators at Sultana High School are actively participating in the ostracizing of LGBT students.
The ACLU, together with the law firm Nixon Peabody, wrote on behalf of Sultana High School’s Gay Straight Alliance club, saying in part:
Officials at Sultana High School have repeatedly violated federal and state law by:
(1) suppressing the GSA’s speech about the club and LGBTQ issues, censoring its posters and announcements, refusing to approve its educational events, and treating the GSA differently than other clubs;
(2) discriminating against students who are or are perceived to be LGBTQ and GNC by making and allowing teachers to make harassing remarks such as calling students or things “gay,” saying “that’s so gay” in the classroom, and in one instance making overt discriminatory comments about the Homecoming Queen’s decision to wear a suit in lieu of a dress; failing to investigate, respond adequately to, and discouraging students from filing official complaints about anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination; retaliating against staff who advocate for the rights of the GSA and LGBTQ and GNC students; failing to implement, publicize, or train staff about clear policies and practices regarding discrimination and harassment; censoring discussion of LGBTQ issues at school; and treating same-sex couples differently by selectively enforcing PDA rules against them, excluding them from school traditions such as “favorite class couple,” and punishing LGBTQ students more harshly for misconduct than other students;
and (3) imposing gender stereotypes and suppressing expressions of gender non-conformity by establishing and threatening to enforce gender stereotypical dress codes at school social events.
The ACLU is threatening a lawsuit if things don’t change.
This comes as a study released Thursday shows 89% of students in California report having heard homophobic slurs from students and 14% from school staff, while 37% reported being harassed because of their sexual orientation.
The report, titled ”School Climate in California,” further examines data taken from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s National School Climate Survey of 2011. As the wider report shows, California and Illinois are not the only states with a bullying problem.
GLSEN has been able to break down the results of its National School Climate Survey, which includes responses from 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia and from 3,224 unique school districts, to create a state-by-state snapshot of the bullying students face.
Every state, from the most deeply conservative to the fly away liberal, sees bullying persist, and in particular anti-LGBT bullying. The vast majority of students report hearing homophobia and anti-trans sentiment nearly every day. Most feel victimized just walking down the halls.
And bullying kills. Most recently, it appears to have driven 15-year-old Oregon student Jadin Bell to attempting to kill himself in the playground of his school. He subsequently died after being taken off life support. Bell’s story is just one among many.
We owe it to every child in America to act. Thankfully some lawmakers are doing just that.
Rep. Linda Sanchez recently introduced into the House the Safe Schools Improvement Act. A Senate version of the bill (S. 403) was introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on February 28. The Act has bipartisan support. It is not controversial.
It seeks to protect all, to enforce federal anti-bullying mandates and to ensure that if districts do not act, then their federal funding will be threatened; it enumerates specific classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity, because research has shown that by identifying those classes, we are able to track high risk groups and see that appropriate measures are being taken to help them.
Congress has so far failed to move on previous versions of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Its opponents claim that the Act will enshrine the gay agenda in schools.
The only gay agenda in our schools is one of earning an education; of hopefully making lifelong friendships; of making a promising start for a fulfilling adult life; and, unfortunately, the main gay agenda in school is still, for many today, just about surviving.
Image credit: Thinkstock.