Gay and Lesbian Students Urging Congress to Take Stand Against Bullying
Their gay and lesbian victims are coming out of their lockers and fighting back.
And, the Miami Herald reports, they have friends in high places. One of them is President Barack Obama, and some 23 Democratic senators are now promoting anti-bullying bills.
What's more, the Herald reports, officials at the U.S. Department of Education have started looking at bullying as a civil rights issues. That means if schools don't take bullying seriously, they could lose federal funding and even face prosecution.
All this makes Maggie Davidson smile.
The Redmond, Wash., resident who is 15 years old and bisexual came to Washington, D.C., last week to lobby Congress on bullying issues, the newspaper reports.
"It's really amazing to see how a group of people who have been so oppressed for so many years is finally taking a stand for themselves," she tells the Herald.
Davidson and 39 other participants from 29 states spent the week visiting congressional offices, sharing their stories with members of Congress.
"It was definitely intimidating, but it was empowering at the same time," Davidson tells the Herald about her first trip to Capitol Hill. "This is important to me because I think that schools should be a place where all kids feel safe. The No. 1 priority of a school should be to provide kids with an education, and nothing should get in the way of that."
However, Ken Trump sees something entirely different going on.
The president of National School Safety and Security Services, based in Cleveland, tells the Herald all this talk of anti-gay bullying is not about school safety.
"This is a back-door attempt to create a protected class," he tells the newspaper.
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, agrees, telling the Herald anti-bullying legislation and lawsuits are just ways to stifle dissent on gay rights.
"There is a real danger that anti-bullying policies will be used to curtail any speech in schools critical of homosexuality," he tells the newspaper. "They must never use bullying prevention to engage in one-sided advocacy about homosexuality, thereby discriminating against Christian, Jewish and Muslim students who believe homosexual practice is wrong."
However, gay students say they have a right to feel picked on. A string of suicides have been committed during the past year by teenagers who were tormented for being gay or suspected of being gay.
A 13-year-old California boy hanged himself from a tree outside his home after months of bullying. A 15-year-old Indiana boy hanged himself after being called a "fag" over and over again. A Rutgers University freshman jumped off a bridge after his roommate secretly made a webcast of him being amorous with another male student.
As a result of these and other incidents, lawmakers in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have passed anti-bullying laws based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Davidson tells the Herald she feels better knowing so many lawmakers -- as well as President Obama -- care about how she and other gay and lesbian students are treated.
Last month, Obama hosted the first-ever White House conference on bullying prevention.
"If there's one goal of this conference, it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up," Obama said. "It's not."
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