Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's Life Like For Gay Kids In Public Schols?

Last week, NPR's Talk of the Nation did a segment on gay kids in public schools -- their experiences, fears, hopes, and what people are doing to help them. Here's a link to a recording of the segment along with a transcript. It's quite good, although some of what you will hear about what these kids have to go through I find terribly angering. If you want to look at the depths of shitty behavior amongst people who think they're far more righteous than the rest of us, look no further than the way gay kids get treated today. Here's an excerpt of what gays, and not just the kids, have to go through:

BRANDON (Caller): Hi. I am a queer teacher in Columbus, and the big thing I've noticed, the big problem that I have had, is I live in a state where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay.

So I cannot fully support my students who are going through the same troubles I went through in high school without risking my job and my livelihood. I cannot come to them without drawing attention to myself, and always worrying what will be the ramifications of that and what will ultimately be the lesson that they get from that - when they see someone helps them and then gets punished for it.

I so often have to support the right of students to say things in my classroom that I find abhorrent, that are insulting and discriminatory against me, but it's under this guise of every voice has a right to be said. But at the same time, I don't have the right to really give the ability for students who need the voice, who are so invisible, to have that safety without putting myself at risk.

Another excerpt focusing on the bigotry gay kids experience (emphasis mine):

While there are protections under the umbrella of Title 9 at the federal level, there are not non-discrimination protections for employment for LGBT people at the federal level. That's why we're trying to pass a law called ENDA. And in fact, in eight states in this country, there are laws that specifically prohibit positive discussions of homosexuality in public schools.

Now, these laws vary in terms of what they actually cover, but what we see in our research is that in laws - such as Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina and Texas, the effect of that law is that teachers in those states, whether they are LGBT or straight, are less likely to intervene when they witness anti-LGBT harassment and name-calling in their schools. And they also, sadly - in those states you are more likely to have students report that teachers themselves are making derogatory comments.

So the prohibition on positive comments is also seen as a license to say negative things themselves.

Nationwide, we have a problem with teachers not intervening when they witness this behavior. Eighty percent of LGBT students report that teachers who witness this behavior rarely or never intervene. And half of LGBT students report that they don't bother telling anyone when they face name-calling, harassment or assault at school because they don't think anything will be done.

There is hope, though -- the straight classmates of gay kids do learn when it's pointed out to them:

Just the other day, I was working with some students and there were a fair - I would say over half the class would go(ph), well, what's the big deal? It's OK. You know, whatever, kids are gay. And then there were others in the class - and this was so inspiring - they said, you know, I never realized when I said "that's so gay" that I was really hurting somebody. I'm not going to say that again. So I saw hope, and I see change.

Take time to read or listen to the whole thing. And keep in mind, you may well know one of these kids who are suffering from this and cannot tell anyone. What you say and how you act count for so much in their lives.

What's Life Like For Gay Kids In Public Schols? (Talk of the Nation, NPR)


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