Queer/Race

High School Bullies

Posted in Uncategorized by Lorena A. on April 14, 2010

An issue that I feel is often overlooked is that of bullying in schools. It seems that nobody talks about it until some poor kid commits suicide. Then it becomes a hot issue for a week or two in the media, only to be forgotten again. Teenagers have it hard enough, what with going through puberty, trying to be cool and fit in with their peers, and having to deal with schoolwork and preparing for college. Combined with all that pressure, being a gay teenager in high school is ridiculously hard. In fact, there are many statistics proving that gay teens are constantly at risk of mental problems and physical harm.

The Mental Health Association says that LGBT students hear slurs like “faggot” or “homo” once every fourteen minutes each day. Author Anthony Chase conducted a study that found that 31% of LGBT teens were threatened or actually injured in school in 2009 alone. These abuses have very negative consequences on gay teens’ mental health and their education. LGBT kids are up to three times more likely to commit suicide than straight kids. Because they don’t want to deal with the bullying, LGBT students will often skip school. In fact, Mr. Chase wrote that 22% of teens he spoke with had skipped school in the last month to avoid bullies. Similarly, a 1998 study published in Counseling Today showed that 28% of LGBT students drop out of high school altogether, which is more than three times the national average for straight students.

So what can be done to create a safer environment for gay teens? Many high schools have elective classes, so one option would be to create diversity classes that focus on LGBT culture. Schools could form Gay-Straight Alliance clubs or appoint a teacher or administrator to work with gay teens. They could provide counseling, mediation, or just a friendly face that teens can talk to freely. Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to pursue their education in a safe environment.

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3 Responses

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  1. ahart1314 said, on April 16, 2010 at 5:43 am

    I agree that bullying is definitely still a problem for LGBT-identified individuals in today’s high schools and middle schools. I’m currently taking a class on queer youth cultures in which we have discussed this very topic. I just wanted to bring up several other ways that school communities can be more LGBT-friendly.

    First of all, support groups have proven to be very successful in forming LGBT-friendly communities. These groups usually have a moderator and simply give students the ability to meet other LGBT students while regularly sharing common struggles or feelings about growing up queer within the school environment.

    Secondly, teachers can use politically correct terms to identify LGBT individuals within the classroom setting and can reduce homophobia by making sure that phrases, such as “That’s so gay”, or words such as “faggot” are not used within the classroom setting. Not only can teachers and administrators ensure that these words and phrases aren’t used, but when they may happen to be used, they can explain to students why these words come from a discriminatory, bigoted origin. Teachers can set an example for teenagers to be heterosexual allies to the queer community through these simple actions.

    Finally, studies show that children who learn about the LGBT community from an early age are much more likely to be accepting of the community as they are growing up and when they are in young adulthood. While some may see this as a radical idea, I think that children, as young as five and six years old, should be taught in very basic terms about sexuality and the fact that some people identify differently. Instead of instilling the idea of gender dichotomies within children, schools can show that there is a spectrum when it comes to sexuality and people identify in a variety of different ways. Later on in the educational process, older children should have comprehensive sex education in which they are taught the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation so that they more thoroughly understand the importance of acceptance for this community.

    Bullying of LGBT-identified teenagers is certainly an overlooked issue in our school system as many school systems are still unsure of how to effectively eliminate the problem in a politically correct manner, especially school systems that may be in conservative, rural, homophobic parts of the country. It’s essential that we continually think of new ways to make the coming-out process less of a struggle for LGBT children and teenagers.

  2. kaykay said, on April 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I absolutely agree that bullying is a deep subject that is very often forgotten about until something tragic happens to someone. Derogatory words, especially words like “fag”, “homo”, or “gay” are too loosely used by not only teens, but young adults as well. I think that in the middle and high school culture, words like those dealing with LGBT are often viewed as negative. Due to the fact that they are negative I think that teens do not want to be portrayed that way. I also think that bullying has a lot to do with insecurity. Students often bully because they want a sense of dominance, and unfortunately those insecure students take it out on students who are different or as they might feel who are “less than them”. The problem of bullying begins early in age. Many parents think that their young children in elementary school do not know anything about LGBT or derogatory words when in reality they do. If we teach young children the importance of not bullying and the real meaning behind derogatory words it will help them better understand why they should not bully. I also think that if we help kids build confidence in themselves then they would not feel the need to lash out in a negative way.

  3. erobert8 said, on April 19, 2010 at 1:33 am

    I think that this is a great issue to use for a post regarding concepts that deserves more attention. Bullying in general, whether it is through physical/verbal abuse, the new ways of “cyberbullying” or types that are targeted towards specific racial, ethnic or gender groups are definitely underrepresented statistically as well as communicated to the public eye. Schools are often too lenient and dismiss it as just typical childlike ways to adjust to their peers. I agree with kaykay’s comment that “If we teach young children the importance of not bullying and the real meaning behind derogatory words it will help them better understand why they should not bully.” Many of the best lessons that we learn come from the home, the values that we are taught in our early childhood.

    I myself learned my own lesson this year. On a UMD diversity retreat in February, I was discussing the many variations that my name could take on and then dismissed them all by saying, “It doesn’t matter, most of them are so gay.” I had no idea that I had offended the gay guy and the bisexual girl in my group, to me it was just regular routine with one of the words that had been incorporated into my vocabulary through schooling. I felt REALLY horrible about it afterwards, I had no idea that the words I had said without thinking had hurt and therefore bullied people without even knowing it. I of course made my apology and have tried really hard even after that weekend to delete that negative phrase.

    It definitely showed me that bullying can be inadvertent and that’s why I found this topic great because it’s a life lesson that everyone should learn for the emotional stability of others as well as the betterment of the individual.


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