The following come from Kim Westheimer, Director of HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program:
Today we learned of the suicide of 13-year-old Asher Brown in Houston. Asher took his own life after relentless harassment and bullying at school. Most of the bullying this young man endured was inflicted on him because he was gay. This isn’t the first suicide by a young gay student we’ve heard of – it happens far too often. No parent should have to go through the suffering that Asher’s parents are going through. Bullying takes its toll in many ways. In this past week, in addition to Asher Brown’s tragic death, there were news reports of a an 11-year-old boy who was mercilessly harassed for being a male cheerleader. He suffered a broken arm at the hand of bullies, some of whom have threatened to break his other arm because he spoke out against his tormentors.
These awful incidents are preventable. It is the responsibility of adults – school personnel and parents – to address the bias that is so often behind bullying and tragic cases of suicide. Too often bullying related to sexual orientation and gender does not get addressed. Perhaps it’s because adults harbor their own anti-gay prejudices, or maybe it’s because they are afraid to broach the subject of LGBT students and parents because it’s still viewed as a taboo. Whatever the case may be, something must be done. Students need to be taught to respect each other as early as elementary school. This is why I am proud of HRC’s resource, Welcoming Schools, a tool to help school end name-calling and bullying, avoid gender stereotyping and embrace family diversity. To read more about the links between Welcoming Schools and bullying prevention, go to the last week’s blog by Marlene Snyder, the Director of Development for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and a Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council Member. It’s time for all of us to make a difference, whether through work in our communities, conversations with the children in our lives, or advocacy to insure that school districts and state legislatures everywhere implement enumerated anti-bullying policies and laws that that protect all students.