Survey: How safe are LGBT youth in TX schools?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Gay-Straight Alliance Network are conducting a school climate survey on anti-LGBT bullying and discrimination.

The survey has a short version and a long version.

Participants will remain anonymous and findings will help the ACLU of Texas “share ways that schools have successfully addressed issues of discipline, bullying, and engendered a safe learning environment.”

According to the ACLU, one recent survey showed that only 32 percent of Texas students felt school officials intervened effectively in response to a report of bullying.

For more information, visit the ACLU of Texas website.

—  Dallasvoice

Parents of Asher Brown face vandalism, indimidation

David and Amy Troung at Equality Texas Lobby Day advocating for anti-bullying legislation

Sixteen months ago, amidst a national rash of suicides by LGBT youth, residents of Harris County awoke to find that the epidemic had claimed one of our own. Asher Brown, 13, had taken his life after enduring months of taunting from his Cy-Fair classmates. Asher was small for his age, a Buddhist, didn’t dress in designer clothes and didn’t act the way his classmates felt a “boy” should. Asher converted to Christianity, thinking it would make the torture end. His parents, David and Amy Truong, spoke with teachers and administrators, vainly hoping they would intervene to stop the torment. When nothing worked, when the adults at the school failed to step up, Asher killed himself.

For a moment, the people of Cy-Fair seemed to wake up. Candlelight vigils were held and adults throughout the community swore to stop the cycle of  harassment and assault that caused Asher to give up hope.

Then the moment passed. Cy-Fair, Harris County and the nation went on.

For David and Amy Truong the pain their son enduring remained, spurring them to action. The couple spoke to the media, religious leaders and elected officials asking for a change in the culture of our schools. They visited with members of the state legislature, helping to push through landmark anti-bullying legislation last year, and they have sued the Cy-Fair Independent School District, hoping to force the school district to change the way it responds to bullying, so no other child will have to experience what Asher did.

For some in Cy-Fair, it seems, the Truongs refusal to remain silent is an affront. My Fox Houston reports that the couple has faced an onslaught of harassment and vandalism as thanks for their efforts:

“‘People just driving by slowly and parking and staring at us. When they do speak to us they scream, “Bully, bully, bully!” Kids would start chanting that. Adults would just give us dirty glares. They scream by screaming, “Yee ha”!’ said David who has reported the incidents to Harris County Precinct 4 Constables.

Most recently, a hefty bag of bottles was smashed at high speed against the Troung’s [home], splattering glass throughout the yard.

‘Broken glass was everywhere on our lawn, almost to our neighbor’s lawn. We had to spend an hour picking through it by hand,’ said David.

Since their son’s death, the Troungs have endured more than a dozen separate incidents of vandalism and hateful harassment.”

Children aren’t born hating other people, they have to be taught. In Cy-Fair, it seems we now know where the children who drove Asher to suicide learned that skill.

After the jump watch the My Fox Houston report

—  admin

Al Franken asks public for help passing Student Non-Discrimination Act

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken

Sen. Al Franken, D – Minnesota, is asking the public for help passing S. 555, The Student Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under the provisions of S. 555 students who experienced discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or because of their association with LGBT people could bring a civil suit against the school officials or districts responsible for the discrimination. The bill currently has 34 co-sponsors (none from Texas) and its House companion (H.R. 998 by Rep. Jared Polis, D – Colorado) has 150 (with 7 Texan co-sponsors including Houston’s own Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green) . Both bills have been referred to committee but neither has received a hearing, a crucial step towards becoming law.

In the video requesting the public call their Senators (after the break) Franken points out that federal law already provides protection for school children harassed because of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, but that no protection exists for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The inclusion of “association” in S. 555 is particularly well thought out. According to the Williams Institute nearly 1 in 5 same-sex couples in the United States is raising children, in Harris County 18% of same-sex couples are.  As these children enter school it’s important that they be able to receive an education without harassment or bullying due to who their parents are.

Franken is asking people to call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and encourage their Senator’s to support the bill.

—  admin

Soldier commits suicide after being bullied — and the soldiers who bullied him face criminal charges

Eight U.S. Army soldiers are facing charges including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, assault, dereliction of duty, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat, maltreatment and making a false officials statement after having allegedly bullied and hazed another soldier until he was driven to suicide, according to reports published in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Pvt. Danny Chen

Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, born and raised in Lower Manhattan, was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Although based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the division is serving in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

Chen found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a guard tower on Oct. 3.

Although military officials are not discussing details of the investigation or the charges, Chinese community activist Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said that according to information gleaned from emails, Facebook posts, discussions with cousins and pages of Chen’s journal that have been released by the Army, Chen faced incessant bullying based on his ethnicity.

OuYang said Chen’s fellow soldiers dragged him across the floor, threw rocks at the back of his head and mocked him by calling him “Jackie Chen” — a reference to Chinese martial arts star Jackie Chen — in a bad Chinese accent. OuYang also said that once after Chen left the water heater on after showering, the other soldiers forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while hanging upside down.

Five of the eight soldiers charged in connection with Chen’s death are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault consummated by battery, as well as other charges. Those five are Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis and Specialist Ryan J. Offutt.

Sgt. Travis F. Carden was charged with assault and maltreatment, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement. The only officer facing charges, Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, was charged with dereliction of duty.

I know that the bullying and hazing directed at Chen was reportedly based on his Chinese ethnicity, with no mention made of anything related to his sexual orientation, But bullying is bullying, no matter what the bullying is based on, and bullying kills. This story also makes me think of those folks who say that bullied children and teens just need to grow a set and get over it. But if a trained soldier stationed in Afghanistan can be bullied into suicide, what chance does a lonely kid questioning his or her sexual orientation or gender identity have against those who think might makes right?

—  admin

Update on Ray Hill’s arrest

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

As previously reported by Houstini, longtime Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill was arrested last night after a confrontation with police outside Treasures, a gentlemen’s club on Westhiemer Rd. Hill has been released from jail and posted the following message to his Facebook page:

I was arrested trying to stop power arrogant cops from bullying frightened and vulnerable people (this is not my first rodeo) There will be a trial; they will lie under oath; I will show the video of the whole incident; I will win and then sue and win that case. The system works if you have the tools to use it properly. My lawyer and I will make money off the city in this process. The cycle will end when the City of Houston stops trying to treat adults like they were children…


—  admin

No action from HISD Board on anti-LGBT flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

It’s been 36 days since news first broke that HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez was distributing an anti-LGBT flier as part of his campaign, yet the HISD board has still taken to action to reprimand their colleague. As previously reported by Houstini, at some point toward the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The net effect of the flier was a statement that gay men are not fit for public office. Rodriquez later appeared on Spanish language television and said that he did not understand “why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.

At the board’s monthly meeting last night trustees considered adopting an ethics policy that would instruct trustees to “make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of all children in the District, regardless of ability, race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin, sex, age, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and/ or social standing.” The enumerated list of attributes was added to the draft policy after community outrage at Rodriquez’s flier. After trustees raised concerns about other portions of the ethics policy the measure was tabled until an indefinite date. At this time there is no commitment from the HISD Board of Trustees to resume consideration of the policy.

As happened at the board’s November meeting several HISD students spoke to the board requesting that action be taken against Rodriguez. Sergio, a freshman at Milby High School, told Rodriguez “your fliers make me feel inferior,” adding “what makes you think a bully should be my representative?” Micheal, a Milby sophomore, spoke in similar terms “I have been bullied throughout Elementary and Middle School… I don’t want a bully representing HISD.” Christine Farley, the school nurse at Milby and co-sponsor of the schools Gay Straight Alliance spoke eloquently, decrying Rodriquez’s “dirty politicking” and criticizing his lack of contrition: “You have made to attempt to apologize to my students.”

Several community leaders also addressed the board, echoing the call for action or at least a sincere apology. Cristan Williams, executive director of the Transgender Foundation of America, said that she did not believe that Rodriquez understood why the community was upset. “I’ve not yet heard a type of an apology that fully recognizes the message that was sent,” said Williams. “Just because someone is GLBT, or a part of the GLBT community does not mean that they are a pedophile or should be excluded from our culture.” Lou Weaver read a resolution from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus adding his own comments. “Students, faculty and staff should all be held responsible for their actions, board members should be no exception,” said Weaver. “Don’t use your biases to get elected.”

—  admin

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

Local activists continue effort to remove Rodriguez

Rodriguez Protest

Protesors, led by Mike Pomeroy, outside of the November 10 HISD Board meeting

The controversy over an anti-LGBT flier distributed by HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez continues to snowball. Activists organizing on the website hisdbully.org and led by Mike Pomeroy and Cristan Williams are planning to protest at the HISD Board Meeting December 8. The protest, which begins at 4:30  pm outside the Hattie May White Center (4400 West 18th Street) where the School Board meets, is part of a two pronged approach that includes speakers directly confronting Rodriguez during the period allowed for public comments at the meeting.

As previously reported by Houstini, At some point towards the end of early voting during the fall municipal elections Rodriquez began distributing a flier that encouraged Houstonians to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because Fonseca had a history of activism for LGBT issues, was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, had no children and had a “male partner.” The flier came within a hair’s breadth of saying “don’t vote for gay people” without actually saying it.

The Houston LGBT Political Caucus discovered the flier and began bringing it to the public’s attention on Friday, November 4, the last day of early voting. By election day, November 8, the flier had become national news. Rodriguez received 916 votes in early voting, Fonseca 814. On election day, after the flier became public knowledge, Rodriguez garnered 1,485 votes to Fonseca’s 1,563. Rodriquez’s pre-election day lead was sufficient to put him into office by 24 votes.

On November 10, at the Houston Independent School Board’s monthly meeting, Rodriguez heard from students, parents and teachers in the district furious at him for perpetuating anti-LGBT sentiment. Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus revealed to the board that, in addition to distributing the flier, Rodriguez made additional homophobic remarks to local Spanish-language media.

What you all might not know is that [Rodriguez] also went on television and said that he ‘just couldn’t understand why an unmarried 54-year-old man would want access to children.’ That statement in and of itself and the implication contained within is representable and discusting.”

In response to the public outcry the HISD Board President Paula Harris pledged that the board would reconsider their code of ethics for trustees to address such behavior. The board is scheduled to consider the revised code of ethics next week at the November 8 meeting.

The organizers of the protest ask that people planning to attend RSVP on the Facebook event they created. Anyone wishing to speak at the Board Meeting must sign up online by 4:30 pm on Wednesday, December 7. The Board receives public comments at the end of each meeting, which can be quite late in the evening.

—  admin

Website shines spotlight on Rodriquez

Rodriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

Houston Independent School Board Member Manuel Rodriguez has the dubious distinction of being the sole topic of a new website: hisdbully.org. The site seeks to remove Rodriquez from office for anti-gay comments and literature made during his recent re-election campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, Rodriguez’s campaign distributed a flier that encouraged voters to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because of Fonseca’s history of LGBT activism and because he is gay. Rodriquez also made comments during an interview with a Spanish language station asking why a 50-something year old man with no children was seeking access to children.

“We were encountering so many different people who were outraged by the behavior of Manny Rodriguez, who wanted to do something but weren’t sure what they should do,” said Mike Pomeroy, one of the organizers of the site.  “We needed an easy way to disseminate the information as far and wide as possible, to compile all of the relevant media attention that the issue has received, and to focus the energies of all the disparate individuals who wanted to address the issue, so that we could all work together with the same goal in mind.”

The site includes a petition calling for Rodriguez’s resignation.

—  admin