DOE says school district was negligent in responding to bullying against Seth Walsh

Seth Walsh

The U.S. Department of Education today issued a ruling declaring that the Tehachapi School District in California was negligent in not adequately intervening in the harassment and bullying that 13-year-old Seth Walsh faced at school in the years leading up to Walsh’s suicide last fall.

Walsh’s suicide was one of several tied to anti-LGBT bullying that happened last fall and focused national attention on the issue, leading to the creation of the It Gets Better Project.

In its ruling, the DOE noted that Walsh had subjected to “persistent, pervasive and often severe sex-based harassment,” and that the school district had been notified of the bullying but had failed to do anything to stop it. The ruling notes that while the Tehachapi school district’s sexual harassment policy and regulations are in line with federal law, the district — in the case of Seth Walsh — failed to follow its own policies and procedures.

According to the accompanying resolution agreement, the district will be required to revise its policies, hire new personnel to oversee harassment intervention, implement trainings for faculty and staff about both observing and intervening in harassment, and then report on the success of intervention strategies.

To read the DOE’s complete letter detailing its ruling in the case, go here.

To read the complete resolution agreement, go here.

—  admin

WATCH: Youth First Texas’ ‘You’re Not Alone’ project, a peer-to-peer version of ‘It Gets Better’

When members of Youth First Texas went to Austin in March to lobby for anti-bullying legislation, they did a better job of explaining the importance of such laws than any of the adults who were there. They were able to look senators and representatives in the eye and tell them personal experiences about having been bullied. Some of the youth told lawmakers they had attempted suicide, something that wouldn’t have happened if schools took bullying more seriously.

Walking back from the Capitol to a local church that was hosting lunch, the YFT members had an idea to make videos about their experiences. First, they sent copies to State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who shared them with other members of the Education Committee. But the videos also had another purpose — saving lives. While the “It Gets Better” videos are mostly adults telling teens they’ll get through their bad experiences in high school, YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” videos contain messages from LGBT youth to LGBT youth.

Watch the first set of videos from YFT’s “You’re Not Alone” project after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Okla. lawmakers endorse bullying, suicide

We’re kidding, of course, but not completely.

The Oklahoma House voted Monday night to kill a bill that would have outlawed cyberbullying and required schools to enact anti-bullying policies.

The bill’s Republican author, Rep. Lee Denney, said the 52-44 vote “absolutely shocked me.” Denney authored the measure after an 11-year-old in her district who was bullied at school committed suicide.

Opponents of Denney’s bill called it “overkill” and said it would represent another mandate placed on schools by the Legislature.

The Equality Network, Oklahoma’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization, released a statement saying the group is “deeply troubled” by the bill’s defeat. An earlier version of the bill passed the House 74-23 in March.

“This is really sad news for Oklahoma’s students,” said Kathy Williams, president of The Equality Network. “Each day, students are physically attacked and verbally terrorized in our schools. It is disgraceful that our legislators refused to pass even this watered-down bill to help administrators, teachers, parents, and students create safer schools. No one can learn in a climate of fear.”

TEN says a recent study found that only 20 out of 500 school districts in Oklahoma include sexual orientation in policies protecting students. Only two include gender identity. “These omissions leave LGBT students highly vulnerable in districts that do not explicitly protect them from harassment and intimidation,” the group said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Marsha Ambrosius’ ‘Far Away’ and the blogger who’s attacking its anti-bullying message

I have Tammye Nash to thank for reminding me about this video.

R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius takes on the subject of bullying and suicide in her video for “Far Away” from her album Late Nights & Early Mornings, which came out in March. The song is actually the second single from the album that debuted in late December. The video garnered much attention because even with the topic of suicide, the video depicts the issues affecting an African-American gay couple, an image hardly seen in music videos by non-gay artists. The video premiered back in January.

The video ends with a message by Ambrosius that relates her to the topic and strives for an end to bullying. But one person sees it differently. Blogger Sandra Rose figures that kids don’t commit suicide because they are bullied, but for deeper reasons.

Gay teens are not committing suicide because they are the targets of homophobic bullying; they are committing suicide due to their undiagnosed mental issues (depression being one of them).

If, as Marsha suggests, society succeeded in eliminating homophobic bullying, the suicide rate among gay teens would stay the same. That’s because the core issue (depression) is not being addressed properly.

Interesting point. What do you think?

As for the video below, just think of this more as an “in case you missed it” post.

—  Rich Lopez

Apple employees join It Gets Better effort

Ok. So the the “It Gets Better” videos aren’t new, and there are a ton of them out there.

But this one — from Apple and featuring Apple employees — is new to me, and it is, I think, one of the most touching I have seen.

—  admin

UPDATE: Police say man found shot to death in Oak Lawn may have committed suicide

Earlier we reported that 28-year-old Javier Ahumada was found shot to death at an apartment on Dickason Avenue in Oak Lawn on Monday night. Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said the actual address of the complex is 4120 Dickason Ave. He also provided the following update:

“We are still waiting for the M.E. [Medical Examiner's] report but are not ruling out anything at this point. He had mental issues and has tried to harm himself in the past. This may very well be a suicide but we will wait for the M.E. to rule on that. A weapon was found by his body.”

—  John Wright

Bullying victim’s family sues Joshua schools

Jon Carmichael

The family of 13-year-old Jon Carmichael filed suit yesterday in federal court against the Joshua Independent School District, claiming that school officials ignored and even covered up the months of cruel harassment and bullying that drive Jon to suicide in March of last year.

The lawsuit was filed Monday, March 28, in federal district court in Dallas, exactly one year after Jon hung himself in his family’s barn. Joshua is located just outside of Cleburne, south of Fort Worth in Johnson County.

Reports at the time of his death indicated that Jon was bullied because he was smaller than his classmates at Loflin Middle School.

A report in today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram says that among the bullying Jon endured was being thrown into a trash dumpster and having his head held down in a toilet while it was flushed. Just before Jon hanged himself, the lawsuit alleges, he was stripped naked and put in a trash can. This time the attack was videotaped and posted on YouTube. It was removed at the direction of a school staff member, but that staff member did not report the incident, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also claims that on the day Jon died, he told a girl he was going to commit suicide and she told him to go ahead because no one cared if he lived or died.

School superintendent Ray Dane said he has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

Jon’s mother and sister were among those who went to Austin on Tuesday, March 22, to testify in favor of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation being considered by Texas lawmakers.

—  admin

Puppy in need of adoption — save me from myself!

My name is Gulliver. Help me find a home.

Every week in the print edition, we profile the Pet of the Week; this is not that. This is an act of self-preservation.

Some very evil lesbians, who know what a soft touch I am with needy puppies, have tried to get me to adopt a fourth dog. I once had four dogs at once, but none were puppies and none over 30 lbs.; I currently have a 40+ lb. 9-month-old Lab named Gulliver who is as much work as two dogs alone. (Here’s more proof they are evil: They stole the name Gulliver for their new dog less than a month after I did.)

So why does all this matter? Because these women have another rescue they are taking care of named Buddy, and they can’t keep him. If they don’t adopt him out soon, they will trick me into taking him and we can’t have that. So one of you needs to step up.

Here’s the deal: Buddy is about 10 months old, probably a Chow- or hound-and-Shar Pei mix who was discovered in a neighbor’s front yard suffering from dehydration, starvation and injuries from a fight with a larger dog. He’s something of a miracle baby. His recovery is progressing: He’s already added 6 lbs. to his skinny frame. He’s probably as big as he’s gonna get. And by Monday, he’s have all his vaccinations and lose his testicles. In other words, the perfect boyfriend.

If you can adopt him — and please, somebody, do it! I can’t take another pet! My cat will commit suicide! — contact e-mail Gyrlchef@yahoo.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Leaders of gay student group at Baylor react to school’s decision to deny their charter

As we noted the other day, Baylor University has denied a charter for an LGBT student group called the Sexual Identity Forum. The university apparently doesn’t think college students are mature enough to talk about sexuality issues unless the discussion is “professionally facilitated,” whatever that means. Baylor has a policy prohibiting students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” The Sexual Identity Forum, which insists it isn’t an advocacy group, plans to appeal the denial of its charter and will continue to meet informally in the meantime — at least until the administration tries to shut it down completely. Openly gay and extremely brave Baylor senior Samantha Jones, the president of the Sexual Identity Forum, tells News Channel 25 that she decided to launch the group after the school’s administration failed to respond to the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose death was a wake-up call to gay students around the country: “We didn’t get an e-mail saying, ‘This is someone who you can approach if you’re struggling with this,’ …nothing,” Jones says.

—  John Wright

Scott Armstrong Attempted Suicide 4 Times And Picked Up HIV Along The Way. Then Everything Changed

The first time I remember hearing about AIDS was in 1985, I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I remember my teacher talking about how it affected the immune system. I think the next significant discussion, for me, was in 1987 when the issue of AIDS was dressed on the television sitcom Designing Women. There were the updates of the spread of the epidemic, the discoveries of how it was transmitted, and who was truly affected by it. Then in 1992 a good friend of my parents was diagnosed. I remember hearing how his wife treated him, the concerns about how long he would be around, and what would happen to him.

My parents never treated him differently, my mom still hugged him, my dad still joked around with him and I still enjoyed being around him. He was still the same friend that we had always known. He got remarried to a young woman who also had AIDS, and they had what they called their miracle baby. She was born without the virus, this would have been around the time that research was showing that babies born to positive mothers could be negative as long as they did not breast feed. What an amazing occurrence that was.

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Queerty

—  David Taffet