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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More Schools Take Action to Stem Anti-Gay Bullying

By Christina Hoag
Los Angeles, Associated Press
Published on October 22, 2011

A history teacher amends his lessons on the civil rights movement to include the push for gay equality.  A high school removes Internet filters blocking gay advocacy websites. Six gay students sue their district, saying officials failed to protect them from bullies.

After anti-gay bullying led to a spate of teen suicides last year, school districts across the country are stepping up efforts to prevent such incidents, while more students are coming forward to report bullies.

"It's an issue that has taken over the public consciousness since last fall," said Jill Marcellus, spokeswoman for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "People realize it doesn't have to be this way. We can make it better."

Awareness of anti-gay bullying is increasing as acceptance of gay people has grown in society. Gay marriage is legal in several states, gays are now permitted to serve openly in the military and, in California, schools will soon have to teach gay-rights history.

Kids, even as young as middle school age, feel more emboldened to openly express their sexual or gender orientation, but many are not prepared for a possible backlash, gay-rights advocates say.

According to a 2009 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 85 percent of gay teens reported harassment at school within the previous year and two-thirds felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. The problem also extends to boys perceived as effeminate and girls deemed masculine.

A lot of people have the idea that coming out as soon as possible will make themselves feel more comfortable," said Raymond Ferronato, a 16-year-old gay junior in Antioch, Calif. "I tell them come out when you're ready to come out, and only do it when you're safe."

Schools became aware last year of how unsafe it can be.

Five gay teens, ranging from middle school to college age, killed themselves in California, Indiana, Minnesota, Texas and New Jersey, after being bullied, in some cases for years. Last month, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself in Buffalo, N.Y., after years of homophobic harassment.

The rest of the story can be read here.