Call me old, but isn't it amazing that LGBT kids are even identifiable in schools? The idea that these kids are brave enough to come out so young speaks well of our society's ability to adapt and accept diversity. Do not get me wrong - bullying is not OK, I just had to say that having kids come out while they are still in school might be a sign of progress. Now that they are out, we do have a responsibility to protect them.
We all have been the target of discrimination, bias, teasing, and bullying. At some point in most people's lives they are targeted for being too fat, too skinny, too nerdy, too short, too tall, too rich, too poor, too dark, too light, too smart, too dumb, too Jewish, not Christian, too athletic, too wimpy, too sexual, not sexual, and the list goes on and on. Many schools stop kids from using ethnic slurs, or picking on people because of their size or social status, or brains, but few stop kids from saying things like "that's gay."
A recent Harris Interactive Survey of 3,400 students and 1,000 educators conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported that 65% of the participants reported verbal abuse or physical assaults related to homophobia in the last year. In addition, 84% of the participants reported hearing derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" at school, and 38% of the students said they had been subjected to physical harassment because of their sexual identity.
When school is unsafe, kids skip school and fail to go on to college, which is a tragedy for them as well as our economy. The things schools can do to support LGBT students include:
Start young - include books about diversity in libraries for all ages;
Use the use lesbian, gay, bisexual in discussions about tolerance and diversity;
Have a LGBT "safe" teacher - too talk to and learn about community resources;
Have a Rainbow Alliance or club to celebrate diversity;
Do teacher training to encourage them not to tolerate harassment based on sexual identity; and
Have antibullying policies that clearly make harassment based on sexual orientation unacceptable.
If the conversation at your school is lacking - start one. There will be many kids safer because you had the courage to include them in your antibullying campaigns.