Friday, April 10, 2009

More than Words

Trigger warning

Via Maegan and Noemi on Twitter, I heard about this story:

11-Year-Old Hangs Himself after Enduring Daily Anti-Gay Bullying
An 11-year-old Massachusetts boy, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, hung himself Monday after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother’s weekly pleas to the school to address the problem. This is at least the fourth suicide of a middle-school aged child linked to bullying this year.
I am a former elementary school teacher. I am a current parent. Bullying is not just harmless words--that sticks and stones shit is for the birds, and I get pissed every time I hear about teachers and school officials ignoring it.

There are all kinds of excuses, of course. Children who bully are just being kids. There's nothing a teacher can do because it will continue out of our eyesight in the quiet corners of playgrounds and bathrooms. And all too often, teachers' disdain turns toward the victim of bullying: "Toughen up," "Don't be a tattle-tale," or "Get over it, people are always going to talk about you." (Re: that last excuse, I swear I heard this from teachers and parents: "They even talked about Jesus; why are you any different?")

The author notes that Carl did not identify as gay*, an effort to drive home the point that
[Y]ou do not have to identify as gay to be attacked with anti-LGBT language. ... From their earliest years on the school playground, students learn to use anti-LGBT language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their peers.


Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
Most of the kids who are bullied and harrassed never report.

They've learned that their teachers and administrators will not effectively address the abuse.
*Of course, there are many reasons that he might not have identified as gay--I don't mean to dismiss the possibility that he was. I am struggling with that part of the article. I get that the intent is to show the anti-gay bullying can hurt anyone, but I also get a slight, "This is even more tragic because he might not have even been gay" sense from it--not that I think it was intentional.

And there you have a peek into this meandering mind.

this from Petulant's round-up at Shakesville.

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