Friday, June 26, 2009
Thanks to the amazing effort by the entire coalition and supporters like you, the House on Tuesday passed the School Violence Prevention Act by a vote of 58-57. It now goes to Gov. Perdue, who has said she will sign the bill.
Your calls, emails, and in-person lobbying had a real effect. Together we have helped make NC schools safer for all children, regardless of difference.
Check out the story at the Charlotte Observer or get Equality NC's take.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Thanks to Sen. Boseman, the 26 Senators who voted for safer schools, and all of the amazing members of this coalition!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I started being bullied in the 6th grade. I was called a “faggot” on a daily basis from 6th grade until I graduated High School. Classmates in my gym class used to pull their penises out of their underwear in the locker room, put them in my face, and [say very vulgar things], they would also put their naked buttocks in my face as well. All these things that happened to me on a daily basis made me NOT want to go to school at all!
I was so embarrassed, and scared to tell anyone what was happening to me. I did not even tell my own family and what little friends I had what was happening to me on a daily basis. I would skip school on a regular basis, and was in danger every year of being failed due to missing too many days, before I would skip school I would tell my Mom that I was sick so I didn’t have to go. When that didn’t work anymore I would just skip class/school to avoid the ongoing torment I faced at school. Many teachers heard the comments made to me, but they did nothing, one even laughed with the offenders. I felt there was nowhere for me to turn. Oddly enough I had not come out of the closet to anyone at this point, I was too scared to. I had no knowledge of the life of a gay male in NC, as I had no role models to turn to, and no information available on the subject. I ended up trying to be straight, you can probably figure out how that worked out. I was very unhappy with my life, and contemplated suicide on many occasions while attending school due to the everyday torture I went through.I hope that this information, as painful for me to write to you, makes a difference for a youth today. If this helps even one child it is worth it to me to share this story with you!
Saturday, April 4, 2009
This bullying continued into second grade. By then, the combination of bullying and mental illness got bad enough that I thought about suicide and how terrible my life was. I developed a habit of looking down at the ground so I would not see the kids bullying me, a habit even now in high school I have trouble with even though I am no longer being bullied. The bullying continued into third grade, although it did improve. I was put in a self-contained class which I started to make friends in and although I was still bullied it had improved a lot. Also, by third grade, I was no longer really depressed. The situation slowly improved over into fifth grade and after that bullying, for me, was no longer one of my bigger problems.
Special thanks to the Disabled Young People's Collective for gathering these stories.
Friday, April 3, 2009
At the very least, I felt the child who was name-calling should be told not to use that language any more and that she should apologize to my child. The teacher stated that she would speak with the principal as she wasn't sure how to handle it - she stated she would have him call me. Neither of these things happened - the child did not apologize to my child, the teacher told me later that she never addressed it with the child because "what's the point,"" and the principal never contacted me. Before the end of the year, I wrote a letter to the principal listing several concerns - and I included my concern about the name-calling incident. He did not contact me. However, I did see him in the office and he stated "I got your note." That was it...he got my note.
I later learned from my daughter that that was not the first time she had been called a "faggot" and other names by a small group of children in her class - it seems that it had just been happening more frequently, the teacher had not responded when she want to her for help, and she "just couldn't take it anymore."
That year, her second grade year, was very difficult...she was a very lonely child who hated going to school. In fact, she hated it so much that by the end of the year, she declared that she was never going to college and began to ask if high school was mandatory! I do not think that it was a coincidence - I strongly believe that she was completely demoralized by her peers and the name-calling. I believe that she lost confidence that her teacher could or would help her. I don't think the teacher was a bad person or that she didn't care about my daughter - I think she didn't know what to do.
The experience that my child had should not have happened - and it should not be repeated. Teachers need guidance and support to be able to address this kind of tormenting behavior - and a rule/law that allows for consistency in application of consequences.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Horrible news out of Ohio, and yet another tragic example of why clearly defined bullying policies are absolutely necessary to protect children from violence. Eric Mohat, 17, was tormented so much that his parents believe it drove him to kill himself.
"...when one bully said publicly in class "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself, no one will miss you," he did.
Now his parents, William and Janis Mohat of Mentor, Ohio, have filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that their son endured name-calling, teasing, constant pushing and shoving and hitting in front of school officials who should have protected him.
The lawsuit -- filed March 27, alleges that the quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music, was called "gay," "fag," "queer" and "homo" and often in front of his teachers. Most of the harassment took place in math class and the teacher -- an athletic coach -- was accused of failing to protect the boy.
"When you lose a child like this it destroys you in ways you can't even describe," Eric Mohat's father told ABCNews.com."
For the rest of the heartbreaking article, please click here.
Ohio is all-too-similar to North Carolina in that it has no statewide anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories. Our friends at Equality Ohio have this to say about their state policy and the similar struggle they've had with getting this legislation passed:
Ohio does not have a broad law to prevent school bullying. Ohio also does not have a law preventing discrimination in education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2006 the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 276 that required the 723 school districts across Ohio to develop anti-bullying policies on their own. This bill was signed into law without the need for enumerated categories of protection. Equality Ohio and a coalition of organizations testified before the Ohio Senate Committee on Education to try to include these important protections.
Eric committed suicide in 2007. Just three months after his death, his high school adopted an anti-bullying policy with enumerated categories (including sexual orientation), which we found in their Parent/Teacher Handbook. If Ohio, or Eric's school district, had taken precautionary steps to protect him and millions of other students from this sort of targeted bullying, it is possible Eric might still be alive.
Shouldn't North Carolina adopt this kind of effective policy before another student kills himself or snaps and shoots classmates?
While our coalition is working very hard on getting this legislation passed, there are things you can do in the meantime - as parents, friends, educators, or administrators - to learn more about how to effectively help victims of bullying at SafeYouth.org.
Our hearts go out to the Mohat family, and all victims of bullying, and we commend the Mohat family for using this tragedy to draw attention to this serious problem in our schools and to create more effective legislation regarding school anti-bullying policies.
We urge you to contact your legislators to make sure that they support the School Violence Prevention Act (House Bill #548 / Senate Bill #526). You can look up your legislators and email them here.
Special thanks to the Disabled Young People's Collective for gathering stories for this blog.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
During my freshmen year, a girl would always steal my lunch. Every time she took my lunch she would force me to tell my entire lunch table (which had about 12 students) something about my sexual orientation. When I refused to tell her something she would call a person to the table and they would say something derogatory and mean to me. Even if I did tell them something, she still refused to give me my lunch back. After I asked her to give me back my lunch, she told me, "my boyfriend is black and he is going to kick your ass!" It was really scary especially at the age of 14 seeing so many people gang up on me. Even the captain of the soccer team threatened to beat me up because I told her to not steal my lunch.
Once, a football player pretended to be my boyfriend. However, he had a girlfriend and because my learning disability makes it difficult for me to tell if he was being truthful or not, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He humiliated me by throwing it in my face that he already had a girlfriend. I was humiliated because of my sexual orientation and my learning disability. I thought I was worth nothing. People at the table laughed at me as if my existence was a joke. Things only got worse when I reported what happened to the Vice Principal. People thought that I was a coward and not man enough to tolerate being humiliated. Students would jeer at me and make fun of me because I asked for help. But when I thought my life was on the line, I had no choice. For months, my self-esteem was shot and I had little hope that I would make it. I had to have an escort walk me from class to class because I was afraid of being attacked.
As a special education student, I felt violated and angry because people have acted like it was my fault that I was bisexual. Losing my friend (the para who I depended on) was very hurtful and at the age of 14, I was still naive. For weeks I was depressed and angry, I never thought that my sexual orientation could do that much harm to me. For years I decided to lock that skeleton in my closet.
However, on Thanksgiving morning I had a flashback to what happened to me three years ago. At that moment, I finally realized that my para and the people I sat with were wrong! I was so young and naïve, I allowed them to manipulate me!
It was then that I realized God doesn't hate homosexuals. If he did, he would not have created me the way that I am. I am who I am, and people need to accept it. Throughout high school people have bullied, harassed, and even evicted me from my own lunch table because of my sexual orientation. My loss three years ago, and my realization that it was not my fault, is empowering me to fight for equality. The fact that I lost my best friend, my paraprofessional, was no longer a loss, but rather a virtue. Without losing friends and being bullied I would not have the courage or strength to rise to this occasion. I am recycling the frustration and anger that I had over my loss three years ago and I am turning it into motivation that will make me determined to fight for equality. "What destroys me is what strengthens me." Everyone has been discriminated, discrimination hurts, discrimination is wrong. I’m working with Equality NC in asking the North Carolina Legislature to pass anti-bullying legislation to protect people like me, and hopefully prevent this same thing from happening to anyone else.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
"This poll confirms that only a small portion of North Carolinians opposed safe schools protections that ensure the safety of all students, including those who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Ian Palmquist. "For that sake of our young people, it's time to do the right thing and pass this bill."
Support for the bill crosses party lines, with 86% of Democrats, 51% of Republicans, and 62% of independent and third-party voters supporting. Strong support was seen in every region of the state and across all age groups and races.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My brother, Mickey, is a year younger than me and two grades behind me. I graduated from high school in 2004, but was there for half of my brother's high school career. We're pictured on the right, displaying brotherly love, at his graduation in 2006. Mickey had everything going for him - he was a budding basketball player, inquisitive, and charming. The summer before my senior year and his sophomore year, he became paralyzed from the chest down overnight. He literally went to sleep, feeling a little dizzy, and woke up the next morning unable to move his legs. This sort of thing doesn't just happen randomly - but somehow, someway, it did. Mickey spent the rest of that summer in hospitals in Charlotte and Winston-Salem trying to figure out what triggered this odd and tragic occurrence.
While doctors attempted to figure out what exactly had happened, my brother dutifully learned how to live life confined to a wheelchair. As his brother, I spent many days and nights in a state of grief for him and all that he would miss out on - especially basketball, at which he was only beginning to flourish.
It wasn't long until school started and Mickey would have to face all of his peers who knew him as a spry, quick little guy, transformed to this seemingly changed incarnation. The only thing is - Mickey hadn't changed. If anything, his changes were for the better. Through the entire process, he was brave, humble and had a sense of humor.
It didn't take long, though, to see that just because of his new physical handicap, others saw him differently. You never realize how much folks stare at physically handicapped people until your brother is one of them. You never realize how obviously people whisper and wonder about him until you're walking down the halls beside him.
Mickey would never share his story. He'd never let others know the pain he felt when those who he thought were his friends became bullies. They, like most bullies, were just kids who couldn't understand his predicament, so instead, they made fun of it. I know it's too painful for Mickey to have to recall what he experienced... Which is why I'm sharing it as someone who saw firsthand the destruction of self that bullying can cause.
When Mickey - against all odds - started moving his toes, and then his feet, and his legs, and his whole body again, our family rejoiced. We couldn't believe it, but he was actually recovering. Now, he was forced to walk with the aid of arm crutches, and eventually a walker until his muscles gained enough mass for him to be stable. If you can believe it - the bullying became worse the more elevated he got. It wasn't until he was walking without any aid that it stopped, and that he was able to see who his true friends were and carry on with his life.
What happened to Mickey physically, albeit interesting, is too long and complicated for this story - and it's beside the point. The point is that the essence of my brother never changed throughout his ordeal, but the attitudes towards him changed drastically. It made an almost unimaginable situation all the more overwhelming and unbearable for him and it was all unnecessary. It just didn't have to be that way.
We must first place protections, like the School Violence Prevention Act, in schools that prohibit bullying of any type. Then, we can only hope that when a bully is stopped for laughing at another kid in a wheelchair, or with red hair, or with a lisp, that the bully will then be forced to ask themselves, or someone else, why they were stopped. It can't take long for that child to see that the reason they were stopped from bullying another kid is because it is just plain wrong.
We can only hope that the legislators who oppose this bill will stop and ask themselves why they are against protecting all students from bullying - especially those most susceptible. And if they foolishly choose to continue their opposition of keeping schools safe for all students, well, then they too, are just plain wrong.
Monday, March 16, 2009
UPDATE: Video now included!
My daughter has shared with you her experiences in our school system. We transferred Kate to a different high school in an effort to find a better environment where she could grow academically. There are improvements, but still she has unnecessarily suffered because of personal prejudices from administrators, teachers, and students.
As a parent, my heart breaks every time Kate comes home and is somewhat withdrawn and then shares a bad experience with me. I worry every day when she goes to school that in spite of her incredible spirit and her ability to work through situations that something will happen. We do not have a bullying policy that protects our children and our experiences within the school system only emphasizes that all schools within the same system are not created equally and that the prejudices, whether consciously or sub-consciously, of teachers and administrators often cause them to turn a blind eye to things that are harmful to our children and get in the way of every child getting the same opportunities for education.
As she shared, she takes on two tasks every time she enters the school doors, one of education, but the second is keeping herself safe, both physically and emotionally in an adverse environment. This is an unreasonable distraction for any young person. All children have the right to a safe and complete education. My daughter should not be an exception.
We need an anti-bullying policy in all schools that is clearly defined and not left up to interpretation by administrators and teachers. Our ability to keep our children safe shouldn’t be a question. This should be the foundation of our education system so that emphasis and efforts can be directed toward improving academically.
Understand that without this legislation that the children that come behind Kate will likely have her same experience. She continues to push forward and because of her incredible spirit she will succeed in life, but it didn’t have to be this difficult and it shouldn’t be this difficult for other children.
Our superintendent told us that we will never have an inclusive anti-bullying policy within our county unless it is state mandated. I am asking our representatives to hear Kate and me and hear our story. I am asking our community and the thousands of parents across North Carolina to support this bill. Regardless of your personal beliefs on any issue, I know that we as parents and members of this community want a safe environment within our schools for every child. Thank you.
Friday, March 13, 2009
This caused me lots of frustration. After months of no one listening to me, I got so frustrated that I acted out and ended up being expelled from school. The principal did not help me. I felt like I was being "railroaded" out of that school. I am not a troublemaker, but their lack of help that I desperately needed was not being provided for me, causing my frustration levels to rise above unsafe limits. My mom had to fight for me several times at IEP Meetings (Individualized Education Programs). She called people from the school department who specialized in autism and had them come to convince the school that I was not a troublemaker. Because I got expelled, I missed several months of school. We had to move out of the district for better options for schools.
Overall, my 7th grade year at that school was horrible.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My name is Kate Mabe and I’m a junior at Mount Tabor High School. I am here because I believe that the best way to understand things and to inform people is through your own story and life. I am here to tell you, through my story, why you should care about what bullying policies really say.
I came out as gay to my friends in 7th grade. I had an awful time dealing with it myself and I was proud that I could take that step. Eventually, more people started finding out and that was when things got bad. I had rumors spread about me, people called me names. I was a victim of bullying. I couldn’t ask the staff for help because I was almost positive they would do nothing but call my parents, tell them I was gay, and my world would fall apart. I was always terrified of my parents finding out. But, eventually I came out to by parents and they had some issues, as some parents do. So I still didn’t feel comfortable bringing up the issue with the staff because I could only see more trouble coming from that.
I started my freshmen year of high school and a lot of kids who had gone to middle school with me went as well. So, naturally, some of the bullying followed. But because I knew there were no rules protecting me, I was sure I would get no support or help from the staff if I told them what was happening. I had good reason to believe so, too. Earlier in the year, a teacher had called me out in front of the whole class asking if I was gay. I ended up becoming so uncomfortable with even going to school that I made the tough decision that I had to change schools or I knew I wouldn’t last through high school. Getting to change schools was a huge shift for me, but it was a blessing. I love going to Mount Tabor. It’s not perfect, but it’s a “live-and-let-live” place, for the most part. I still do experience some problems with students and I do hear a lot of terms like “that’s so gay” and other derogatory terms for gays and lesbians.
Sometimes it makes me feel really lonely and like no one cares about me. And I think that’s how a lot of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens feel; Because not a lot of people will stand up for me, or anyone like me in schools. I have come to realize that take on two jobs when I walk through the door of my school, I take on the job of learning, and the job of standing up for myself and who I am. It hurts knowing I have to do something most students never even think about, but every time I hear “that’s so gay” and a teacher does nothing about it, it’s a terrifying confirmation that I’m on my own, without protection, as soon as I get out of my mothers reach. I’ll never ask for “special rights” in school, I’ll never ask for “special rights” anywhere, all I’ll ever ask for is what every straight kid has in school. I want tolerance, I want to be able to learn without fear, and I want to freedom to be myself without consequence. That’s all I’ll ever ask for. Thank You.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
This says nothing for the reactions of acquaintances and strangers at school. In eighth grade I had to replace my planner three times because of vandalism to the cover photo. Once it was taken from my hands and torn apart in front of me, which was a very upsetting experience. My reaction was to tape pictures to all of my school binders in ninth grade and to keep a closer eye on my things. (I was also taught to never back down in the face of intimidation.) I am still bothered by how I handled more aggressive forms of harassment, like name-calling and inappropriate jokes in the hallways. At the time the most dignified reaction I could think of was to walk away without giving anyone the pleasure of getting to me, but in hindsight I wish that just once I used one of the many snappy comebacks I dreamed up.
There are other things I have realized with more distance from my high school days. The actions of my peers who have little life experience may be excused, but the faculty and staff at my high school were little more supportive. Even after numerous complaints, few teachers would tell students to stop using “gay” as an insult and as a general synonym for stupid, and none would enforce the ban. During tenth grade I was an assistant editor on the school newspaper staff and I wrote an editorial about the issue. That article remains the only thing my teacher never published, saying that she feared it would create negative backlash against me and the paper. My most disturbing memory, however, is from a sex-education class. After a week of sitting through classes, I realized same-sex relationships were not going to be addressed without prompting, so I asked the lecturer what measures same-sex couples should take to remain safe and what particular they might be prone to. After the laughter subsided (which took a while), she looked at my with a mixture of confusion and thoughtfulness and said she had no idea. And then she moved on.
Overall I think I faired pretty well during high school. I never felt physically threatened, and while I was frustrated and sometimes held back, my optimism and determination to remain true to myself kept me from feeling oppressed. I was lucky. As the token queer, one of two out students in a population of 1,500, I was often approached by people who were in the closet and terrified of coming out to their parents, classmates, and teachers. To this day I have not lied about my sexual orientation to anyone, which I am extremely proud of (though I have purposely avoided the subject in uncomfortable situations with strangers). As an involved and academically-successful student from a loving (if concerned) home, and as a female, I think I was somewhat sheltered from many of the negative aspects of coming out. At college I met gay men who had been assaulted and abused verbally on a daily basis in high school. I have friends whose parents have not spoken to them since they came out. Even the hurt in the voices of closeted classmates is a form of ongoing emotional abuse generated by a hostile environment. And the worst part is that no one it doing anything that changes how principals, teachers, and staff handles these issues. No one ever reprimanded the kids who shouted “DYKE!” at me outside their classroom. No one thought it was just as important for queer youth to know how to protect themselves from STIs. This has got to stop.
It's not a matter of what the right or wrong way to live your life is. No matter what anyone's personal beliefs are about gender roles, mental capabilities, or racial differences, it is absolutely unacceptable to disrupt a students education by harassing them because of any of these reasons, and there are appropriate legal channels to ensure that no matter your gender, race, or mental abilities, you're entitled to a proper education. Queer students who are terrorized or preoccupied with keeping their cover are denied this basic right. I hope you will think about all of the bright, funny, talented young people out there whose spirits are being crushed, who are crying out for a ray of hope in their darkness. Will you stand up for them? Will you stand up for the right of all children to have a fair chance to succeed?
Tiffany, 19, from Stoneville, North Carolina.
This is part of an ongoing effort by a coalition of groups statewide who are in support of the School Violence Prevention Act, a bi-partisan bill introduced today, March 11, 2009 into the North Carolina State Legislature. This bill includes enumerated categories that protects all students from bullying and harassment. In other words, it gives teachers and administrators specific and clear descriptions of what bullying constitutes - whether that be towards someone's physical appearance, real or perceived sexual orientation, race, disabilities, or gender identity or expression. These categories do not grant special rights to the targeted children. In fact, research has shown that enumeration is effective in preventing violence against all children, and especially those most targeted for their differences. According to the Supreme Court, “Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply.”
According to a Public Policy poll, 72% of North Carolinians, across party lines, support this legislation.
If you have a story you'd like to share, we very much encourage you to share it with us. There are 2 ways you can do this:
- You can write a story and e-mail it. Name/location changes are acceptable, and with stories involving minors, necessary.
- You can record a video (with your webcam or video camera), upload it to YouTube, and then e-mail us the link. Or if you prefer, you can skip the uploading and e-mail us the video file and we'll upload it for you.
The groups who support this bill are listed below:
The NC Association of Educators (NCAE)
NC Advocates for Justice
American Assoc. of University Women NC
The Mental Health Association in NC
The Covenant with North Carolina’s Children
The NC Pediatric Society
The North Carolina Council of Churches
The National Association of Social Workers (NC)
The Arc of North Carolina
The NC Justice Center
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education NC
The Association of School Social Workers NC
Action for Children NC
The ACLU of NC
Prevent Child Abuse NC
North Carolina NOW
The Alliance for Disability Advocates
The NC Psychoanalytic Foundation
The NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence
El Pueblo NC
The Autism Society NC
Young Democrats of NC
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
Bullying: Are schools doing enough to stop the problem? (2005). CQ Researcher, 15(5), 104-124.
Public Policy Polling (16 July, 2008), North Carolinians support sexual orientation provision, [Press Release].