On Spirit Day, push for enumerated anti-bullying policies

Today is the nation’s annual Spirit Day. Today, I think of 18-year old Tyler Clementi, 11-year old Carl Walker-Hoover, 13-year old Asher Brown — or 15-year old Jamie Hubley, who ended his life just this past weekend because of anti-LGBT bullying.

While the major “ask” on Spirit Day is for folks to wear purple in order to raise awareness around the issue of anti-LGBT bullying, I’d also like to talk problem-solving. We need to use today not just for awareness-raising, but to make specific calls for action, like pushing for enumerated anti-bullying policies in school districts (which means the listing of protected categories, such as race, religion, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation) — and calling out the blatant hypocrisy and bigotry that Republican legislators are engaging in by blocking this legislation at all costs.

For example, the Michigan Senate just had a huge blowout over proposed anti-bullying legislation that Republicans refused to pass because an amendment would have required enumerated policies in classrooms. And rather than implement these policies that are proven to vastly improve conditions for students, other problematic laws are being passed in various states — like the “neutrality policy” in Anoka-Hennepin, Minnesota which literally tells the school district to not intervene in bullying that’s targeting sexual orientation. That’s right — it’s like a school pass to bully LGBT students.

So wear purple today, spread awareness and show solidarity. Make your online profiles purple. But more importantly, talk about what we can do.  Tweet what #SpiritDay means to you. To me, it’s that enumerated policies can make a significant impact on this epidemic — and come hell or high water, I’ll call out every damn GOP legislator responsible for making LGBT youth feel unsafe in schools. That’s where my spirit is.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted October 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Support enumerated policies WITH FUNDING!

    Funding is a big part of this. These policies are only as good as their implementation, and you can’t implement this without any resources to train teachers, oversee implementation, and follow up on specific instances of bullying. Teachers have a very difficult job being asked to do quite a bit, so let’s do them the favor of supporting policies that allow them actually achieve these goals.

  2. Posted October 20, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    As an educator, I call out all anti-LGBT (and any racist, sexist, classist, etc) language I hear from both students and coworkers. I feel like the most important thing we can do as adults, though, is to make it a learning experience. Sure, you shouldn’t say “f*g” and you shouldn’t use “gay” as a derogatory term, but why? I explain the origins of words, the implications they hold, and what it would be like to be on the receiving end of negative language. On the first offense, it usually becomes a class discussion– everyone needs to learn anti-bullying behavior– and as a class, we come up with positive things that you could say instead. If it happens again, I remind the students of the positive language that they themselves came up with. This puts the ball in their court for personal responsibility and eventually leads to my students calling other people out on any kind of bullying outside of class.

    I know that this is only a small solution– it doesn’t cause widespread change if it’s only happening in a few classrooms–but it would be great if all teachers had to learn this before getting their degree.

  3. Posted October 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    In 2003 I was a senior in high school. In my english class, we sit in a circle of desks. it was class time, everyone was there including the teacher, and a male student called me a dyke in class. I looked at the teacher and said “are you going to do something about this?” and she SHUSHED me and the other student like we were both “misbehaving” and that was that. It upset me because 1-that’s hate speech unregulated within class time! 2-I am not gay but the kid sitting next to me at the time was-(Carlos is now Monique and identifies as straight female, so she isn’t gay now.) My high school was a smart high school and even then the situation was handled so poorly. If I were gay, that comment would have made me really sad and scared instead of just angry.

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