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Anoka, our little blight on the prairie

Rolling Stone has an excellent article on One Town’s War on Gay Teens, featuring Minnesota’s own Anoka school district, where Michele Bachmann and the Minnesota Patriarchy Council hold sway. I recommend it highly, but I also warn you: it’s a hard read, since it personalizes the kids who killed themselves after incessant taunting and bullying. I choked up a few times myself.

I’m going to leave out any discussion of the kids, because I hate crying on my keyboard — go read it yourself, if you think you can take it — and want to focus on one issue. The Anoka school district claims that it has no responsibility at all in these deaths, and instead blames gay activists for driving these kids to suicide; how, I don’t know. It’s probably a variant of the same accusation atheists face, that it’s their own fault for being themselves and provoking critics by openly existing. They also occasionally mention that right-wingers are responsible, but that rings hollow, since at every step the district has been dancing to the fundamentalist Christians’ tune.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have filed a lawsuit on behalf of five students, alleging the school district’s policies on gays are not only discriminatory, but also foster an environment of unchecked anti-gay bullying. The Department of Justice has begun a civil rights investigation as well. The Anoka-Hennepin school district declined to comment on any specific incidences but denies any discrimination, maintaining that its broad anti-bullying policy is meant to protect all students. “We are not a homophobic district, and to be vilified for this is very frustrating,” says superintendent Dennis Carlson, who blames right-wingers and gay activists for choosing the area as a battleground, describing the district as the victim in this fracas. “People are using kids as pawns in this political debate,” he says. “I find that abhorrent.”

Read further into the article, and there are all these little revelations that show that the district has been pandering thoughtlessly to the Religious Right all along; they are so thoroughly steeped in the cult of Christian conservatism that they are unconscious of the problem.

It had been a hard day: the annual “Day of Truth” had been held at school, an evangelical event then-sponsored by the anti-gay ministry Exodus International, whose mission is to usher gays back to wholeness and “victory in Christ” by converting them to heterosexuality. Day of Truth has been a font of controversy that has bounced in and out of the courts; its legality was affirmed last March, when a federal appeals court ruled that two Naperville, Illinois, high school students’ Day of Truth T-shirts reading BE HAPPY, NOT GAY were protected by their First Amendment rights. (However, the event, now sponsored by Focus on the Family, has been renamed “Day of Dialogue.”) Local churches had been touting the program, and students had obediently shown up at Anoka High School wearing day of truth T-shirts, preaching in the halls about the sin of homosexuality.

Every goddamn school district in this state gets these lying whores for Jesus showing up to do “assemblies”. Here in Morris we’ve had the “You can run, but you can’t hide” ministries show up, or other variants. They’ve usually got some ridiculous “cool teen” schtick — they’re body-builders or wrestlers or rappers — and they bill themselves as presenting a positive, anti-drug message, something that they can superficially pretend is secular, and then they turn on the prayer and Jesus babble, and it’s transparent as hell — these are simply evangelical Christians in crappy camouflage, and the schools just let them sail on in and preach to the students.

It seems to happen at some school around here every year. It’s repulsive. I often don’t hear about it until after the fact, because here’s another giveaway: they don’t advertise publicly, they advertise in the churches.

So the Anoka school district wants to claim that the anti-gay bullying is not their fault, but they annually have a “Day of Truth” led by Exodus International or now, Focus on the Family (as if that’s an improvement)? The district turns the hyenas loose in the hallways, but denies responsibility if someone gets chewed up.

It’s not just the students. The schools have gay teachers and staff, who are silenced, and the straight teachers lead the way in gagging any protest.

“There has been widespread confusion,” says Anoka-Hennepin teachers’ union president Julie Blaha. “You ask five people how to interpret the policy and you get five different answers.” Silenced by fear, gay teachers became more vigilant than ever to avoid mention of their personal lives, and in closeting themselves, they inadvertently ensured that many students had no real-life gay role models. “I was told by teachers, ‘You have to be careful, it’s really not safe for you to come out,’” says the psychologist Cashen, who is a lesbian. “I felt like I couldn’t have a picture of my family on my desk.” When teacher Jefferson Fietek was outed in the community paper, which referred to him as an “open homosexual,” he didn’t feel he could address the situation with his students even as they passed the newspaper around, tittering. When one finally asked, “Are you gay?” he panicked. “I was terrified to answer that question,” Fietek says. “I thought, ‘If I violate the policy, what’s going to happen to me?’”

The silence of adults was deafening. At Blaine High School, says alum Justin Anderson, “I would hear people calling people ‘fags’ all the time without it being addressed. Teachers just didn’t respond.” In Andover High School, when 10th-grader Sam Pinilla was pushed to the ground by three kids calling him a “faggot,” he saw a teacher nearby who did nothing to stop the assault. At Anoka High School, a 10th-grade girl became so upset at being mocked as a “lesbo” and a “sinner” – in earshot of teachers – that she complained to an associate principal, who counseled her to “lay low”; the girl would later attempt suicide. At Anoka Middle School for the Arts, after Kyle Rooker was urinated upon from above in a boys’ bathroom stall, an associate principal told him, “It was probably water.” Jackson Middle School seventh-grader Dylon Frei was passed notes saying, “Get out of this town, fag”; when a teacher intercepted one such note, she simply threw it away.

The district is aware that there is a problem — dead kids are very bad PR — and has been waffling ineffectually about doing something or other. Pointless meetings are always the preferred solution for a bureaucracy.

Just to be on the safe side, however, the district held PowerPoint presentations in a handful of schools to train teachers how to defend gay students from harassment while also remaining neutral on homosexuality. One slide instructed teachers that if they hear gay slurs – say, the word “fag” – the best response is a tepid “That language is unacceptable in this school.” (“If a more authoritative response is needed,” the slide added, the teacher could continue with the stilted, almost apologetic explanation, “In this school we are required to welcome all people and to make them feel safe.”) But teachers were, of course, reminded to never show “personal support for GLBT people” in the classroom.

Never show personal support for GLBT kids. That’s the killer right there.

I have some suggestions for the Anoka school district that would be helpful. First, repudiate the Minnesota Family Council and Focus on the Family. These are hate groups that have no business advising the school administration; they should be recognized immediately as symptomatic of the bigotry problem they have. Second, adopt a strictly secular policy on all official school events. No more preachers, no more evangelical assemblies, no more church sponsorship of days or picnics or t-shirts or whatever the hell trick they try to pull. God is the poison here, get it out. That’s not to say that Christians must be oppressed, but that we need to learn that Christianity is a personal, private preference that does not instill a moral message. Third, crack down hard on the students: seeing a few bullying jocks getting kicked off the football team for cracking jokes about faggots would send a strong signal right there.

That’s a school district that definitely needs more atheists. Maybe the SSA needs to seed the place with a little rational thought.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    The Rolling Stone article had me in tears. How people can hate kids enough the kids see no alternative than suicide is unspeakable.

  2. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Oh yes, I read it yesterday after seeing a link on Feministe. Had tears rolling down my cheeks a couple of paragraphs into the article.

    The perpetual wall of silence that children were faced with from the school authorities and teachers is disgusting.

    But teachers were, of course, reminded to never show “personal support for GLBT people” in the classroom.

    This was the sentence that threatened to make me physically ill. It takes all the hate and cruelty and shows it right into your face, with no excuses or weaseling that school officials probably used. It shows it how it was, a carefully crafted plan to make kids feel worthless, like they were “other”, not worth support, understanding or even a mention of their “shameful condition”.

  3. Alverant says

    I couldn’t even dare to read the article because I know it’s going to be awful (the content, not the quality). It’s disgusting that it’s going on and how they claim they are unaware about it. They know full well what they’re doing but would rather let LGBT students suffer and die than do anything that would be seen as christian “persecution”.

  4. raven says

    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything. Never fails.

    Exodus International is a pure hate group by almost anyone’s standards. They were one of the originators and supporters of the Ugandan gay genocide bill. Piles of dead gay bodies are their reason for existing.

    Focus on the family is better named Focus on Hating Everyone. It’s gotten so bizarrely creepy, even some fundies won’t support it any more.

    It’s better to solve Anoka’s fundie xian dead kids problem than complain about it. Unfortunately, I live half way acoss the USA and don’t have much on the ground knowledge.

    1. My old school district once set up an “alternative school” for kids that didn’t fit in with the usual school system. It was gay kids, hippie kids, New Age Kids, and so on. It was wildly successful and popular. I don’t think it still exists but they have an internet only option.

    2. Kids being bullied to the point of suicide need to be pulled out of school and sent somewhere else.

    3. In a lot of places, the fundie xians try to take over the school boards. Almost always when they start babbling on about creationism and try to convert all the kids to jesus, they get voted out again. Most taxpayers and parents want the schools to surprise, teach the kids. A lot of parents go Hulkish at the thought of anonymous kooks presuming to take over their kid’s religious instruction.

    I suppose there aren’t enough normal people in Anoka to vote for other normal people as school board members. This is the homeland of Michele Bachmann, fundie xian zombie.

  5. Phledge says

    This just breaks my heart on so many levels. The one that caught my attention was the nine-year old trying to drown himself so he could ‘see his dead brother again.’ If there was any question that religion is irrational, there’s your proof.

  6. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    2. Kids being bullied to the point of suicide need to be pulled out of school and sent somewhere else.

    I understand that you mean well and if my child was in that situation I would probably pull them from the school too, but I hate how victims in this are supposed to leave their friends, sometimes they even have to leave the town, just so that the school could avoid dealing with the issue. Again, they are the ones being punished, even if it is for their own safety.
    I understand that things can’t be changed in one day, but it seems like most schools aren’t even trying. Kids who are bullied suffer, kill themselves or move away and everyone pretends it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t that bad.

  7. eclectabotanics says

    I just checked with my kid – in our liberal mid-missouri college town they do NOT hold assemblies where god is mentioned. There is a club at school for christian athletes, but it’s non-invasive. And I plan to keep it that way by challenging any more “christian, conservative, committed” school board candidates.

  8. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Sometimes you can’t change the surroundings. Not immediately anyway, and for the people suffering in them the most humane thing for them is for them to leave. This isn’t to say that the problems that caused the suffering shouldn’t be addressed, but is there a reason the suffering needs to continue while they are?

    Speaking as someone for whom changing countries at the age of 14 made my life a whole lot less miserable. (I don’t say you need to go as far as that, but the weather is a lot warmer here at least).

  9. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    This isn’t to say that the problems that caused the suffering shouldn’t be addressed, but is there a reason the suffering needs to continue while they are?

    I absolutely don’t think that children should be left in hateful environment just to make a point and force change.

    I was just trying to voice my disgust with the situation.

    News about children being bullied often leave an impression that, after the kid moved, school did nothing to punish bullies and prevent future abuse. As far as they were concerned the problem was gone. That should change. So that in the future, if such bullying happens, children don’t have to leave but get support and comfort and see their bullies punished instead of encouraged.

  10. raven says

    Oh c’mon, in some way, removing a bullied kid from school is just compounding the victimization. OTOH, it sure beats being a dead kid. Doesn’t look like a hard choice to me. Martyrdom is overrated, for the dead martyr at least.

    There is a bright side though. Every time a xian commits an atrocity like Anoka, an atheist is born. US xianity is redefining itself as a social problem.

    Although it might be .1 atheist or 4 atheists, who knows. But US xianity with present trends is scheduled to go below 50% of the population in 2050.

    Projections that far out are dicey at best. It could be faster, it could be slower. But there aren’t too many examples of countries dropping the religion problem and then reacquiring it.

  11. rw says

    “Carlson says. “But that was not the case here. If you’re looking for a cause, look in the area of mental health.” In that sense, the district is in step with PAL. “How could not discussing homosexuality in the public-school classrooms cause a teen to take his or her own life?

    Superintendent Carlson is plumbing the depths of ignorance pulling out bullcookie questions like this.

    Evil does not simply “go away” if ignored.

    Teachers are on the front lines of setting the acceptable norms for society. Letting homophobia and bullying get a free pass is disgraceful unprofessional behaviour.

  12. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Agree with that Beatrice.

    As it turns out the reason for my move was not because of the bullying (I was intelligent, socially awkward and had glasses – not a good combination) but rather that my parents were emigrating.

    I still think that leaving there is among the best things that ever happened to me.

  13. says

    So, is it too soon to point out that this Sabrina Rubin Erdely person is an incredibly shitty writer?

    “Justin, a slim, shy 14-year-old who carefully swept his blond bangs to the side like his namesake, Bieber, studied his mom’s face.”

    The Anoka-Hennepin school district declined to comment on any specific incidences but denies any discrimination, maintaining that its broad anti-bullying policy is meant to protect all students.

    fucking seriously? Remember when Rolling Stone had great journalists? I do.

  14. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    I still think that leaving there is among the best things that ever happened to me.

    Yes, sometimes starting over somewhere else is the best for everyone. I’m glad it worked out for you, even if bullying wasn’t the reason for the move.

  15. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    OTOH, it sure beats being a dead kid. Doesn’t look like a hard choice to me. Martyrdom is overrated, for the dead martyr at least.

    Agreed.

    As I tried to explain in #10, while it’s the best thing to do in the current situation, it bothers me that the moment the bullied child moves, schools consider the problem solved. They should still deal with the problem of bullying in the school. After all, that child who moved wasn’t the problem, their bully was.
    Argh, I’m expressing myself poorly.

  16. KG says

    It’s the moral cowardice of those responsible for the district’s policies that is perhaps most disgusting. Bullies without even the guts to admit the bullying to themselves.

  17. says

    Growing up in the northern ‘burbs of Mpls (this was 35+ years ago) I went to Anoka-Hennepin schools. My parents purposely moved us into the district because of their stellar academic reputation. Back then, most kids in the first or second ring suburbs had no idea where this strange place ‘Anoka’ was. The joke about it was ‘Anoka: 10,000 people, 3 last names.’ There were a lot of old-timey Catholic families in the area–the kind with 12 kids–and an unfortunately high level of intermarriage between a few families (religious segregation wreaks havoc with the gene pool). This was back in the 70s and 80s before people were terrified of science or obsessively concerned with the sexual activities of others.

    If you look at Bachmann’s heavily gerrymandered congressional district (which overlaps with, but is not identical to the school district boundaries), it’s clear that the Republicans needed to resort to absurd contortions to pick up every inbred backwater to secure a seat. It sounds like they have successfully infiltrated the school board and city governments, as well.

    What a sorry state of affairs for a once respected school district. There are a lot of very nice, normal suburbs in the district and no doubt plenty of citizens appalled by this sorry black eye for all of them. They need to step up the plate, immediately. This story has been getting very limited media attention for years, but it really needs to be ‘komenized’ so outrage over the amoral antics of the religious right against MN schoolchildren gets national attention. I suspect there are similar atrocities going on in other cities, especially with the ‘right to bully on religious grounds’ legislation being introduced around the country.

  18. Nutmeg says

    Are there any organizations actually helping the LGBT kids in this area? If so, I’d like to know about it so I can send them a cheque.

    Even here in Canada, the gay kids had a pretty hard time when I was in high school (not that long ago). Establishing a decent anti-discrimination policy is one thing; getting teachers to enforce it is another.

  19. jen says

    In recent weeks and months, we’ve seen the ability of people to fight against wrong like this, with protests, petitions and calling/emailing the people who are in charge to express their outrage. If everybody who reads that article or even this blog post, could contact the superintendent, maybe things could change a lot faster than those meetings that aren’t doing anything.

  20. Gregory Greenwood says

    But teachers were, of course, reminded to never show “personal support for GLBT people” in the classroom.

    This beggars belief – even those teachers who are principled enough to stand up against this culture of victimisation are gagged, and yet the abominable moral cowards of this school district have the gall to whine that they aren’t responsible for these tragic deaths.

    I understand why many people who read this article felt such a deep sense of horror and sadness, but for myself such feelings were rapidly eclipsed by a towering, guts-filled-with-molten-lead level of rage. These monsters have blood on their hands, and yet they still try to blame the victims for being too different, for ‘inviting’ their persecution while all the time the school district itself floods the school halls with professional homophobes and liars for jeebus.

    Everytime one of these cretins claims to be ‘standing up’ for heterosexuality against the ‘sin’ of homosexuality I feel a strong urge to shout in their faces that I am a heterosexual, that they had better never dare claim to speak for me, and that I would happily stand with homosexuals against the evil the fundies represent any day of the week. Usually I manage to master the impulse and instead attempt to calmly and rationally explain why I disagree with their position. I am always ignored or my position mischaraterised as plotting to ‘corrupt’ kids with homosexuality, and if they find out I am an atheist then their response is usually a condescending variant of “well, that explains a lot…”

    Reading articles like this makes me feel less inclined to play nice. Perhaps I should just tell them what I really think of them, social nicities be damned. If that makes me ‘shrill’, so be it.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I feel the need to shout out loud and possibly break something.

  21. wbwolfe says

    PZ, I know you warned us, twice even, but there should be a slightly bigger warning label on that link. Got a watery eyed redneck here and that’s never a good thing.
    I think that the governing school body can actually consider itself blameless is a feat of self deception and rationalizing that is mythic in scale. They choose to adopt a localized political point of view over their responsibility for the education and well being of their charges. When it erupted into hate and bullying, they corrected it by forcing the district into a Three Wise Monkeys policy that left it unchecked. As much blood is on their hands from the children within the community, I think that the repercussions are still only marginal felt as individuals who got the silent nod that this type of behavior acceptable begin to enter the adult world.

  22. Happiestsadist says

    The fact that the teachers and other staff can’t even help these kids if they’re so inclined so heartbreaking.

    I remember a good friend of mine cutting a damn lot of classes because of the constant death threats he got for being out and gay. And the vice principal telling he it was his fault for (and this sentence will always be in my memory) “flaunting his differences”. We also had the fundie assemblies in junior high and high school. And started junior high mornings with the Lord’s Prayer (yes this was a public school). This was in Canada, and I’m 28 now. From what I know from my teacher friends, there’s been a very small amount of change since then.

  23. says

    To clarify: this is an article about the Tyler Clementi case. (incidentally, now that the police have evidence in form of chat protocols, text messages etc, it has become very hard for people to try and explain things away)

  24. says

    Billy: Hahaha! Joey is a dirty fag!

    Teacher: Billy, we are required by law to protect fags and sinners in this district. If you continue to say things like that you are gonna have to write rules on the board.

    Sounds like a really welcoming environment… Or not.

  25. Rip Steakface says

    This just breaks my heart on so many levels. The one that caught my attention was the nine-year old trying to drown himself so he could ‘see his dead brother again.’ If there was any question that religion is irrational, there’s your proof.

    I avoided reading the article because I didn’t feel like crying half an hour after waking up. Guess that idea is out now. I’m gonna try to cry myself back to sleep now.

  26. Aquaria says

    Sometimes you can’t change the surroundings. Not immediately anyway, and for the people suffering in them the most humane thing for them is for them to leave.

    And sometimes people can’t leave.

    Did you ever think of that?

    Even when times are better than they are now, there are always people who can’t afford private schools. They can’t afford to transport their kids 30 or 40 miles each way to and from another school district–if they can even get their kids into that district. Hell, some of them don’t even have cars.

    The solution isn’t to leave. The solution is to drive the christard scumbags out of that school, once and for all and to make it cost the community to support other scumbags who will slither their way into the school again.

    You make it cost that city–tens of millions.

    And maybe then they would get the fucking hint that such behavior is unfuckingacceptable.

  27. peterh says

    Whenever a faith-based group says anything remotely like “return to wholeness,” my head explodes.

  28. gmacs says

    Whereas if you head South an hour and a half (if you drive like I do) you can get to Olmsted Co, where teachers are ready to give you either a soul-stabbing tongue-lashing, send you down to the office to get administrative punishments (ie suspension), or both if you use any hate-speech or act in any discriminatory manner. And I do mean this in a good way.

    I had a Latin teacher throw out an entire section of a test from the Cambridge Latin Series because it was culturally discriminatory (compare Roman weddings to “modern” weddings). Also, the student body was up in arms when the local fitness center wouldn’t allow a Lesbian teacher and her family to have family membership.

    It wasn’t perfect, but all my gay friends seemed to be in a nurturing and safe environment. And they were able to provide a nurturing environment for the odd-ball kids like me.

  29. Pteryxx says

    I haven’t dared read the article yet, either. I remember too much.

    When the victim of bullying leaves, the bullies see it as a VICTORY. They broke another one; it’s proof of their power. One of my classmates who was bullied too (who I tried to protect, with no help from anyone) eventually disappeared from school. The bullies promptly turned on me and gleefully told me “He killed himself and you’ll be next.

    I even remember how, when my family moved away, the bullies gathered around me to cheer and congratulate themselves. I flat out told them it had nothing to do with THEM… I looked around the circle of faces and said So which one of you’s going to be next? Nobody ever helped me, who’s going to help you?

    Removing the target kid from school should never happen INSTEAD OF stopping the bullying and denouncing the bullies. They’ll just turn to the next target in line.

  30. dragon says

    If christian students were being pushed down and taunted by muslim students in view of a teacher, could the teacher send those students to the principal’s office? They would at least be suspended.
    So, having christian students be the bullies, and LGBT students be the victims…in order to be ‘neutral’ you have to do the same fucking thing. Send the bullies to the principal and suspend them (expel them after multiple attacks).

    Anything less is not ‘neutral’ it is clearly and definitively supportive of the bullying behavior.

    I very rarely use swear words, unless they are appropriate. But Fuck. Fucking Fuck. I hope the board members each personally get their asses sued off as they fucking deserve.

    How about criminal charges of aggravated manslaugter due to extreme indifference?

  31. magistramarla says

    I was the teacher/mentor for the GSA group in a large Texas school. We often saw those church-sponsored “assemblies” happening in the auditorium. They were usually held around lunch times, so students who objected to it knew that they were welcome to “sit-in” on my class, or those of a few other teachers, when they skipped the assembly.
    I truly hated “The Meet You at the Pole” group. They would circle around the flag pole to pray in the morning a couple of times a week. The students involved, and even the teachers who were with them, would give dirty looks to those of us who walked right past.

    There was a “Society of Christian Athletes” and several other Christian groups who could freely use classrooms and proselytized in the halls. The teachers in my department often got together to pray before classes started, there were often teacher bible study classes held after school, and those annoying “pray for this or that” e-mails were constantly being passed all over the school and even the district.

    I had to be fairly quiet about it, but my students and my GSA kids understood just where I stood about equality and gay rights. I was given a rainbow tassel by the LGBT group at Duke University, where my daughter was their liaison to the grad student government. My GSA kids and I had a ceremony to hang it in my classroom as a symbol that everyone was treated equally “under the tassel” in that room. The funny thing was, no administrator ever realized what some of the decorations in my room meant!

    Comment to #32 – I was also a Latin teacher. I found the Cambridge series to be quite subversive, in its own way. It did a great job of showing how the Romans “assimilated” other religions, and there was a great discussion about some rituals in the worship of Isis, including a baptism, that tended to open the eyes of some of my more open-minded students. My GSA kids didn’t have any problems with the wedding descriptions. In fact, they wanted to use some of the Roman ideas in their own future weddings. I think that it had to do with the way that I presented it.

  32. gmacs says

    Magistramarla,

    It wasn’t the imposing of that ideal that bothered her, it was the fact that only those with a “traditional” Western-European/British/American background would get, and even I was left wondering what the answer should be (and I am Wonderbread).

    Also, she would probably rip someone’s heart out of the ribcage to protect any student. She was scary. She was one of my favorite teachers.

  33. says

    So, is it too soon to point out that this Sabrina Rubin Erdely person is an incredibly shitty writer?

    Well not if you’re an utter asshole

  34. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, liar and scoundrel says

    But teachers were, of course, reminded to never show “personal support for GLBT people” in the classroom.

    I don’t have the words to express how angry this makes me.

  35. says

    zachariahwasson:

    So, is it too soon to point out that this Sabrina Rubin Erdely person is an incredibly shitty writer?

    This ^ is what you get from the article? Well, it’s certainly not too soon to point out that you’re an absolute asshole, Cupcake. Turn in your Decent Human Being card and get the fuck off the bus.

  36. gmacs says

    Okay, now I’ve read some more of the article. I was pissed before, now I’m infuriated.

    I’ve been on both ends of bullying. I’m ashamed to have been part of the hateful mob, and especially since I know what it’s like to be singled out.

    I know what it’s like to want to kill yourself, to imagine how I would go about doing it. The thing is, I may owe my life to my gay and bisexual friends during my last two years of high school. The fact that they let this happen, and that the Right can dismissively, mendaciously, and even gleefully claim it to be the fault of the teens’ own sexuality inflames me to the point where, hearing these stories, I can feel the anger in my blood.

  37. Pteryxx says

    I’m flooded with Trail of Tears, the Kennedys and MLK, Maus, apartheid, gay-hating, woman-hating, trans-hating, and those few Menominee words… all I can think it boils down to is “How DARE you care about those people I hate!”

  38. bardurarantsson says

    “As a European” it just saddens me immensely that this is even an issue.

    <poke>When *are* you US-ians going to join the rest of the civilized world?</poke>

  39. duphrane says

    I dismissed the warning label about crying. I have a pretty high bar for what makes me cry, and this did it. I’d be suspicious of anyone who didn’t get at least a bit choked up over this.

  40. says

    When *are* you US-ians going to join the rest of the civilized world?

    If the rest of you want to establish one we might be able to work towards it.

  41. says

    “As an European”,

    you should be aware that not all is well in Europe either.

    I have teacher friends in liberal Western Europe, who were very careful not be out to colleagues until they got tenure because the schools they were teaching at were quite conservative (and tenure and career advancement are decided by very few people, mostly the principal, and maybe one or two other coordinating teachers)

  42. chigau (違う) says

    c’mon Ing
    you know the country of Europe doesn’t have any problems with bigotry.

  43. David Marjanović says

    2. Kids being bullied to the point of suicide need to be pulled out of school and sent somewhere else.

    No.

    Bullies need to be pulled out of school.

    If that means 10 bullies are pulled out for every victim that stays in, so fucking be it.

  44. says

    but you know as we were told on another thread, Roma in Hungary are also totally not discriminated against, the problems they might have are all their own fault. Same thing for LGBT people in Poland!

    So all’s peachy in the socialist paradise that is called Europe!

  45. kimberlyherbert says

    Parents need to remember that what is a crime off campus is still a crime on campus. If the school won’t protect your kid, press charges against the bully – and if possible the administrators.

    When my parents found out the extend of the bullying I was enduring at school – they called a lawyer. All interested parties were told that if I was threatened or touched again charges would be filed
    - against the boy assault

    - against district level administrators failure to protect a child in their care. Dad had proof that a school board member told him Kimberly must like getting beat up or she wouldn’t keep making (bully) mad. She needs to stop making him mad. I literally got beaten for breathing to loud.

    - Civil Rights lawsuit would quickly follow.

    The bullying stopped on a dime. 6 years later a 2nd cousin was being bullied. His parents given the same run around. Then the principal found out our Dads were cousins – again it stopped on a dime.

  46. says

    So, is it too soon to point out that this Sabrina Rubin Erdely person is an incredibly shitty writer?

    After reading the story. Seriously. Go fuck yourself. In any sane world assholes like you would be the ones who feel unsafe and unwanted. Just go and please never feel the need to comment again. You jackasses have the real world, leave at least the virtual space here safe.

  47. normalanomaly says

    I teared up reading this. A big FUCK YOU to the bullies, the teachers who were too cowardly to help or worse yet didn’t care, the administration, and the school board.

    I was bullied in middle school, but nothing like what these kids go through. I had occasional suicidal thoughts, but I never went as far as harming myself because I believed that it had to stop someday. And it did, when I got to high school. That’s the message I want to send to every kid whose life is being ruined by hateful bigoted scum: it WILL end someday. It might not end until you go to college in another state, but it will. There are big parts of the country where this kind of hate is seen as the barbarism it is, and where every civilized human is rooting for you. We want you to survive, and come join us in civilization, and be happy, and never have to think about the bullying fucks again. Hang in there, because you deserve to live and you deserve to be treated like the decent people you are.

  48. janine says

    Reminds me of my time in junior high, from late ’78 through early ’80 in north west Indiana. I was a very awkward adolescent, strange sense of humor, socially insecure and preferred reading to interacting with most people. And there was my queerness, which, at the time, I barely knew anything about and really did not want to know. Yeah, the bullies really liked me.

    What makes this even more sad in retrospect, these same traits that draws the bullies to you also tend to be the ones that makes you avoid other socially awkward people. In other words, we tended to isolate from each other from the bullies, who were always happy to gang up. So I did not help other bullying victims and none of them helped me.

    I do not remember most of the taunts, I tended not to think of it during the last thirty years. I only spoke of it to school counselors and my therapist, not to any of the students or teachers. And not my parents, they kept telling me that I had to stand up for myself and fight back. But I do remember there were times that I was surrounded by kids. How many, I could not say, it could be six or it could be a dozen. For my point of view, was all the same as be surrounded by thousands, it was that intimidating. Nothing was done to stop this. Even the one time when it happened in front of the administration office and I was crying for help.

    One of the worst times in my life. By the time high school started, I was back in the south suburbs of Chicago and better learned how to insulate myself. I was still a social outcast and was teased. But it was not to the extent as when I was in middle school and many of the teachers and staff ignored it.

    I hate adults who actively work upon the insecurities of adolescence just to advance their own social agenda. Want to know what is more cruel then a child? An adult who knowingly exploits that cruelty.

  49. says

    Janine:

    I was a very awkward adolescent, strange sense of humor, socially insecure and preferred reading to interacting with most people.

    That’s a good description of me the whole time I was trapped in Catholic school. Still me when I started public HS. Fortunately, I managed to fall in with the stoner geek crowd, with whom I felt very at home.

  50. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I hate adults who actively work upon the insecurities of adolescence just to advance their own social agenda. Want to know what is more cruel then a child? An adult who knowingly exploits that cruelty.

    QFT. Agree wholeheartedly.

  51. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Sorry, I should have given proper acknowledgement of the quote in #57 to Janine in #55.

  52. janine says

    Fortunately, I managed to fall in with the stoner geek crowd, with whom I felt very at home.

    Heh. I was scared of the stoners until I was sitting next to some in one class during my senior year that was not advanced placement. I got friendly with them over the year and, strangely enough, did not say a word about the calculus, AP history or being on the mathlete and chess teams. At the end of the year, one of them said something to the effect, “I had no idea you were a brain.” Had to laugh.

    Wish I met them years earlier.

  53. says

    Janine:

    Heh. I was scared of the stoners until I was sitting next to some in one class during my senior year that was not advanced placement. I got friendly with them over the year and, strangely enough, did not say a word about the calculus, AP history or being on the mathlete and chess teams. At the end of the year, one of them said something to the effect, “I had no idea you were a brain.” Had to laugh.

    :D Most of the people I hung out with were fellow brains, so no problem there. That was very comforting, because back when I was in HS (’71-’73), being a brain was a definite way to attract assholes and bullies.

  54. says

    Let me try that again.

    Janine:

    Heh. I was scared of the stoners until I was sitting next to some in one class during my senior year that was not advanced placement. I got friendly with them over the year and, strangely enough, did not say a word about the calculus, AP history or being on the mathlete and chess teams. At the end of the year, one of them said something to the effect, “I had no idea you were a brain.” Had to laugh.

    Wish I met them years earlier.

    :D Most of the people I hung out with were fellow brains, so no problem there. That was very comforting, because back when I was in HS (’71-’73), being a brain was a definite way to attract assholes and bullies.

  55. janine says

    I was scared off by the Iron Maiden t-shirts.

    And I will say no more about that here. I have no desire to derail a subject that I care deeply about.

  56. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    To the people who are saying that kids should be pulled out of schools when they’re subjected to this shit: Yeah, except sometimes the parents are part of the problem. Sure, good parents don’t want to see their kids bullied. Some of them, though, they agree with the bullies’ reasoning – they just don’t think anyone should be cruel to their kid. Some of them think their kid should try to fit in better, since they don’t want to see them hurt. Other parents are the bullies. And they can instill so much self-hatred and isolation that their kids don’t even know that there are places where they can be accepted, or don’t want to go there if they do, because they have never learned that they deserve acceptance.

    We absolutely cannot rely on the existence of safe elsewheres, when we’re talking about children.

  57. geoffreybrent says

    these lying whores for Jesus

    I agree with everything else in this post, but PZ, please rethink your choice of words here. There’s some very unfortunate irony in using “whore” as an insult when you’re trying to speak AGAINST sexual/religious bigotry.

  58. says

    Classical Cipher:

    We absolutely cannot rely on the existence of safe elsewheres, when we’re talking about children.

    QFT. It’s never safe to assume, no matter how smug and comfortable that might make someone feel. ‘Home’ was no refuge for me, and the one time a teacher attempted to reach out and protect me, she got too damn close to losing her job.

    A lot of ‘homes’ are hell holes, a lot of parents don’t have the resources to move, hire lawyers, etc. It’s on all of us to insist that bullies are the ones who need to get the fuck out of schools, whether they are children or adults. It’s on all of us to insist that the toxicity of religion must stay out of schools.

  59. raven says

    We absolutely cannot rely on the existence of safe elsewheres, when we’re talking about children.

    Right. And posting that on freethoughtblogs will fix the problems in Anoka, Minnesota. It’s nice to know magic still works.

    1. A few parents in Anoka can’t fix their school problem which seems to be the tyranny of the majority. If they could, it would be fixed. Doesn’t mean they should give up, the good people do tend to win in the end a lot. Look what happened to Rumsfeld.

    What you can do if it is your kid being bullied is pull them out of school. There are homeschooling and internet options for everyone.

    2. If you don’t care if your kid gets bullied or killed, well nothing much we or anyone can do about it. We aren’t miracle workers or rulers of the universe. This BTW, isn’t unheard of. When a gay Mormon kid killed himself, his mother said it was all for the best.

    Religions produce a lot of monsters. This is one of their most consistent characteristics and we all see it daily. There are quite a few in Anoka.

    There are a few Platonists still left. They think the world should be some ideal place. Well sorry, the rest of us have to deal with the world we live in, not the one we want to live in.

  60. Pteryxx says

    and the one time a teacher attempted to reach out and protect me, she got too damn close to losing her job.

    This. This happens ALL THE TIME. How can we support teachers who’ll be ostracized and punished for trying to help targeted students? Anoka’s writing it into the rules, but it happens everywhere. Why is there only anti-bullying training for the KIDS?

  61. Akira MacKenzie says

    I read this feature last night. While I can’t say it made me cry, it did enrage me. Even though I’m not homosexual, I had put up with an inordinate amount of physical and emotional abuse during my high school days. I had contemplated suicide once or twice and after one particularly nasty beating I was prepared to take a revolver from my father’s pistol cabinet and hunt the fucking little bastards responsible down. I didn’t care if I ended up in prison at that point. I just wanted to hurt my tormentors far more than they hurt me and put an end to their abuse once and for all. Fortunately, my younger sister talked me down. However, at 37, I stil have nightmares about high school. As a result, I’ve developed a serious dislike toward all bullies, whatever form they take.

    The one thing I took away from my experience is that teachers andd school administration are clueless about, afraid of, oreven tolerant (i.e. “It builds character.”) toward bullies. Most of them just didn’t want to deal with anything that went above and beyond their job description. When my parents voiced their concerns about my well-being, the principal told them, and I quote: “We’re educators. Not security guards.”

  62. says

    Pteryxx, in my case, the teacher in question attempted to protect me from A (mother), which was a *huge* mistake. A was not about to let anyone treat me like a human being.

  63. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    Right. And posting that on freethoughtblogs will fix the problems in Anoka, Minnesota. It’s nice to know magic still works.

    Oh, fuck you, Raven. Cautioning people against positing excessively simplistic solutions for systemic problems is not meant to be fucking magic. It’s meant to point out that there are children who don’t have access to resources at home either, so the need to fix school districts like this one is even more pressing.

  64. Pteryxx says

    And sneering at us on FTB is going to magically make all of us shut up? RiiIIIIiiiiight.

  65. says

    What you can do if it is your kid being bullied is pull them out of school. There are homeschooling and internet options for everyone.

    Wow? Really?

    There are a few Platonists still left. They think the world should be some ideal place. Well sorry, the rest of us have to deal with the world we live in, not the one we want to live in.

    FFS that’s not rejecting Platonism that’s confusing Is for Should. We deal with the world we live in by making it one we want to live in.

  66. says

    Oh and no Raven, not all of us can just plop our kids out of school and dedicate days educating them ourselves. Some of us have to struggle to make the coin to keep the little parasites fed and unnude

  67. Pteryxx says

    And internet’s so easy for everyone, just turn on a tap right?

    Hey, I’m a poor Black kid. I just found out this morning that you’ve been talking about me. Sorry I couldn’t respond sooner, but I don’t have access to the Internet outside of school … and even in school we only have computer class once a week in the mornings and the teachers just have us play math games…

    Source

    This is the state of computer and library access in Philadelphia:

    Most Philadelphia public schools no longer have libraries where Marks’ “poor black student” could access the wonders of the Internet. Just 19 percent of city public schools have a certified librarian this year and the district currently has only 48 librarians. (source)
    Only about 50 percent of Philadelphia residents have daily Internet access, even fewer at home. That is supplemented but not replaced by the resources of the 54 branches of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which have been hit by budget cuts.

    Source

    Or are only white, affluent kids ever bullied? Or ever LBGT, for that matter, eh?

  68. says

    Oh and no Raven, not all of us can just plop our kids out of school and dedicate days educating them ourselves. Some of us have to struggle to make the coin to keep the little parasites fed and unnude

    Oh, not only that, but *gasp* not every family can afford internet access* and not everyone who is at home is cut out to homeschool. To homeschool and do it well takes a certain level of education, a lot of dedication and a lot of patience. There’s also being able to meet the social side of homeschooling, which generally requires a vehicle, money for gas and outings, etc.

    Around here, a majority of Indian kids depend on their school for computers and internet access.

  69. Koshka says

    The one thing I took away from my experience is that teachers andd school administration are clueless about, afraid of, oreven tolerant (i.e. “It builds character.”) toward bullies. Most of them just didn’t want to deal with anything that went above and beyond their job description. When my parents voiced their concerns about my well-being, the principal told them, and I quote: “We’re educators. Not security guards.”

    This attitude from school administration shits me. School is not just about maths science and language. Schools are also about learning about how your society works. If kids are not getting guidance from the teachers then they will be getting it from the bullies.

  70. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    To clarify my position, I am not saying that the only solution is to remove the child from the environment. The environment definitely needs to be changed. I don’t think that this is something that will be quick or easy. But if a child is in real and immediate danger of harm directly from others, or indirectly by self harm, then is it wrong to, if at all possible, remove them from that environment? This is not an advocation of this action as treating the cause of the problem (toxic, bully enabling environment), but may at least prevent one of the symptoms (death of a bullied teen).

    How do we address the cause though? Or more to the point, how can the people of Anoka, or other places like that?

  71. says

    Ariaflame:

    then is it wrong to, if at all possible, remove them from that environment?

    No, however, it’s not that simple. You can remove a child for a few days without repercussion, but you can’t simply yank them out of school. To do that, you have to have them enrolled in a different school or be set up to homeschool. The state won’t allow you to just remove a kid from school.

    It’s not a matter of ease to get a kid transferred to a different school, either. First, another school will have to agree, all the red tape has to be dealt with, etc., and that’s running under the assumption there’s another public school within your school district. In a small town, that’s a big fat NO. (The district thing is a hassle, I had to use a friend of my grandmother’s address to attend my HS.)

    If a teacher, school board member or other administrator decides they don’t like you taking your kid out of school, they can report you and turn your life into a waking nightmare.

    This also ignores a social problem – things can get much worse for a bullied child when they are kept out of school for x days, especially if it happens fairly frequently.

  72. says

    This sickens me.

    Any suicide is unacceptable. That many suicides should’ve changed the whole mindset of the country.

    But it didn’t. No, these ‘True Christians’ kept up with it, maybe in the sick, twisted desire to watch the LBGT community burn.

    Fuck em’.

  73. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, liar and scoundrel says

    To add to what Caine said:
    Tuition is a problem, as well. If you try to enroll your child in another school district, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for that, even if it’s a public school.

  74. Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM says

    But if a child is in real and immediate danger of harm directly from others, or indirectly by self harm, then is it wrong to, if at all possible, remove them from that environment?

    No, but even if someone does have the resources, not all children are going to be pulled, and not all children who are pulled are going to end up in a better situation. Tempting as it is, we can’t center the discussion on what the child’s parents or guardians should do, because we cannot assume that they even understand, let alone care, what their child is going through. If parents are the only ones who can do anything to stop this, then the fact of the matter is that it is not going to be stopped.

  75. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    I am unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the USA school system, never having lived there. But I would like please for people to stop saying that it’s not that simple. I never said it was simple, it is a complex problem for which I do not know the answer. Which is why I added the ‘if at all possible’ caveat.

    If you will notice I finished my post by asking what can be done?

  76. says

    Ariaflame:

    I am unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the USA school system, never having lived there. But I would like please for people to stop saying that it’s not that simple.

    Why? Your suggestion was extremely simple, people then explained why it wasn’t feasible. As a bonus, you now know more about the peculiarities of the USA public school system.

    If you will notice I finished my post by asking what can be done?

    Sure, I noticed, but you weren’t done with your whole “what’s wrong with taking the kid out of school” business yet, so I addressed it.

    What can we do? The same thing we did when it came to civil rights, when it came to women’s rights, when it came to children’s rights and so on. Get active, be noisy and stay noisy. Agitate, advocate, educate. Campaign against moronic, religion poisoned people in our government (at this point, that last might take a fuckin’ miracle), refuse to stay silent when people around us express homophobia or make certain types of jokes, and so on.

  77. says

    If you will notice I finished my post by asking what can be done?

    Running for election in local school boards helps. It’s a under noticed elected position that can have a lot of direct influence and due to being so unnoticed usually has a low barrier of entry.

  78. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    It’s a under noticed elected position that can have a lot of direct influence and due to being so unnoticed usually has a low barrier of entry.

    Would that it were even less noticed. Election to the school board is the entry point into politics for all manner of ignorant, egotistical assholes who have no business making decisions about education let alone other public policy issues. In my experience it is most certainly NOT unnoticed and the low barrier to entry is precisely what makes it attractive to local yokels and gladhanders.

    The school board system in this country is ridiculous. Yet, like so many other things USAian, it’s taken as an article of faith that since it’s always been that way that it must be a very good thing indeed not to be messed with. My mouth dropped open the other day reading (was it here, or somewhere else on FtB?) commenters who are intelligent and insightful saying things like, “It’s important to keep local control of schools!”

    Really? Really? Baffling.

  79. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Taking a kid out of school isn’t simple. I am sorry if I gave the impression I thought it was.

    Will make further comments after I have brunched

  80. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Having said all that in #89, so much the better that decent people run for the school board to neutralize the rotten element. Trouble is, there will never be enough humanitarians to outweigh the malign influence of people who clog school boards in this country with their Christianist agendas. That is the very nature of political office—it attracts narcissistic, self-aggrandizing and power-hungry people. And that is why it’s obscene that this should be considered an elected office, just as it’s obscene to have elected judges (FFS; that this even needs to be remarked on) and sheriffs.

  81. says

    Josh:

    “It’s important to keep local control of schools!”

    Really? Really? Baffling.

    That is baffling. Local school boards are one of the major reasons the education standard in the U.S. is so godsdamned full of fail. Especially now, when you get so many people who are intent on forcing religion back into school getting onto local boards. They are a mess, they are inefficient and just ain’t helping.

    A straight, secular standard for education would serve much better.

  82. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Local school boards are one of the major reasons the education standard in the U.S. is so godsdamned full of fail

    Of course it is. And how anyone—especially Horde commenters—can fail to see this is beyond mysterious. We would not have creationism in classrooms or prayer banners in hallways or official prayers at graduation or administration-sanctioned bullying at the massive, uncontrollable scale that we do if it weren’t for this perverse, idiosyncratically US idea that there’s something sacrosanct and essentially elevated about “local control.” How’s that “state’s rights” thing working out?

    How is this not fucking obvious?

  83. says

    Josh:

    How is this not fucking obvious?

    I honestly don’t know. I think one of the problems might be that parents feel more in control when there’s a ‘local’ school board and I expect a lot of people feel that a state-wide standard smacks too much of that evil socialism, it wouldn’t be ‘merican, ya know? People get attached to the weirdest shit.

    I’d love to see a state-wide, secular standard put in place. Not only would it help raise education standards, it would better protect children and teachers. Anoka is a good example in adult teachers being bullied, threatened and silenced too. I am very tired of how abysmally teachers are treated in this country.

  84. walton says

    That is the very nature of political office—it attracts narcissistic, self-aggrandizing and power-hungry people. And that is why it’s obscene that this should be considered an elected office, just as it’s obscene to have elected judges (FFS; that this even needs to be remarked on) and sheriffs.

    QFT.

  85. says

    Many German states now have what’s called “parity of the three estates” (actually it’s called Drittelparität), i.e. the school conference, the highest decision-making body a school has, consists of 1/3 teacher reps, 1/3 student reps and 1/3 parent reps. However, educational matters are of course outside its competence…

  86. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Caine:

    I think one of the problems might be that parents feel more in control when there’s a ‘local’ school board and I expect a lot of people feel that a state-wide standard smacks too much of that evil socialism, it wouldn’t be ‘merican, ya know?

    Yes, that’s clearly what drives it at the popular level. What puzzles me is slightly different—intelligent, rational, science-minded people defending “local control.” I saw a spate of it around here the other day and it just blew me away. Strange how some of these American shibboleths can take hold of even non-jingoistic people.

  87. says

    Josh:

    What puzzles me is slightly different—intelligent, rational, science-minded people defending “local control.” I saw a spate of it around here the other day and it just blew me away. Strange how some of these American shibboleths can take hold of even non-jingoistic people.

    I think it’s the same thing, even with rational, science-minded people. There’s a bloody-mindedness to people when it comes to what they can and can’t control. There’s no control with a state-wide standard. There’s potential control with a local board.

  88. says

    To clarify why my 96 is relevant to the discussion: by giving students and parents parity on the school conference, they feel like they’re being taken seriously as stakeholders.

  89. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    But if a child is in real and immediate danger of harm directly from others, or indirectly by self harm, then is it wrong to, if at all possible, remove them from that environment?

    No, but even if someone does have the resources, not all children are going to be pulled, and not all children who are pulled are going to end up in a better situation. Tempting as it is, we can’t center the discussion on what the child’s parents or guardians should do, because we cannot assume that they even understand, let alone care, what their child is going through. If parents are the only ones who can do anything to stop this, then the fact of the matter is that it is not going to be stopped.

    Well no. If the school environment is toxic and the home life is abusive or neglectful and the child has no adult advocates or allies at all then basically that child is in a lot of trouble. If they are different to other children in a visible way and either unable, or unwilling to adopt social camouflage then chances are they are going to spend their school life miserable. If they survive it.

    This is a huge problem. While I might have had a miserable time at school because I was socially shunned I am well aware that in other places people had it a lot worse. That moving away made my life better is not claiming that this is the solution for everyone.

    There are many factors that complicate things. Does the child have any friends that leaving school would make contact harder? Is it easy, or indeed possible to change schools without the family moving? Will doing so be an unacceptable expense? I understand that the economic situation in the USA at the moment means that moving the entire family may not be an option. Are there relatives the child could stay with during school terms? That are on the child’s side?

    In situations where the parents do care and the school environment isn’t intrinsically toxic then the keeping the child home for a few days while parents metaphorically rip the principal a new one may help. Or may not.

    Yes, there are a lot of ‘it depends’. Which is why there is not going to be one simple solution to anything. And I am so far away that the only thing that I can do with respect to the Anoka situation is this. Post about it on a blog. That I can think of.

    Yes the school system over there does sound broken. How much power do these school boards actually have? I gather by previous posts and so forth that they actually have some control over what gets taught in each school? Are they at school level or district level, or state level?

  90. Pteryxx says

    Basically, SOMEONE has to be on the targeted kid’s side. To that end, there need to be chances to intervene, people willing to intervene, and they have to be protected from retaliation (by parents, other teachers, admins, or other kids) when they do intervene. So some adult or other should be in a position of trust, whose duties specifically include advocating for a student, or passing their concerns on to someone who can.

    I’m reminded of a time I proved to a teacher that I’d been the victim of lying bullies in front of the whole class, and she still punished me. That was the only time anyone so much as listened to me in all those years. There has to be a way for students to report unfair treatment to someone who will listen; perhaps whose job doesn’t depend on preserving conformity and authority. Teachers mostly don’t care about fairness. They just want the problem to vanish from sight and not jeopardize any of those sacred performance measurements that keep teachers un-fired.

    Maybe we need a mandatory appeals board that students can call upon… or even a bullying hotline?

  91. CuervodeCuero says

    Maybe someone has said this already, but we are all Spartacusexual. It doesn’t take being gay to be annointed a ‘legal’ target for bullying, especially in school. Just the label is enough.

    When I was in high school in a small, very rural community, I was bullied for being accelerated past my age group, a voracious reader of err..everything, some of which I had to get from the ‘elementary’ library (they’d just gotten in full colour plate illustrated reprints of the entire Wizard of Oz series; I took it full in the teeth for that and kept reading), I wasn’t sexually active, socially forward or apparently interested, except I’d not shunned a bullied student who made their own clothes and I had intervened in the duck-rape gang of boys circling a girl for having early maturity *large* breasts, because I couldn’t take watching her in tears anymore.

    So, I was now gay. Which frankly, was my introduction to the idea. Maybe I was gay, I couldn’t find guilt in the label the way they wanted to guilt me. All I really knew was, I didn’t want any of *them*, either sex. Which never changed in my time there. Admittedly it was a small pool, but still…but I digress.

    I wasn’t the only target of course. I saw what happened to others of a less perverse mulishness than myself and was horrified (high school, so many firsts)on their behalf. They were all routinely ignored by the ‘adults’. The only reason the teaching staff did anything about my variant was that (having discovered parental intervention was completely helpless talk, no walk) I decided if I was going to die, I was going to do it atop the vice-principal’s desk, blocking the coffee mug.

    I showed up at her office after every incident and wouldn’t go away until I made witness and laid down evidence and asked repeatedly, am I making this up, am I crazy, is it ok for them to do this?

    It took a year, but compared to a lot of kids, I got lucky. The principal was finally ‘motivated’ into laying down the peace law. I doubt it stuck past my time there but it did stick during it (at least where staff could see bullying; not everyone is willing to admit being victimized). It still drove me out of that community, seeking sanity.

    I learned standing on desks was not just for campus grounds either. Years later in the big city, in a table-top role gaming session (pirates!) the *adult* guys in the group got nervous about some in-character happenings and resorted to het-normative fag bashing talk, inciting each other to more and more until I snapped and read them a personal version of the riot act on how shitty they sounded. I took a breather, they thought about it, we all went back to gaming sans idiot talk.

    Game ended, I was leaving and got drawn aside by the youngest guy, high school age. He admitted he was gay and presumed I knew already, that being why I’d blown up on the others, to spare him. He thanked me but asked how I’d known, nervous he’d given himself away somehow, maybe to everyone, which scared him because he wasn’t out ATALL. I had to tell him I’d had *no* clue, I was just ‘Pissed Off TM’, but I was up for being a confidential sounding board. He came out to the others years later, a much happier young man.

    I get both angry and tired, that decades after some whacko kid took a page from books about the civil rights movement and ‘occupied’ administrative space, we still have adults that can’t be arsed to protect born children forced to be under their absolute authority, even while screaming murder about cellular clumps? Do we need to slap ’160 months old foetus’ signs on adolescent foreheads before they can get some joy from PTB?

    Oh well, I guess it boils down to, ‘going against conforming moral cruelty of the majority is uncertain; being obstinate helps; you never know when the small ‘srslyWTF!’ gesture can ripple out; your scars may vary’

  92. McCthulhu's new upbeat 2012 nym. says

    I see t-shirts with a silhouette of a guy lighting up a doobie and the caption reads ‘It’s 4:20 somewhere.’ We need some t-shirts made up of a torch carrying mob of zombie-like xtian bigots harassing a gay atheist teen with the caption ‘It’s 1480 AD somewhere.’

    Another amongst a plethora of loathsome acts by the godbots, and atheists are the least trusted group in ‘mairca? Talk about a society that is completely FUBAR.

  93. says

    Ariaflame:

    I gather by previous posts and so forth that they actually have some control over what gets taught in each school?

    Yes, they do. In many cases, a great deal of control. States also have a Board of Education, which wields a great deal of power, see here for an example: http://scienceblogs.com/mikethemadbiologist/2010/05/texas_board_of_education_decid.php

    Are they at school level or district level, or state level?

    The local boards are at district level, covering all the schools in a given district. Then there are the state wide Boards of Education.

  94. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    *reads* Oh dear.

    I must admit I don’t know what the local system is here, but I am pretty sure it is not elected, at least not for anything like that. I suppose I could ask those of my friends who have kids. I know there is the state department of education, and I think I heard something about a national curriculum, and there are parents and citizens groups but I don’t think they have any say over what is taught. I shall ask.

  95. steveg3 says

    Reading this article has made me stop lurking.

    This is the 21st Century. Still this goes on. I have lost a lot of “faith” in humanity suddenly.

  96. says

    There is not enough info in the article to be sure but I got a feeling there was a tenuous kid to kid support network, and that Sam was a crucial node. When she killed herself the network fell apart like a snowflake in the desert.

    That’s another reason to try not to remove kids who are being harassed, you might be pulling them out of a support network they rely on or that relies on them.

    This article is the answer to all those that go on about “symbolic deism” and “what’s the harm”.

    In Australia we have growing problems with theists taking over schools (no school boards so they infiltrate the bureaucracy instead). The FIRIS group have been fighting pretty strenuously in Victoria (http://www.reasonaustralia.org/news/articles/534-firis-back-to-school-campaign–billboard-hits-on-religious-discrimination-in-schools) and its building a model for the rest of us.

  97. christophburschka says

    … this story has convinced me of something that entire books by Dawkins and Harris fell short of so far. This religion shit doesn’t just need to get out of government or take a backseat in society, it needs to end. “Live and let live”? If only.
    That Rolling Stone article would have made me sad, but I was distracted by incoherent rage instead. :(

  98. says

    As someone who has bullied in school for questioning my sexuality, I had to take a few breaks reading that article. It brought back a lot of bad memories. Reading the teens personal stories…I haven’t cried that hard in a long time. I also agree with DanDare. We have serious issues with gay bullying here in Australia too.

  99. says

    There is not enough info in the article to be sure but I got a feeling there was a tenuous kid to kid support network, and that Sam was a crucial node. When she killed herself the network fell apart like a snowflake in the desert.

    The article does seem to touch upon it. I’m thinking of their mention that psychologists believing the environment is one that promotes suicide and actually makes it ‘contagious’

  100. carlie says

    But it IS easy, for certain values of easy. Make all accreditation of schools dependent on a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, with the first strike meaning a three-year deaccreditation and diplomas from thise schools ineligible for public university admission. All it would take would be a line in the federal budget for inspectors and enforcers.

    Oh, and actual will among politicians to make things better. Which is why it would never happen.

  101. Pteryxx says

    If you will notice I finished my post by asking what can be done?

    GLSEN gay bullying ‘Think before you speak’ PSA to run at Super Bowl XLVI

    “GLSEN is thrilled to share the Think Before You Speak campaign’s message of respect with tens of thousands of football fans attending the Super Bowl this year,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “The PSA campaign featuring Hilary Duff, Wanda Sykes and the NBA’s Grant Hill has already reached millions of Americans across the country and we are truly grateful for this opportunity to increase awareness among a new kind of audience about the negative impact of anti-gay slurs.”

    Ad Council research found that strong awareness of the “Think Before You Speak” campaign among teens has demonstrated a significant shift in key attitudes and behaviors regarding the use of anti-LGBT slurs such as “that’s so gay.”

    Findings from surveys conducted by the Ad Council after the first year of the campaign of teens aged 13-16 suggest that a higher percentage of teens think that people should not say “that’s so gay” for any reason (38% in 2009 vs. 28% in 2008) and a higher percentage also report “never” saying “that’s so gay” when something is stupid or uncool (28% in 2009 vs. 18% in 2008).

    GLSEN: Playgrounds and Prejudice

    NEW YORK – Jan. 18, 2012 – The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) today released a new report on school climate, biased remarks and bullying, Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States. The report, based on national surveys of 1,065 elementary school students in 3rd to 6th grade and 1,099 elementary school teachers of K-6th grade, examines students’ and teachers’ experiences with biased remarks and bullying, and their attitudes about gender expression and family diversity. The surveys were conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of GLSEN during November and December 2010.

    GLSEN today also released Ready, Set, Respect! GLSEN’s Elementary School Toolkit, an instructional resource developed to help educators address issues raised in Playgrounds and Prejudice, particularly teachers’ willingness to address but lack of understanding of biased language, LGBT-inclusive family diversity and gender nonconformity.

  102. says

    I can’t imagine that I grew up in the same country as these kids. I was in high school not long ago in the suburbs of Chicago. We had a Gay Straight Alliance of which I was a part. We participated in the Day Of Silence, too. I did not even see the controversy, I had no idea about the ‘Day of Truth’. I’m not gay, and I never heard of my gay friends being bullied for it. My atheist parents insulated me from these kinds of controversies pretty well, I guess. Well here’s a toast to the upper middle class ‘burbs; breeding apathy since the 1950s!

  103. Ink says

    De-lurking to post just for this.

    I am a product of Hennepin County public schools (K-12). I’m also queer, atheist, and celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my PhD thesis defense this February, which I figure should give you a sense of my weirdo nerd bonafides.

    My experience in the St. Louis Park schools was great. The teachers and staff were some of the best I have encountered to this day, including all the profs I had in college and grad school. There is a reason why this school district has a reputation for excellence.

    I was a member of the GSA at my high school and it was a fantastic group. I experienced some bullying, but it was sporadic and minor. I was a flaming liberal, a feminist, an unashamedly godless…and I remember my K-12 years as overwhelmingly positive. The highest praise I can give my school district was that when I went away to college in Boston I found myself thinking, “Gosh, people here are so CONSERVATIVE!” (How spoiled I was!)

    However.

    We knew all about the “bad” schools in our area. They were the ones that called us “St. Jewish Park” and threw bagels on the rink when our hockey teams played against each other. They were the ones that our dance team simply didn’t visit at all, because their two male members were harassed so viciously that they decided it wasn’t even worth it. None of this kind of stuff was a secret; teachers and administrators knew it just as well as we did.

    I’m not really sure why I’m sharing all this, honestly. I think maybe because I am deeply goddamn ashamed of my home district for this crap, and it hurts all the more because it is so divorced from the experiences that I personally enjoyed growing up. I cannot blame anybody for writing my old stomping grounds off as a den of bigots and creeps–I sure would if I read this about somebody else’s district–and I’m not making ANY excuses at all for the complete failures on the part of the administrators and parents and students. I just want to speak up and say that there are a lot of great people and a lot of great schooling in Anoka-Hennepin. It’s a good place, and it’s worth fighting the awful minority who are trying to ruin the good thing we had going on.

  104. says

    It’s a good place, and it’s worth fighting the awful minority who are trying to ruin the good thing we had going on.

    That’s really the point. The problem is that the Admin has decided that the ignorance of a vocal hate group is on equal footing with what the rest of the world knows about psychology, education, and sexuality.

  105. says

    We were talking about scary books earlier. I got to thinking. When I was 7 years old, my most favourite book was The Rain Forest, by Armstrong Sperry. I checked it out of the library at least a half dozen times. It was about an ornithologist and his son in New Guinea.

    I never forgot the deep affection I had for that story. Several years ago, I tracked down a 1947 edition. When I went to re-read it all these years later, I felt like someone slapped me silly. The book was incredibly condescending and racist. Serious white man’s burden and worse.