Monday, December 17, 2007

Teen Suicide, Harassment and Violence

by Anthony Cobb

Are lives worth saving? If you could save a person’s life, would you? How about the life of a teenager who is, or perceived to be, gay, lesbian, transgendered, maybe bi-sexual, or simply questioning his or her sexuality? Shouldn’t they be able to live and sort out their own sexuality without constant harassment, intimidation, bullying, discrimination, and even violence which occurs relentlessly, year after year after year in some of our public schools?

The issue of harassment in our public schools is an issue that is being addressed all across the Nation. Some states pass statewide laws to address the issue, and some local school boards address the issue. It is an issue whose time has arrived in Alabama, too. It’s time that the Alabama legislature addressed this issue. Why? Because it’s a problem that local school systems are ignoring to the detriment of a great many teens.

Some teens who are relentlessly harassed and intimidated just can’t take it. They go on to commit suicide. They even react in violent ways themselves, bringing weapons to school and threatening their schoolmates. On occasion, a teen who just can’t take it anymore shoots someone, on or off school property.

The issues behind bullying, intimidation, and violence among teenagers is widely varied, and we cannot determine exactly how many teens are harassed because of their sexual orientation, or perceived orientation – or are harassed because another student wants to be a bully and uses sexual or gender issues as an excuse. It is known, though, that a great many of the teen suicides revolve around the issue of sexual orientation or gender issues and constant harassment in the schools.

Many lives have been lost, many others destroyed or damaged. We may not be able to stop all harassment, but we can stop a lot of it if school officials address the issue adequately, which is now not being done, especially in the larger schools.

To address the issue, there is a piece of legislation now being drafted. This legislation will address the various issues of bullying, harassment, and intimidation which often lead to violence and suicides. This legislation will be introduced in the next regular session of the legislature, which begins on February 5, 2008. Sexual orientation and gender are included in the legislation.

Want to help? Contact your legislator now. Send a letter to your state senator or representative or give him or her call before he or she arrives in Montgomery in February. Need your legislators telephone numbers or names? Let us know and we’ll look up the information for you. Want a copy of the legislation? Let us know and you’ll get one.

Think that this bill will become law easily? No. Nothing is easy in Montgomery, not with the Alabama legislature, and not with the partisan divide that exists there – and not with the words “sexual orientation” in the legislation. There will probably be an effort to take out the words “sexual orientation” by the extremists, but we believe strongly that no matter who a person is, he or she is entitled to an educational environment free of intimidation and harassment. So maybe, just maybe, this bill will stand a chance if we get some help from people like you. The time is right now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


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