Wednesday, October 13, 2010

injaynesworld we ask "How Many More Kids Have To Die...?"

In January of this year, The Student Non-Discrimination Act was introduced into the House of Representatives.  In May, a companion bill was introduced in the Senate.

The bill would require that no student in public schools be “excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” based on the student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  

While federal statutory and/or constitutional protections expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex and disability, they do not do so on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  As a result, students and parents have limited legal recourse when such discrimination occurs.   Even worse, however, is when kids see gay students being openly discriminated against by school officials, it sends the message that being gay somehow makes one less a person and therefore it’s okay to harass them. 

This omission in federal law must be corrected.

Adding sexual orientation or gender identity to laws prohibiting discrimination already on the books seems like a perfectly reasonable and clearly long overdue action.   You would think, in light of statistics showing that gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, and especially in light of the rash of such suicides in just the past month, that this legislation would be a no-brainer. You would be wrong.

Backlash from the Christian “right” has been immediate and fierce.  So strong is their fear of homosexuality, that not even the deaths of innocent children can move or open their hearts.  There’s a simple and disturbing reason for this.   They do not consider these children to be innocent. 

Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council blames the victims themselves.  “The students are dead because they adopted an unhealthy lifestyle.  People aren’t gay, lesbian or transgender by God’s design.”  He fears that if The Student Non-Discrimination Act is passed, “Schools will develop and promote acceptance of homosexual behavior.” 

Don’t you just love it when people attempt to mask their own hatred, ignorance and intolerance by purporting to speak for God?  I can only imagine what He must think.  

Clearly, what’s being forgotten here is that these are children we’re talking about.   Regardless of one’s personal beliefs about sexual identity, shouldn’t all children be provided a safe environment in which to learn?    If Prichard and others are correct and this legislation does lead to more acceptance of homosexuality in our schools, isn’t that also likely to lead to a reduction of bullying and violence against these kids?   

No child is born to hate.   Hate must be taught.  Kids take their cues from the adults around them.   If teachers tolerate taunts of “faggot” on the playground, then those taunts must be okay.  If gays aren’t allowed to attend their proms, then it must be okay to ostracize them in every other form of school life, to bully and beat them until they see only one way out and another life is lost. 

I can already hear you.   “Wait.  I don’t want a gay child beaten up or bullied, but do they have to attend the prom?”    It wasn’t that long ago that the same thing was said about blacks.   Fear of those who are different is nothing new, nor is the violence it inevitably produces.   At some point, we as a nation have to ask ourselves if we want to continue this legacy of hate or change course and become a society of tolerance that encourages all of its children to achieve their full potential.

The Student Non-Discrimination Act is a step in this direction.   It puts school administrators on notice that they must adapt a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination and the hostile environment it creates or lose their federal funding.  So far the bill has 25 sponsors, 24 Democrats and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.  Quite telling is the absence of a single Republican sponsor.  

Contact your representatives today and tell them to support  The Student Non-Discrimination Act.   Do it before one more child dies. 

Visit for Stefanie Mullens' excellent series on bullying.

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