LGBT Students Deserve Protection

The age of significant life events is trending downward and middle school educators need to pay it more attention. The average age that today’s LGBT teenagers come out to their friends and in some cases parents, according to the Massachusetts Commission on LGBT Youth, is 13.4 years old.  As a middle school principal for 15 years I learned first hand that middle school LGBT students face extreme levels of harassment daily. Words can be very hurtful, leading in some instances to suicide. In fact, some data indicates that 30 percent of teen suicides are related to LGBT harassment. 

Bullying is endemic to middle school culture. It is an issue whose priority must be reassessed at all middle schools, especially as the bullying relates to LGBT youth. Along with increasing student achievement for all we must balance our work in schools with assuring the social and emotional health of all children.

At one of the schools where I was principal I arranged for a student panel for one of my faculty meetings. The panel consisted of LGBT students who formerly attended our school and now attended the feeder high school. They all spoke of their anger relative to not feeling like anyone at the middle school understood or recognized their issues of personal safety and bullying. They said they could not wait to leave middle school and enter high school where a Gay/Straight Alliance Club existed.

Since we were working on the issue of acceptance and reduction of bullying, the district asked me to enroll an out of district student who was transgender in my school. I will never forget the first meeting in my office with the parents, the transgender student, a counselor and my administrative team. The student told me he knew he was not female in 3rd grade. This was the first transgender middle school student who I knew had “come out” to his parents and school. Due to my ignorance, I thought transgender issues only came up in high school, yet I knew by experience that gay and lesbian students were very much a part of middle school. We kept the information confidential, at least as much as we could.  I did lobby to have his teachers know so they could help protect him from harm.

As I sat at the annual dinner thrown by the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC) on Saturday night, I was contemplating how far we have come with the issues of LGBT rights in Silicon Valley and across the nation. Yet the keynote speaker, Lt. Dan Choi, a graduate of West Point, might be dishonorably discharged due to his “coming out” on the Rachel Maddow Show in March of this year; Proposition 8 passed in November, overturning the California Supreme Court’s decision in June, that equal respect and dignity of marriage is a basic civil right for all couples; and unconscionable bullying of LGBT youth is still rampant in our middle schools.

Teachers and administrators must be trained and become more sensitive to this issue of LGBT student bullying. Middle school principals working with superintendents and school boards must be proactive and come up with local policies and practices that reduce bullying of all kinds in middle school, with a focus on LGBT harassment. Feeder high school Gay/Straight Alliance Clubs could come down to the feeder middle schools and organize a meeting once a month at lunch. Do district and school administrators have the courage to promote this strategy?

On a side note: Congratulations to Congressman Mike Honda, 15th District, who was honored as the Legislator of the Year at the 25th Annual BAYMEC Dinner on Saturday, September 26. The Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee began in 1984 by Supervisor Ken Yeager and Wiggsy Sivertsen, with its primary purpose to lobby for LGBT issues in a four county region. Their first dinner was held a Mitty High School with one political leader in attendance. Last Saturday over 80 national, state and local political leaders were introduced by Cindy Chavez, CEO of the South Bay Labor Council, at the sold out Imperial Ball Room Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel.

As one of those local elected officials I believe we must assure that ALL people have a seat at the table.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. I also feel that transgender and sexuality changes/differences is not brought up in middle school as much as it is in high school.  Middle school is the time of adolescence in which students feel the need to figure out exactly who they are and aim to seek acceptance from their peers.  At Mt. Pleasant (my old high school), there was a Gay/Straight Alliance Club, but I considered it more of a LGBT Club as I cannot recall any of the straight students joining.  I think it is essential for educators, especially those in middle and high schools, to be training and more aware of the sorts of issues that occur.  It is our job to instill in students the idea that everyone is different, but that different is not necessarily a bad thing.  Though Proposition 8 passed, which banned same sex marriage, I feel that California has made a huge step and that this only illustrates how far we have come and how much further we need to get.

  2. School bullying is very sad and unfortunate. Luckily, I was never bullied in school I definitely did come across other students with cruel and unusual words. If it was directed toward me I ignored it. If it was a constant issue I probably would not been able to ignore it. I felt sorry for the students who were bullied and tried to make friends with them but they never wanted to be my friend.
    Regarding of the “coming out”, I did not know any students in middle school who we thought were gay or lesbian. It was not talked about until high school. I did not even know what gay or lesbian meant until 9th grade. Even then everyone knew who was gay or lesbian, but nobody made fun of them. The teachers were aware and seemed sensitive to all the issues within the school.
    I think school districts and administration need to step up to the plate and get the courage. This is America! We are diverse in every way and everyone should be treated equal. Nobody should feel that they are better than another.

  3. I can barely recall witnessing any form of LGBT related bullying when I was in middle school, but perhaps it was just too long ago for me to remember, or I was still too naive to notice or even understand a matter such as LGBT. But that was a decade ago, and now you have even young elementary students who understand the concepts of LGBT.

    I think there is less of a social tabboo now to be LGBT and that it has become more socially accepted. Or it could just be, perhaps, that now I am older and am more exposed to and even socially connected with members of the LGBT community that I am under the impression it has become more socially accepted, if that makes any sense. But regardless of the extent of my exposure, I have always felt somewhat troubled that the LGBT community is rallied against and disapproved of.

    The way we wear our hair, like sexual and gender preference, is a form of identity and expression. It is okay for women to wear their hair both long OR short. Yet, it always seems to be less acceptable for men to grow out their hair long. Is it because men are not “supposed” to have long hair? This concept of “supposed”, I think, is something to think about. Are women “supposed” to be with men? Are we not “supposed” to be with a member of the same sex?… Who created this concept of “supposed”? Perhaps we are supposed to complete assignments on time, because if you didn’t, you may possibly fail a class or lose your job. But does it really matter which sex or gender you’re “supposed” to be? Would one really fail in life if he/she was a lesbian or bisexual?

    I feel much of it is related to the dominant religions residing in our communities. Our beliefs and ideals shape much of our lifestyle and views. What may be acceptable for one may not be acceptable for another, and thus, I am not so much bothered that there are people who disapprove of the LGBT community. To each his own. What bothers me is the openness in which such people express their disapproval. Just because you disapprove of another’s gender or sexual prefererance, gives you no right to publicly humiliate or harm them.

    We are all members of the same larger society, are we not? And success is determined by our hard work and abilities regardless of our gender or sex, or so I’d like to think. We have no right to bring another down just because of their sexual or gender preferences. Our education system works hard to build respect among our students and their peers, but school is not the only place where respect must be taught. It must also be taught at home. But again, what parents choose to teach their children is at their own discretion. To each his own.

    • What you say is true in much of California and in parts of a few other states.  But for most of the country, this discussion would not even take place.

      Sadly, there remain many places where gay bashing is still considered a sport.

  4. My school district lost a lawsuit in 2001 to a group of former LGBT students who had been repeatedly harassed and bullied not only by students, but by their teachers and administration. As a result, they were court ordered to provide a mandatory annual training to every employee to in an attempt to prevent these types of incidents from occurring again. The persons named in the lawsuit are clearly stated as part of the training, as well as each injustice against these individuals. It was a sickening, eye-opening experience to read through the documents at my first training. In the Bay Area, we like to think of ourselves as enlightened, open-minded, etc., but the truth is, discrimination happens here in our own backyard on a daily basis. The training was only court-mandated for seven years, but the district has wisely opted to continue. Perhaps it’s to cover their own bases, but I’d love to think they have voluntarily continued to do for the benefit of LGBT students, and to recognize that bullies (student or faculty) need to be held accountable.

  5. Joseph,
    BRAVO! I deeply appreciate you writing this column. As a former member of the Network For A Hate Free Community, and of the Criminal Justice Committee, this is a vital issue that needs addressing. Schools don’t handle hate incidents or hate crimes against youth in school very well at all. This is an area of bullying that must be addressed fast, quick, and in a hurry!

    Joseph, if you need assistance in properly educating your teachers on how to better handle this issue, or if readers have experienced this type of bullying or discrimination please know there is help. I have provided a very important link to assist you, or you may call Delorme McKee-Stovall at 408-792-2304: is the Enemy (PRG)/News Conference Alert.

    Again Joseph, thank you for shedding some light on this!

  6. I think that setting up monthly meetings with the high school Gay/Sraight Alliance club is a great idea.  That kind of peer support seems very valuable.  I think an all-school assembly with a speaker who can describe the effects of hateful comments would also be a good idea.  Perhaps if the students heard first hand about a family who had experienced the painful loss of a gay/lesbian son/daughter/sister/brother, they would realize the severity of thoughless, hateful words and actions.  I think that such a story would make a powerful impression on the students, as well as, help set a no-tolerance tone for bullying on campus.  In addition, it just might flush out some difficulties an individual student might be experiencing, giving the teachers and parents an opportunity to help before something tragic may happen.

  7. I have yet to hear a cogent reason why we set up these special classes of people for special privileges not accorded to all persons equally.

    Is it less wrong to bully a straight person than an LGBT person?  Why is an LGBT person entiled to MORE protection from bullies than a straight person?  Shouldn’t they all get EQUAL protection from the bullies?  Isn’t equality the goal?

    It seems to me that a teacher with half a brain and a little power of observation can tell within a week of each new class who the bullies are and who the victims are likely to be.  You shouldn’t need expensive retreats and workshops to teach this to the teachers.  If you do, your teachers just aren’t very connected or very observant.  Or, they’re afraid of being called racists, or of being accused of profiling.

    We will never wipe bullies or victims off the face of the earth.  But the minute we give special protection to some, it means we give less protection to others.

    But then, the diversity crowd isn’t about equality, is it?  They want special privileges for some…whatever their cause du jour is.  And that is rank INequality for those not in favor at the time.

    • “It seems to me that a teacher with half a brain and a little power of observation can tell within a week of each new class who the bullies are and who the victims are likely to be.”

      … True words spoken by one who clearly has “half a brain”, but has never actually taught or observed a classroom.

      Equal protection, yes. But it is equal treatment AMONG PEERS we are not seeing.

      You are off topic, johnmichael o’connor. Di Salvo writes on the importance of “acceptance [of the LGBT community] and reduction of bullying”, and “assuring the social and emotional health of all children”. NOTE: “all children”.

      • Erika Kao said, “Equal protection, yes. But it is equal treatment AMONG PEERS we are not seeing.” Very, very good point! Secondly, many in the school districts need special training in this area. Everyone has their biases and that includes teachers and administrators. Too many youth are suffering because this type of bullying is being under reported, and isn’t being handled the way it should be. This needs to be addressed. Authorities cannot take appropriate action against these types of hate crimes, or hate incidents if the administration is NOT reporting it because they fear a law suite by a parent. Our youth need to come first, not fear of a law suite.

        Delorme McKee-Stovall at the Network For A Hate Free Community can provide training and stats to school administrators IF they seek her assistance. She is an excellent educator in this area.

      • No, Erika, I am not off topic. 

        The minute one person or group of people get special treatment, all other groups become second class citizens.

        This post was titled “LGBT Students Deserve Protection”. 

        My title would be “ALL Students Deserve Protection”. 

        According special protection to one group, any group, demeans all others not accorded that special protection.  EVERY student needs to be protected from bullies, not just LGBT students.

        Do you believe that ONLY LGBT students should be protected?  Do you believe that straight students should not be protected from bullies?

        • All students should be protected from bullies, sure.  But the approach to protecting them is different depending on the reason for their being bullied.  In order to stop bullying of LGBT students, tolerance needs to be taught.  Others have pointed out how it is ok in our society to use slurs against LGBT.  Until that is solved, bullying will continue.  If there is another group that is getting bullied, other messages need to be used.  There is no one-size-fits-all way to stop bullying.  That’s the point of the article – addressing this one particular and prevalent type of bullying.

        • I don’t think anybody is saying that only LGBT students should be protected from bullying.  The point here is that while many are trying to protect ALL students from being bullied, many of these students are being singled out.

          “According special protection to one group, any group, demeans all others not accorded that special protection.  EVERY student needs to be protected from bullies, not just LGBT students.”  They are not looking for “special” protection, they are looking for “EQUAL” protection, which is obviously not what they are getting. 

          “The minute one person or group of people get special treatment, all other groups become second class citizens.”

          SO do you think that when African Americans were trying to get “protection” for themselves during that Civil Rights movement, that everyone else was a second class citizen?  Is that “special” protection, or equal protection?

    • Johnmichael’s opinion is an often repeated rebuttal to those who want to forward LGBT causes in the schools.  If I read his argument correctly, he believes that ALL bullied groups should receive the same sensitivities that are being proposed for LGBT students.  In this regard he is correct. All forms of bullying should be seen as a violation of moral conduct that should be dealt with accordingly.  What I think Johnmichael and others struggle with is the seemingly disproportionate way LGBT groups gain influence at schools where larger minority groups might not?  The answer is simple.  The LGBT community is much more politically organized than other minority groups.  They have enough people who are willing to step up and argue for the rights of their community. Should this be held against them?  Of course not.  They are using their voice to make change for themselves. This brings up a greater question requiring our focus. Why don’t other minority groups possess a commensurate community voice?  What keeps these groups from cultivating the political will to demand these same kinds forums, panels and awareness campaigns that Johnmichael feels the LGBT groups receive unfairly?
        Perhaps a constructive approach with this issue would be to encourage the LGBT community go beyond the specific needs of their community by having them show groups struggling to find voice, how it is they have managed to gain inroads where others have failed. Together, they stand better chances of ridding the school of the bullies that threaten to harm them.

      • You miss JMO’s point a bit.  He doesn’t care that other *minority* groups don’t have the support system.  He doesn’t want to support minority groups because he sees it as a slight on the *majority.*  I guess he believes that members of majority groups are bullied just as much members of minority groups.  Clearly, that is not the case.  Another example of conservatives keeping their heads in the sand when it comes to equal protection.

        • I disagree with your assessment of John Michael’s assertion. He is expressing his concern for equality taking a back seat to special interest groups that are receiving better treatment. Chris put the whole issue into excellent perspective and has offered a fantastic idea of collaborative change. As a mediator of 26 years, and as someone who has worked in social justice for 30 years, I’m very impressed with his take on this!

        • WRONG! 

          I don’t believe straight white kids need more protection than others; nor do they need less protection

          I believe ALL victims of bullies deserve equal protection from them.

          I beleive ALL victims of racism deserve equal protection.

          I do NOT believe one group should get preference over another when it comes to personal safety.  We ALL deserve to be able to live, go to school, whatever, free from violence.

          But what we get is the PC cause de jour getting preferential treatment, which means others are second class.

          Chris Patterson has it right—those with the political clout get more.  That’s OK for adults, who have a better chance to fight back; but kids need a bit more protection; but they should all get the same protection.

          Of course, it may be delivered differently based upon who the victim is; but I cannot accept the notion that one group is entitled to more or better protection than another.

      • Chris Patterson, BRAVO! Very well said. This is exactly what needs to happen. Unity, human compassion, and demanding one’s human rights is vital to bring about change.

  8. So here we are talking about “bullying” or “sex education”? Which is it… I see a lot of code in this posting. Is it just me? Because what I see down the road is the argument that “We need to stop LGTB bullying in grade school, in elementary, then in kindergarten”… So the kids won’t learn math or science they will learn how to trust their “feelings.. that it’s all O.K.”… I know some of you ill say “wow, I am a caveman”  so be it. I’m a cave man.

  9. It is hard to protect kids or moderate behavior when it is built into the language.

    Most anyone under 45 already knows that kids are calling each other ‘gay’ long before we even know what the word means. The discrimination is built into the language. Language education needs to be part of the solution.

  10. In one of my previous courses we discussed this very issue, and were given informative (and mostly alarming) statistics. 7.2 million Americans under the age of 20 are gay or lesbian. That comprises of a lot of students in our k-12 school system. Of these students, nearly half of all gay men and 1 in 5 lesbians are harassed or assaulted in secondary school. Furthermore, 97% of all students reported hearing anti-gay comments at school. The use of “gay” as a pejorative has become a commonality among youth, and from my experiences, teachers have done little to address this issue. Furthermore, 53% of high school students report hearing homophobic slurs such as “faggot” from their TEACHERS, which is beyond disturbing, and in my opinion, should automatically result in the revocation of a credential. 

    Moreover, perhaps as a result of the immense harassment and lack of support, 28% of students who drop out of schools are gay or lesbian. Think of all the students we could save if educators offered better support and a safer environment.

    In 2000, California enacted the Student Safety and Violence Prevention Actions, in an attempt to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth from harassment and discrimination in schools. Clearly, this is not enough. As educators and prospective educators, we need to set a standard of tolerance and acceptance.

  11. Bullying is a serious issue in schools and more needs to be done with children and teachers to make them aware of how bullying can be detrimental to one’s social and emotional well-being. It is an ever-prevalent problem in schools. Even if it seems like the school does not have a bullying problem, it should still be discussed. Often times, bullying silences children. Those bullied internalize the pain and act as if everything’s fine. It is definitely a problem that will not disappear but it can change significantly with every action taken against it.

    I agree that the clubs offered in high schools that support LGBT students should be incorporated in middle schools. The earlier this sort of organization is brought to our attention, the better off the students will be. The LGBT student will feel appreciated and heard. It will also give more opportunities for their peers, teachers, and the community to understand that everyone is not the same and there is nothing wrong with that.

    • School (or anywhere for that matter) should not be a place where a student should feel threatened, vulnerable or picked on because of their sexual orientation or gender. We need to tackle this problem by first educating our teachers on how to properly handle these kinds of issues when they arise and create a safe, nurturing environment for all of our kids to succeed. I think it’s a little ridiculous that talking about sexuality is still such a taboo topic at our schools (and for some parents to talk about with their own kids) in this day of age. If parents don’t spend a little time talking to their kids about issues like this, all their kids have to do is turn on the t.v, their computer or turn to a classmate or friend to get answers.

      Looking back at my own past middle school experience, I cannot recall having a LGBT or Gay Alliance Group. It would have been a great idea for students who might have needed that support or some education about it. It would be a great idea to have a spoke person from one of these groups at the high school level come talk to all the middle school students and possibly form a club at their school for students who would want to join. I cannot remember LGBT students ever being bullied on in my middle school but maybe I just wasn’t aware of it. Education and communication is the key to this solution!

  12. I agree that schools should address bullying. I think parents should too but as Erika pointed out, we have no control over that. Teachers and administrators should work toward creating a safe, accepting environment for all types of students. The norm in schools should be that everyone is treated fairly and with respect and bullying is an occasional occurrence that is dealt with seriously and quickly.

    If students are “coming out” at younger ages, in middle school, then there should be support in schools for them. The idea of having a high school LGBT or Gay/Straight Alliance group come talk with middle school students sounds like a great idea. Also, LGBT high school students who have gone through similar situations could be mentors for the middle school LGBT students. I agree that Paula’s idea about having family members tell their story about loss of a loved one and the humiliation and suffering that caused the suicide would be a powerful, hopefully eye-opening, experience for those that ridicule without thinking.

    Recently I saw a public service television commercial about how using the phrase “That’s so gay” is wrong. I was pleased to see it but I don’t know how effective it would be on preteens and teens. The message is a good one though: Think before you speak.

  13. I think the key to ending the bullying of LGBT students is education.  Sexuality is not a topic that is generally discussed in schools, particularly at the lower level.  In fact, it is taboo in our society.  Teachers who do choose to discuss issues surrounding sexuality are often faced with parental uproar.  In an attempt to avoid controversy, principals and other teachers may also not lend their support.  Such circumstances make it difficult for teachers to address issues regarding sexuality.  Yet difficult or not, I think it is extremely important that these issues are discussed in the classroom.  When people have an understanding of others who are different than themselves, they are generally more accepting.  The social and emotional health of all students is extremely important and should be taken into account in the curriculum of every grade.  Opening the dialogue about sexuality creates a safe environment for students of all ages and sexual preferences, while also eliminating bullying.

  14. I can, to this day remember one of my friends in junior high being bullied for ‘acting’ gay. Though he may have been gay, I feel as though he was never given a chance to accept and/or come out with who he was due to the fact that he was constantly harrassed and bullied. I always stood up for him (which probably made things worse looking back on it) and enjoyed him for who he was; one of the funniest and most genuine people I had met when I was new to the school. He always kept such a positive outward attitude on his life. As we have all heard in the news, he is one of the few who didn’t turn the bullying into hate on himself or other people. I feel as though teasing and making fun should be seen as bullying and have reprecussions.

    I know in my house, my mom and dad would have never allowed my sister or I to tease eachother in the manner that many of the kids on my junior high school campus were doing. It isnt about having just teachers aware and prepared, but yard supervisors and parents need to be kept up to date on the issues going on, on their childs school campus. Whether or not we agree with how our students lives pan out, it is our job not to judge them, educate them and keep them safe.
    A closing note/question:
    Why have we made it such a big deal to identify who we are with who we love?

  15. After reading this article, I have to say that I am glad that dialog is happening in regards to this issue. It is so important for everyone to become educated on this topic and many others including bullying.  So often it is overlooked and not considered important because it doesnt happen to their child, but it effects everyone- whether they are the victim, the aggressor or standing by.

  16. School bullying is a serious issues that needs to be addressed.  I agree with Melissa when she says that LGBT issues are not brought up in middle school as much as they are in high school.  There are really no outlets for these students.  I think that as a future teacher we need to be aware and be able to protect our students as much as possible.  I also feel like we need to be able to offer many different resources to help them out.

    • I could not agree more with this statement! Well said and straight forward. There just needs to be protection and the teachers who lend out a helping hand and go out of their way to make sure their children are safe are the teachers who get the most out of their job and who have the students respect. It may cause a lot more work than needed, but at the end of the day the teacher can be happy and rest knowing their children may be a little more safer then the day before.

    • I agree with you… It definitely is an issue that needs to be addressed.  It is a serious issue that is not always seen that way.  There are different “levels” of bullying.. and picking on kid is lower than pushing a kid around. One will be told that putting someone down is not nice where the kid that is pushing a kid will be sent to the office.  This is one reason why different groups of people are being bullied and there needs to be more sensitivity to the issue.  With adding outlets for these students to go to, could be more beneficial for them and would create a safe space.

  17. John, the goal is not to protect only some of the kids being bullying, the goal is to protect all of them. This particular group of kids being bullied have a history of being very distraught to the point of suicide because of the bullying, which is why this training is happening. Furthermore, teachers (including myself) most likely do need this training, because what do you say when a transgender child in your class was bullied? You could tell the bully to stop. But as teachers we need to do more, we need to tell them WHY it is not ok. And it is something we need to learn to take care of properly.

    We are not being inequal by doing this, we are taking one more step to trying to be equal. If the biggest bullying problem right now was that children with a strong accent were being made fun of to the point of being emotionally unhealthy and possibly killing themselves, then the training would be for that.

    I actually do not remember any of my fellow LGBT classmates being bullied because of their sexuality or demeanor. I think my peers were accepting of them, or at least acted as if they were. But it has become more an issue since I was in middle school and high school.  So I am a bit surprised that this has become an issue, and disappointed as well. But I am glad that teachers and administrators see that it is a problem and a trying to do anything in their power to fix it.

  18. I read all of your opinions and there seems to be a consensus that bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed (which is very unusual for this blog community).  I think part of the reason we all agree that bullying is a serious issue is because of the dramatic change in school culture and dramatic increase in violence in schools and society in general over the years.  What seems to draw a divide is what should be done about it as well as whether bullying towards LGTB students should be taken more seriously than say bullying based on ethnicity, culture, learning ability, economic class, etc.  My opinion is that it ranks just as high and that this issue is in need of special attention.  Why?  For the same reason we have formulated special legislation to more severly punish what we what are distinguished as “hate crimes” (The U.S. is in the process of adding acts of violence based on gender to this list).  If you are not informed on the important purpose of “hate laws” serve, I would suggest you pick up a book on genocide.  Furthermore, countries all around the world have enacted these special laws for special purpose in order to prevent rampant acts of violence.

    Short-term solutions to ending LGBT are parent involvement, detention, intervention programs, community organization, etc., but the only long-term solution I see is a massive scale adoption of a new way of thinking that recognizes that gender is a social construction.

  19. I honestly have never really thought about this issue because it has never really come up. I did not know anyone that had come out in middle school or high school, and by the time that I reached college I had matured enough to have my own opinions and be accepting. Everyone has a right to a safe school environment, and as a new teacher I hope that I will be able to create that for all my students. Part of that is recognizing students that are being bullied. I hope that I will be able to be a teacher that students can look to for help in dealing with their problems. I think that it is the duty of the teacher, whatever their beliefs, to protect their students.

  20. Bullying is a major problem in middle schools as well as high schools.  I have seen bullying in various school settings.  Some of the anecdotal evidence that I can provide includes children in a California foothills setting mistreating and slandering another child because of his race.  Another situation that I witnessed transpired when a group of Bay Area students mocked and ridiculed another student for his religious beliefs which were not analogous with their own.  Bullying and harsh discrimination occur abroad when large populations of Moroccans and Chinese immigrants enters the Iberian Peninsula searching for work, and when Gypsies take up residence in a somewhat homogeneous Argentine town.  Many of us have seen bullying and discrimination pervade public life from all directions for much of our adult lives. 

    Having labored in public schools, I believe that we, as educators, must protect and attempt to understand all students with whom we come in contact.  We do not need to agree with all that they do in their personal lives, nor are we required to promote it.  This is true with sexual preferences, religion, and political affiliation (if appropriate).  I believe that teachers and administrators should become more cognizant of LGBT students, but that any funding that is appropriated for that end should also be made available for training on sensitivity issues related to other students who are also marginalized but that are not associated with an influential political organization that can generate local or national media coverage and sympathy.  We must be very careful while drawing conclusions on these issues that our own biases are not clouding are judgment with respect to providing an equitable learning environment for ALL STUDENTS.

    As a side note, when possibly divisive, polarizing issues are brought to our attention, ridicule and defamation do not provide any value or credence to an argument, even on a blog.

  21. On another note regarding the LGBT community, I feel that the term “gay” is used WAY too much by many middle and high school students. Many students use the term daily as if to say “that’s stupid or that’s dumb.” Even at the college level, I hear the word being used in this way, and I don’t think that many people understand the severity or offense that may be taken if the someone of the LGBT community hears it. Along with the awareness of the LGBT community, students should be taught how to speak around them and in general. To me, it is nonsense to use “gay” as I way of explaining feelings about something… Just something I thought of while reading all the posts…

  22. At most schools kids are not allowed to express their sexuality because of the possible harassment they could endure.  It’s unfair for students to hide who they really are, but it’s also very scary to think of the what could happen to them if the wrong person found out.  Teaching about sexuality is such a touchy subject in schools, that most schools adopt the abstinence only curriculum to keep kids “safe”.  As more and more students begin to explore their own sexuality it’s time for California to get with the program and teach kids about healthy relationships, safe sex, and having respect for one’s body.

  23. Joseph,

    First, I’d like to say that again I agree with your point.  Reading your article, I could not help but think of where I grew up.  I was raised in a pretty small town where those who were LGBT sure didn’t let many know about it.  I’d like to hope that my hometown has progressed in this respect and I also have these same hopes for the U.S.  Just when I think that the U.S. is becoming a more tolerant society, someone has to go and do something “crazy”!  This hatred towards LGBTs is part of American culture. I have read or seen such events as: Protesters rallying at dead Iraqi soldiers’ funerals proclaiming that they’re dieing because the U.S. tolerates gay people; students being murdered because they’re gay; people protesting with signs saying “God hates fags”; people protesting because the movie ‘Milk’ was getting awards.  The list could go on…..and on…

    I will end my comment with a question and my question is this:  How can we have tolerance of LGBT students in our schools if we live in an intolerant society?

  24. I feel that as time goes on this issue will start to resolve its self more and more. My generation is more accepting of it then generations in the past. I know some of my family members are not accepting at all and would have been upset if their child came out, but my cousins and sibling are so much more accepting because we grew up with it more than our parents.

    I also feel that this issue has to do with the way people are raising their children. When I was in high school I had two gay friends who never had an issue with bullying of any sort. As a school community we all accepted them and did not frown upon them in any way. I hate to even think about those individuals who have taken their own lives because of the way students treat them. Maybe having the Alliance Clubs in Middle school would be a great idea. The question is would middle school teachers be as accepting of this club like the high school teachers???

  25. I applaud Mr. DiSalvo posting such a controversial subject. From the git-go it promised some heated argument and strong opinions. As soon as I saw the subject line, my first question was “what is the subject?” For Mr. DiSalvo to post an acronym to begin with underscores either a short “bi-line” space, and/or our society’s pervasive awkwardness and unfamiliarity with “alternate” lifestyles, the unwillingness to even call a thing by its true name. Alternate is the operative word here, and I have seen a number of posts already who have adequately addressed the issue and the need to protect students because of being different from the “majority.”

    By the way, as a white male in Santa Clara Valley I definitely feel like a “minority!”

    Anyone, any person, unfamiliar or different, one who stands out, is going to get attention. What kind of “training” or conditioning can a teacher get from “straight” society institutions that are going to help in this situation? Is it going to be a drain on resources for all, as one poster opined? Already I’m siding with the majority of posts that approve of reducing abuse of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender” people. Is it so hard to spell out? Forgive me, but the acronym thing is a real trigger for me, and drives me crazy. It harkens to jargon where we gloss over things we can’t explain adequately to others, or don’t want to take time to go into detail about. At any rate, I can tell that DiSalvo and others have their hearts in the right place, but I’d like to hear more practical means to reach the student body who perpetrate the crimes. Yes, crimes: “[…] causing harm to self or others[…]” Also known as Hate Crimes.

    The fact that Proposition 8 passed deeply underscores what the voting-age adults think is a solution, a solution that, in my opinion, is tragically misguided. Have any of you seen the old bumper stickers for “Yes on Prop. 8” lately and reflected on what “saving family values” is, or what “preserving the institution of marriage” is? Let me bounce another bumper sticker at you: “hate is not a family value.” I grew up in Berkeley, so I’m full of “bumper sticker philosophy.” Hate and hate crimes largely come from attitudes of ignorance and unfamiliarity, feelings of powerlessness. Discouraging any of the hate crime that comes from that might begin with acquainting both teachers and the student body in the mainstream with “alternate” lifestyle cultures, and empowering any perpetual perpetrators to act in constructive ways rather than hateful and hurting ways. Hard question to answer, but as teachers, parents and members of “society,” we owe it to our schoolchildren to make them feel safe.

  26. This topic is very important to address in middle schools, as well as high schools.  I think it is a great idea to incorporate gay/lesbian alliance clubs in middle school, and not just restrict it to high schools.  Bullying is a huge problem in all schools and being a different race or gay or just different in some way does not help a student avoid bullying.  Schools need to work especially hard to protect these students from the constant abuse they recieve.  It would be nice if teachers addressed this issue with students to make them more aware of differences between students and that it is okay to be different.

  27. Bullying has pretty much become an epedimic in schools. I know that I was one to experience it in my younger elementary years. Teachers, schools, and parents need to do whatever they can to find a solution to this problem. Parents and students need to feel as though their school is a safe place. I know that its a difficult thing to get rid of but there really should be no tolerance for bullying in schools. It’s ridiculous how much this has escalated! Children need to feel safe at SCHOOL!!!

  28. Discrimination is unfortunately seen everywhere in our communities.  When we think of discrimination we think about race and gender, but we tend to forget about the LGBTQ group.  As said before by many, the LGBTQ group are harassed and bullied! Students in our day and age are reaching puberty at a younger age and therefore these students also “come out” and experiment with their sexual orientation at a younger age.  These are the years that students should be in a safe environment, but unfortunately they are not experiencing that at all. 

    I really like the idea of having a student panel for the faculty with former LGBTQ students.  It is an eye opening and great learning experience for the faculty to be aware of this rising community in middle school.

  29. I agree that gay/straight alliance groups should not only be employed in high school but in middle school as well.  Not only that, I think that teaching acceptance of LGBT peers should be taught, or at least mentioned, eluded to, something! in elementary school or younger, starting with the parents at home.  Parents should teach their children equality for all people, which is reasonable because children see different people every day: old/young, skinny/fat, short/tall, black/white, wear glasses/don’t wear glasses, etc etc etc.  However, some children have never met an LGBT person, and may never have even heard of a lesbian, transexual, etc.  Although some Barbies are now African American, and some Barbies you can dissect their pregnant belly to see a baby inside, barbie and virtually every other element in children’s world ignores the existence of the LGBT population.  Barbie loves Ken, the prince gets the princess, boys wear pink and girls wear blue, and every other gender/sex stereotype is still strongly in place for young children.  If kids are never shown or taught a world outside these parameters, their is a much more likely chance they will find it “foreign” “wierd” or even “gross” when they get older.  LGBT equality should be taught from the youngest possible age, starting at home, and followed through in ALL other grades including elementary—if we started from the very beginning a gay/straight alliance club might not even be necessary.

  30. Every middle school student has experienced bullying for one thing or another.  Over the past several years I have worked with numerous middle school students and I have noticed depending on school community the amount of bullying students experience increases or decreases.  It most likely would help students if you create a gay, straight alliance club at the middle school level but if the school has done a poor job creating community being a part of this club may just welcome more bullying.  First and foremost, each school should focus on creating a community of learners.  School should be a place where students feel safe and welcome.  In order to create that kind of place each school students should have teachers they trust, a foundation of respect in each classroom, and a homeroom where students can talk about the happenings at school and even in their personal lives.  If we start with creating a community of learners then we can begin to focus on groups that are bullied more than others.

  31. The handwriting is on the wall.
    The day is coming when I order a BLT and the waitress thinks I’m a pervert and calls the manager.

  32. I sincerely hope that those that blog on SJ Inside about this and other important topics will make your voices heard by voting (if you are of voting age*) and getting involved.

    Chris Patterson was correct about the importance of being politically organized. It’s one way that things get done. (Action vs. talk)

    Something I try to keep in mind: If I don’t make my voice heard to the folks who make decisions that affect me (on a local, state and national level) then I am giving my voice to those who will speak up, and then I have to live with those outcomes.


    * On Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk, awaiting his signature, is AB30 – which allows ALL 17 year olds to register to vote. To read more about this, go to:

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