The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education must step up to protect gay youth.

Last Tuesday (December 6th) I originally wrote about the new report from GLSEN, entitled “From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in North Carolina.” The report, based upon surveys taken by North Carolina students, outlined various aspects of anti-gay harassment within North Carolina’s K-12 schools. The most shocking figure out of them all is that 84% of North Carolina students reported hearing derogatory remarks, such as “faggot”, about homosexuals. According to the press release about the report “Nearly half of all North Carolina students thought that bullying was a somewhat or serious problem in their schools and were 33% more likely to say it was a somewhat or serious problem than students in the nation as a whole (48% vs. 36%).”

As soon as I learned about this new report I wrote up an email and sent it off to every member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Martin, as well as to the Winston-Salem Journal, WXII News Channel 12, the Winston-Salem Chronicle, PFLAG Winston-Salem. I provided in the email a portion of the press release and included the web address for the entire release. I told the Board how I felt about harassment and also that I felt as though the Board should be doing more to protect students.

I gave updates (here and here) about the situation here on my blog, posting the replies of the Board members. I must say that only two Board members and the Superintendent responded to my email.

I do not feel as though the current Board will do anything about anti-gay harassment. Superintendent Dr. Martin responded to my email spouting off a figure that only 2% of their students reported anti-gay harassment. The thing is… the WS/FCS climate surveys do not directly ask about anti-gay harassment, which means that their figures aren’t really all that reliable. But even so… the Board of Education was elected to their positions in order to ensure that all students are educated, have equal access to that education and are safe and protected while learning. Even if there are only 2% of the students reporting this type of harassment, the Board should do something to stop it, instead of ignoring the subject and putting it under a generalized “bullying” classification. If the Board of Education continues to ignore the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, it will ultimately lead to their demise.

Who knows when, because there has been no preventative measures taken, a gay student will be physically abused so badly that his or her parents will sue the school system? Because the Board has not taken any preventative measures regarding harassment based upon sexual orientation or gender-identity, they will have a tough time in court, trying to persuade the judge that they did all they could do in their power to protect their gay students. A generalized “bullying” program will not work… it never has and it never will. It is only a matter of time before a student, who has done nothing but live his or her life honestly, gets harassed to the point of abuse or violence. Then, maybe, the Board will wise up.

And who ask why I care so much? You say, like one of my friends: “You’ve graduated; you no longer attend school there… move on.” Well, here is why I care so much: I have lived through it. I know what it is like to live a life at school where you are constantly harassed and treated horribly by other students, simply because you are gay. I have felt the fear, the torment, the anger and the frustration. On top of all this, I have three little brothers and a baby sister attending school within the WS/FC school system, not to even mention numerous cousins. I care about them and how they may be possibly treated, and in some cases already treated. My high-school aged brother has been tormented in the past, not because he is gay himself… but because I am gay and I am his brother: “Hey… aren’t you that fag’s brother?”

Another reason why I care is because I am a tax-payer and voter. The people on the Board of Education work for me and for all of the citizens of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. When you represent all citizens you must represent ALL, and that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. When you work to educate and protect all youth then you must do it for ALL, and that also includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The Board of Education is failing to do its job properly. They have for years. When I first became involved in raising awareness on LGBT issues and advocating for LGBT youth, I was a 14 year old, freshman at R.J. Reynolds High School. For four years I was involved in efforts to get the school system to do something to protect gay youth. Nothing ever happened. The farthest we ever got was when Dr. Martin, the Superintendent, was willing to meet with the Reverend Susan Parker (former chair of the now defunct GLSEN Winston-Salem). They met a few times and maybe he has become more apt to protect gay youth, but he isn’t quite there and neither is the Board.

If I were old enough, if I were out of college and if I were settled in my career, you could bet that I would be running for the Board of Education. Until we get a straight ally or gay or lesbian person on that Board, LGBT youth will continue to be ignored and the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System will be a hotbed of torment and harassment.

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  1. […] With the backlash from the Religious Right and school boards who want to ignore laws such as the Federal Equal Access Act of 1984, students stand up and speak out further, taking their desire for equality into the court systems. These youth are serious: Equality is theirs and they’ll get it one way or another: Gay high school students across California are increasingly using the courts and political activism to fight individual cases of discrimination and to promote tolerance. […]

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