Monday, February 8, 2010

GSA Monday: A gay 15 year old sues his old school for not protecting him from bullying.

So Jacob is this 15 year old in New York who was harassed at his school for being gay. For not looking like a stereotypical straight boy. He dyed his hair (blue, sometimes pink). He wore eyeliner. He was out. When asked if he was gay, he's say:

"Yeah, I'm gay, whatever. Peace out."

But he was teased. Bullied. The school didn't stop it. A teacher told him he should be ashamed of himself for being gay. One kid wrote "I hope you die" on his shoe. Another pulled a knife on him.

So Jacob and his Dad sued.

The new angle is that their suit, with the NYCLU, argued that people who are gay and/or who do not conform to gender stereotypes should have protection under Title IX, the federal law that "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity." Title IX is the lever that changed girl's participation in sports, making schools accountable for including girls in sports - or risk their federal funding.

After all, it wasn't so long ago that acting like a sterotypical "girl" and being athletic were seen as mutually exclusive. And if you compare girls participation in sports from 1972 (when the law passed) to today, Title IX has helped create a gigantic shift for the better, for the fairer, for the equality of women - and thus made it a better world for us all.

Now while there is talk of settlement, this case is a warning to schools across the country that allowing harassment and bullying of their GLBTQ students is not only wrong, it's going to cost them (bad PR, and money.)

Jacob's family ultimately moved. Talking about the difference in his new school, he said:

"It's amazing. I have a lot of friends there."

I'm really proud of Jacob (and his Dad) for standing up and fighting this fight. It will make things better for other kids in both his old school, and in schools across the country.

I think it's really important that non-conforming gender expression is protected. I've heard from many teens that it's harder to be an effeminate straight guy than a butch gay one in Junior High and High School.

What about in your school?

Does something like this have a chance to impact things for the better?

Let me know what you think.



Denise said...

One of my friends was harassed in my school, people wrote things on his locker and one even tried to stab him with a pen (thankfully another of my friends was there and protected him. He didn't even see it coming, the kid came from behind). My friend decided to be home schooled for a year, and after that he came back.

The people who tormented him were punished, at least the ones he knew and could point out. I think maybe even expelled (our school had a no tolerance policy, I think it still does) but the fact that it got so bad he felt unsafe was horrible.

I'm proud of this kid and his father. People need to be treated as people, no matter what differences they have. He is still a person, and that should be all that matters.

Jonathon Arntson said...

Wow. I remember my friend inviting me to an after school 'meeting', I didn't know what it was for, she just said you should come.

I got there and literally freaked out, internally, of course. I made up some excuse that I could only stay for a few minutes. The meeting was for my HS's GSA and had I been comfortable with the idea from the beginning, the life-changing things that eventually occurred through the group could have happened months earlier. Instead, it literally took me months to eve start attending.

I know in some young gay lives and lives of those whom are never accepted a few months can make a huge difference.

If this law at least makes kids feel protected, that could be a good second to being accepted.

patschmatz said...

I think maybe gender nonconformity freaks people out more than being gay. Or maybe it's just visibly obvious.

They're not always linked, and discrimination on the basis of either is shockingly pervasive and so, so wrong...