Sample Newsletter Editorials
Justice for All
2010, William Lucas, age 15,
killed himself by hanging. Tyler
Clementi, age 18, committed suicide by jumping off the
George Washington Bridge. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself. Seth Walsh, 13, hanged himself. Jaheem Herrera was an outgoing 11 year old
fifth grader who was found by his mother and sister hanging from a belt in his
closet. All these boys were victims of
bullies who targeted them for being gay or being perceived to be
I am writing this editorial on National Coming Out
Day (NCOD). This is a day dedicated to
raising awareness and discussion of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
Questioning) issues. This day is devoted
to making the lives of so many people; children, adolescents and adults more
open and free from shame and guilt. NCOD
is observed by LGBTQ communities and their supporters also known as “Allies.” An
ally is defined as an individual who works to end oppression personally and
professionally through support and advocacy of an oppressed population. My belief is that we all should be Allies;
straight, gay and everyone in-between.
This year’s NCOD is quite timely as it comes on the
heels of the very tragic and recent cases of four young boys who took their
lives within 19 days of each other after being victims of bullies for their real
or perceived sexuality and identity.
Some sobering facts:
Almost a quarter of students who have been harassed
or attacked at school because someone perceived them to be gay or lesbian report
having attempted suicide in the past year – more than three times the rate their
peers report (23.2% vs. 7.1%).*
Students who have been harassed or attacked at school
because of their gender are more than twice as likely as non-harassed peers to
report having attempted suicide in the past year (12.4% vs. 5.9%).* revised
4/2010 Safe School Coalition report.
Approximately 15 transgender people are murdered each
year. Most are young girls or women of color.
Based upon FBI figures, transgender individuals living in
America today have a one in 1,000 chance of being murdered
in an anti-transgender hate-based crime.
In contrast, the average person has about a one in 18,000 chance of being
As elementary teachers and educators you already know
that bullying styles once associated with middle school and older students like
physical assaults, battery, teasing, exclusion, and isolation are now easily
seen being perpetrated and experienced by children as early as kindergarten and
sometimes even preschool. Despite
multiple programs dedicated to anti-bulling, relational bullying is more
prevalent and starting earlier than ever.
The causes for the increase range from our lack to implement workable
solutions in the traditional arena of bullies, the playground and the school
bus, and now extends to the new technological battlefield of bullying; cell
phones, internet and social media sites exasperated by the growing overall
culture of divisiveness and meanness in our country.
Unfortunately, some of our students appear to be
getting meaner and specific groups of students are being targeted and made
victims more than others. Ninety percent
of LGBT youth experience harassment in school.
As educators, what can we specifically do to
intervene in anti-gay harassment and bullying?
We have to make ourselves aware of the newer
technologies that support the bullies.
This is especially true for us older educators who may not even know what
online social networking even is. And,
when we see acts of bullying based on sexual or gender orientations at our
schools, how will we rededicate ourselves to the notion of justice and fairness
for all our students? Punishment doesn’t work. There has to be an understanding of why
bullies bully. There has to be both
education and empathy. How can we help
bullies become empathetic and reintegrate them back into our social and school
communities while concurrently addressing their responsibility to repair of the
harm they have caused?
The following are a sampling of ideas and statements
suggested by The Safe School Coalition:
Stop the Behavior:
“Cut it out!”
“Keep your hands to yourself!”
“That’s way out of line!”
“Whoa, that is NOT okay!”
“That is unacceptable!”
“That was a stereotype. Stereotypes are a kind of lie
and they hurt people’s feelings.”
“That was a putdown. I don’t believe it belongs at
(name of school).”
It’s against school rules and it is never the right thing to
“Do you know what that word means? It’s a put down for being gay. That’s like putting down people of a
different race from yours or a different religion.”
“You may not have meant to hurt anyone, but that was
insulting and it implies that he was Gay in a really disrespectful
Educating is a crucial step. The Safe School Coalition wisely acknowledges
that it is not enough to just stop the offending behavior. As they point out, students may interpret a
simple, “Stop it now!” to mean that it is OK to bully Johnny, but not during
reading time. And, while stopping to
educate may take a moment in the short run, it will save time and energy, not to
mention some child’s heart, in the long run.
Sometimes, that child may not be just the one who was targeted. It might just as easily be the bystander or
the bully. You may be preventing a much
more serious assault or suicide down the road.
you do if the offender retaliates against you for speaking up, by demanding,
“Why do you care? Are you
You have a lot of choices and you can state the
“Do you think only gay people have the courage to
stand up against bullying?”
“I hope I would speak up about meanness no matter
what my orientation was or what I am!”
“That is not the issue. The issue here is that you are bullying
Chris. That is NOT okay in my class or
any time at this school!”
Use your professional judgment on how you ultimately
will respond. But, think about it ahead
of time and practice how you will handle this kind of situation so that your
fear or reticence won’t get in the way of protecting children.
The following is the message to give our LGBTQ
students: You deserve to be able to be
yourself without having to face verbal or physical violence…and be able to get
an education without having to lie about being gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender or about having gay friends or family members or about believing in
civil rights for gay people. No matter
how alone you may sometimes feel you deserve to receive help and support.
Upon reflection, on NCOD, I recommit my
responsibility to all students, both victims and bullies, but especially towards
our most oppressed students. I promise
to be an “Ally” and step-up when I see an injustice committed. Responding to bullying based on sexual and
gender orientation right now, right here, in elementary school settings can make
a profound difference in the survival of our LGBTQ students but also have a
significant impact on the lives of all our students when it comes to social
justice and fairness. In the wise words
of my all time favorite philosopher-king, Bruce Springsteen, “And, in the end,
nobody wins unless everybody wins.” Now
that, my friends is, justice for all.