Franken Takes on Bullying



According to a study released in September by the Gay, Lesbian, and
Straight Education Network, 85% of LGBT students surveyed said they've been
bullied at school. Although there has been an increase in the
availability of LGBT support groups and resources in schools nationwide,
the use of gay slurs among youths has not decreased significantly in
the last five years, the study found.

Caitlin Ryan, director of
the Family Acceptance Project, said, “There has been a lot of research
in schools about how to provide a safe climate and to support LGBT
students. What we don’t see is schools stepping up and putting those
measures in place. We know what works. It takes will to put it into

Minnesota Family Council’s Prichard defended his views
in a telephone interview, however (read the original report on Prichard's post from the Minnesota Independenthere). Though he said his group condemns
bullying of all stripes, Prichard said that addressing antigay
harassment as school policy “is really just a pretext for reeducating
students about beliefs on homosexuality” and that the Anoka-Hennepin
school district’s antibullying protocols are already sufficient.

[gay advocacy groups] are trying to add sexual orientation into the
curriculum and to use this tragedy to achieve that goal,” Prichard said,
referring to the July suicide of Justin Aaberg, a 15-year-old high
school student in Anoka who hanged himself and had endured antigay
bullying at school.

Prichard said students and parents in the
district told him that Aaberg committed suicide due to a breakup with
his boyfriend, not because of bullying. “People say [gays] have a higher
incidence of [mental health problems] because they’re not embraced, or
because they’re ostracized. I don’t think so,” Prichard said. “It’s
unhealthy behavior.”

But equating gay-inclusive antibullying
standards with “indoctrination” is a well-worn, misleading argument from
prominent antigay groups such as Focus on the Family and the Alliance
Defense Fund, experts say.

“Talking about the fact that LGBT
people exist doesn’t have to mean that you’re trying to change personal
or religious beliefs,” said Stuart Biegel, a professor of law and
education at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of
the forthcoming The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America’s Public Schools.

members of the school community are going to be gay or lesbian or
transgender: Acknowledging that reality simply means that you are
treating everyone with equal dignity and equal respect,” Biegel said.

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