By Chelisa Grimes
Originally published on Advocate.com September 21 2012 4:00 AM ET
No parent ever wants to hear that their child is being tormented at school, with classmates not only hurling derogatory words, but spitting on their child as they walk down the halls, and throwing glass bottles. So when my 17-year-old son, Dynasty, told me he was being targeted by his classmates at Indianapolis’s Arsenal Technical High because he’s openly gay, I did what any caring parent would do.
I turned to school leaders, expecting them to help my son.
Ever since Dynasty was young, I taught him to be proud, and to never hide any part of his individuality that makes him one of the most beautiful and unique people I have ever had the opportunity of getting to know.
I’m not just saying this because I’m his mother, but I’ve seen the rare quality that makes others flock to him, wanting to be his friend because of the confidence and happiness that he exudes.
When he joined me in Indianapolis last school year to begin his 11th-grade year, he was ecstatic, hoping to close out his high school years—which had been more than positive—with new friends.
But immediately after walking onto the Arsenal Technical campus in Indianapolis Public Schools, he was targeted by other students, who relentlessly harassed him and made him fear for his physical safety.
Like any parent, I turned to school administrators—the people who are expected to protect our children when they’re not in our homes, providing a nurturing and safe environment.
I never expected for school leaders to turn the table, blaming my son for the harassment because they thought the way he dressed was too flamboyant and even suggested that he change everything that’s beautiful about him to avoid being the target of hate.
Dynasty began to sink into depression, no matter how much I tried to help. The young man who used to brighten a room with his smile was slowly withdrawing from everyone and everything.
Again and again, as I witnessed Dynasty’s unique spark fade away because of other students’ constant harassment, I pleaded for school leaders to protect him, but they took no effective measures to help—even after other students threatened him with physical violence.
I wanted to protect Dynasty, and found what’s called a “self-protection flashlight”—a small device that emits a light, a loud noise and a weak charge when it’s set off—at a neighborhood convenience store.
It hurts me to think about the fear my son experienced last spring when he was surrounded by six other students who were going to attack him before he held the device in the air and activated it.
The noise caused the would-be attackers to scatter without assaulting him. But instead of locating the students who had threatened to Dynasty, school leaders targeted my son yet again, suspending him for trying to prevent the attack, and later expelling him.
We decided to push back, and a few weeks ago we filed a federal lawsuit against the district for failing to protect Dynasty from the constant torment despite our repeated pleas for their help.
I’ve since enrolled Dynasty in a charter school that’s not associated with the school district. Slowly, I’ve seen his spark come back. I’ve seen his happiness come back. I’ve seen his confidence. I have seen my son for the first time in months.
If there’s one thing I want for my kids—and every other lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender young person—to know, it’s this: You’re beautiful as you are, and never let anyone make you believe otherwise.