A Utah middle school is defending its decision to out a student to his parents as a “proactive” move to prevent bullying.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the controversial action by officials at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi, part of the Alpine School District in Utah County. A spokeswoman for the school district defended the decision in terms of safety and said the parents have been “very supportive” of their son.
“Parents were notified that their 14-year-old son is gay, she said, because the school was being ‘proactive’ in preventing bullying,” according to the Tribune. “The student was not disciplined at school, she said, but his parents, who have asked that their names not be released to media, have decided to keep him home until attention surrounding the issue dies down. The student plans to return to school after winter break.”
The eighth-grader came out to classmates voluntarily last week in an assignment for which students made poster advertisements about themselves. School officials later overheard other students making negative comments about him and reprimanded the students. An administrator talked to the boy and encouraged him to discuss the issue with his parents. He reluctantly agreed, but he did not want to be in the room when the administrator told his parents that he is gay.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network issued a statement Wednesday saying that schools should not out students without their consent.
“Educators know that a safe and respectful learning environment is critical for ensuring the health and wellbeing of every student. It is important for school staff to first address the bullying behavior in any instance at school,” said GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard. Schools should not out LGBT students without their consent. Outing a student not only violates their right to privacy, but also could compromise their safety. Parents can be notified of their child being bullied at school, but without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“Taking away the choice for a LGBT student to come out on their own terms opens the door to significant risks including harassment at school and family rejection. Schools should be able to provide LGBT students with support and resources in order to make an informed decision if and when they decide to come out to their school community and family.”