As Joe Bell starts his walk across America to highlight the plight of gay bullying victims, the real inspiration behind this idea is once again highlighted. Earlier this year Joe’s son, Jadin Bell, a vibrant 15 year old was driven to hang himself from his Oregon school’s sports equipment. Jadin took this desperate step to escape the harassment and bullying he had to put up with for being a gay student.
The case of Jadin Bell is not an isolated incident of gay bulling at schools. As more and more horrific cases of gay students being bullied into killing themselves emerge, schools and local authorities across the country are baffled. This is because the statistics concerning the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are much more disturbing than perceived.
Gay bullying in schools is mainly being conducted through the internet or text messages. Relentless, face-to-face teasing is already common, sprinkled with frequent incidents of physical violence and sometimes sexual harassment as well. Here are few grave statistics on gay bullying from schools around the U.S:
- 9 out of 10 homosexual students have experienced bullying at school.
- LGBT teens are twice or thrice more likely to be bullied than straight teens.
- More than 1/3 of such teens have attempted or contemplated suicide.
- LGBT teens are 4 times more likely to go ahead with their suicide plans as compared to straight students.
- Gay students with non-supportive families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those with supportive families.
Here is how gay bullying and harassment in any form affects students:
- LGBT bullying is not just restricted to gay students; a lot of straight students with a perceived gay image also get bullied. Identifying with labels can be harmful for teens, indeed.
- The stigma and torment students face due to gay bullying, exposes them to harmful elements like: skipping school, smoking, alcoholism, drug addiction and even sexual promiscuity.
- Homosexual students are bullied whether they come-out or keep their sexuality a secret.
- Victims of LGBT bullying are also prone to depression, anxiety or stress related health issues, more so as compared to heterosexual students.
- It seems whoever came up with the phrase “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” was never bullied as a kid. Today, words can push teens off the edge, towards extreme measures like suicide. Bullying typically isolates its victims and makes them feel like they have nowhere to run. The latest trend of cyber bullying is largely impossible to outrun.
So what can you as a parent do to prevent your teen from bullying anyone in school?
According to Annie Fox, an anti-bullying activist, bullying is about harming, degrading and humiliating victims. A parent has to start by eradicating such behavior from their home first. Sometimes parents unknowingly develop a bullying attitude, which teens imitate in their daily life. So make your own home a zero-tolerance-zone and encourage a supportive and nurturing environment at home.
You don’t have to be part of the school administration to help initiate or support anti-bullying programs. If nothing else, read the schools anti-bullying policy closely to make sure it is covering as much ground as possible and has no legal loop holes for culprits to get away with. If you notice anything, rally other parents and the school administration to tighten the policy even further.
Change your mind
Don’t just preach about tolerance for marginalized groups, practice it too. Put your prejudices and biases aside to teach your teen tolerance and patience for those they find different. Teach your teen to have an open mind about other people’s right to live the way they like. Remember, if you show tolerance, kindness and respect towards others, your child will do the same.
Build on trust
Be your teens close ally or best friend, someone they are comfortable talking to. The reason why most LGBT bullying victims opt for suicide is because they feel isolated. So be a listener and get involved with what’s going on in your teens life.
Become pro-active parent
If you have even the slightest inclination that a child is being bullied for any number of reasons, take action and do something about it. Your timely intervention could help save a victim’s life.