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The Consequences of Anti-Gay Bullying

Timothy Kincaid

April 13th, 2009

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was so mercilessly bullied with gay taunts that on Monday he tied an electrical cord around his neck and hung himself. He was eleven.

Carl is not alone. Anti-gay bullying is a serious problem in public schools. It is rampant, it is pervasive, and often times it is ignored by those responsible for preventing it.

In Mentor, Ohio, the high school doesn’t think it has a problem with bullying. So they are being sued by the parents of Eric Mohat with a lawsuit that doesn’t ask for money but instead that the administration implement an age-appropriate anti-bullying program. The Mohats feel that the school has ignored the reasons why Eric, who suffered from persistent anti-gay bullying, killed himself in 2007. He was one of four bullied Mentor High School students who committed suicide that year.

Considering that children are dying and that the cause is obvious, you’d think that everyone would support programs to stop the bullying. You’d think wrong.

Anti-gay activists consistently oppose any effort to target and prevent anti-gay bullying. They say that programs which identify specific targets, including those tormented for being perceived as gay, are really “indoctrination of homosexuality under the pretext of anti-bullying curriculum.”

And they would much rather let children die than muffle those “students and school officials who object to homosexuality.”

Incidentally, neither Carl nor Eric identified as gay. That didn’t protect them.

Comments

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Bill S
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

I think we should label those assholes who object to anti-bullying programs as PRO-BULLYING.
Because they are.

AJD
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with Bill S

The real reason is that the religious right thinks anti-gay bullying is a good thing, whether directed at real or perceived gay teenagers, because it’ll teach gays to stay in the closet and “leave the homosexual lifestyle.”

This is how sick these people are.

John
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

At a school in my district a group of football players threatened to rape and murder a lesbian girl in a video on facebook.

http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/youth/39118prs20090318.html

Conservatives ought to be ashamed of themselves if they don’t think that this is worth preventing.

AJD
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

This sort of taunting and bullying is what kept me in denial and in the closet as a teenager.

Mark C
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Bullying is tragic and has to stop.

As a kid in high school who couldn’t “pass” for straight, there was no closet for me to hide in. So I was bullied, beaten up, called names and excluded from anything others were doing. Thank heavens my parents saw what was happening, took me out of that hostile environment and helped me graduate through a home school program. It literally restored my emotional equilibrium and led me to finish at university later. I feel for anyone being bullied in school. Those scars never fully heal.

Ephilei
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Who was the person who consistently said that anti-gay bullying was healthy? Nicolosi?

Alex
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Truly heartbreaking. It’s a shame that conservative Christians are treating this as a political issue. There is nothing political about innocent children who just want to get through the day without being teased and harassed!

Piper
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

oh dear lord. These poor children! The only reason I didn’t end up like these boys is my parents. I will pray for them.

These boys look so much like the kids I work with every day. We wouldn’t stand for this bullying, and I work at a Boys and Girls Club. it’s sad that we are more vigilant about anti-bullying than the schools that the kids spend the majority of their time at.

Attmay
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

They are pro-bullying because they are bullies.

Aconite
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

It’s worth stressing that you don’t have to be gay to be harmed by anti-gay activity. Bigotry hurts everyone: as long as it’s okay to harm someone because they’re X, people can justify hurting you by claiming you are X, whether it’s true or not.

For some people, “Bigotry is wrong because it’s wrong to do that to anyone” is too big a stretch. You have to give them the half-step of “Bigotry can hurt you, so it’s a good idea to fight it.”

John
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Mark C made an interesting point about his parents withdrawling him from school and finishing his studies at home.

A few years ago, I remember reading some articles in California about kids (mostly gay) who were so bullied that they withdrew from school and finished high school through independent studies programs. Interestingly, the University of California system at that time (not sure if the policy continues) would not accept them to a UC school because they were on idependent study rather than regular high school graduates.

So these bullies (with the help of poor UC policies) not only got to torment their victims in high school, but also got to effectively deny these kids access to colleges like UC Berkeley or UCLA, some of the best public universities in the country.

Bullying is a systemic problem with long term consequences that needs a comprehensive approach for dealing with the bullies and their families as well as the victims. Any program that could prevent the problem to begin with would be far more valuable than any amount of punishment after the damage has already been done.

Piper
April 13th, 2009 | LINK

Aconite
I’m straight, and I almost killed myself because of anti-gay bullies. Instead it pushed me to become a ally. I push even harder than I would have, because i know exactly what many of these kids have to face. The sheer terror of going to school, or even waking in your neighborhood not knowing if someone is going to insult, trash talk you, or take it farther and follow through on their threats.

For all of those reasons I agree, we need to make it about the hurt it can ACTUALLY cause, not just , “hey it hurts their feelings” cases like these show exactly what can happen.

Swampfox
April 14th, 2009 | LINK

Anyone who is gay knows the pain of being bullied as a child. Even if they were not the direct target.

Regan DuCasse
April 14th, 2009 | LINK

My heart truly aches. These beautiful children and Swampfox and I know well that the bullying doesn’t stop at the age of youngsters.
It manifests in adults on other adults too.

These boys didn’t have to identify as gay. Just the epithet, just that their peers thought it so was enough to do irreversible damage and dying a better option.

Swampfox knows that when I’ve warned our dissenters that it’s incivility, not gay people, gay equality or homosexuality in general that will destroy society.

And my words go unheeded, even ridiculed.

And two fine boys are dead at their own hands for that incivility instilled in the young.
Already, they are carefully taught who matters and who doesn’t.

So many of the anti gay are so fixated on the strangest things, sometimes I don’t think they are especially sane.

Ben Leichtling
April 15th, 2009 | LINK

This really isn’t about anti-gay bullying and abuse. It’s about stopping all bullying and abuse. The bullies used whatever came to hand or mouth – their hatred of gays. The principals and school district administrators didn’t protect either boy, just like they don’t protect most targets of bullying and abuse. That’s why we need laws to force principals to act and to protect them from countersuits by bullying parents of little terrorists.

Also notice that none of the teachers or the other kids stood up to the bullies. Shame.

We also can’t and shouldn’t count on schools to protect our children from hurt feelings all the time. We must help our children develop the inner grit and resilience to know how to protect themselves from verbal harassment as well as from physical abuse.

Disclosure: In addition to having six children, I’m a practical, pragmatic coach and consultant. I’ve written books of case studies, “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “How to Stop Bullies in their Tracks.” Check out my website and blog at BulliesBeGone (http://BulliesBeGone.com).

Jason D
April 15th, 2009 | LINK

Ben, with all due respect, we’re past the point of “hurt feelings” with bullying. And how exactly would “inner grit” and “resilience” have helped, say, Lawrence King? His bully decided to bring a gun to school and blow his head off. From the reports I read, Lawrence DID stand up to his bully. Lot of good that did him.

I’ve yet to see a situation, outside a movie, wherein standing up to a bully actually did any good…maybe that worked in the 50′s, but nowadays the Bully decides to up the stakes. Things escalate, and you have something like Columbine on your hands.

Priya Lynn
April 15th, 2009 | LINK

Ben, its rather naive to think you’re going to equip children to protect themselves from verbal and physical harrassment when its one lone child against a schoolhouse full of bullies. Children aren’t superheroes, bullying is only going to stop when the adults in the schools take charge and put and end to it. Merely by supervising children between classes in the hallways and playgrounds would make a huge difference.

Timothy Kincaid
April 15th, 2009 | LINK

Ben,

I know that your opinion is that there are no “safe places” and that parents have to toughen up their kids. You advocate for fighting back.

It is my opinion that this ignores a common fact about bullying: Bullies often hunt like wolves.

They will separate their prey from the herd of school kids and attack him in a pack. And they will pick the smallest and easiest prey.

So you can create “bully-proof kids” all you like, but if they are the smallest in class they are helpless.

And if they have a characteristic (say new kid, or different race or religion, or a physical peculiarity, or not gender conforming, or even just have differnt interests) then they can easily be isolated and targeted by a pack of bullies.

So, frankly, your advice is of little help to the kids who we discussed here. And it is way beyond offensive and cruel to suggest that they should somehow have been bully-proof. Nor is it useful to blame these parents; in both cases they were valiantly fighting a hostile administration on (in Carl’s case) a weekly basis.

Eddie89
April 16th, 2009 | LINK

If the school administration did not act immediately and forcefully to remedy the bullying situation, I would not hesitate to take my child out of that hostile school environment and do whatever it takes to get him/her an education somewhere else, eg. home school, private school, relocation, etc.

Aconite
April 16th, 2009 | LINK

Regarding “standing up to bullies” being the answer, Pam’s House Blend reports this as part of the Advocate‘s interview with Carl’s mother:

“…Days prior to Carl Walker-Hoover’s suicide, he confronted a female bully who verbally accosted him. The event served as an apparent catalyst to Walker’s suicide. The school’s response was to have the two students sit beside one another during lunch for the next week to encourage conversation.”

A Fistful of Reasons, Part II: The Trouble with Bullies | Sara Puotinen: Professional Troublemaker
May 13th, 2009 | LINK

[...] after being taunted, verbally abused, and physically threatened. As many have argued–like Box Turtle Bulletin and Advocate–the cause of these suicides was not just harassment but anti-gay harassment that [...]

courtney nelson
May 28th, 2009 | LINK

i think erics parents should sue the school because i lost one of my friends thanks to bullying at mentor high. i go to mentor high and i hate it. the kids there are very rude and mean and the school and the staff in it do not care what happens. if an event such as this happens they act like they are going to take action but they dont. i remember when i got the call the day my friend passed. the school told me that i was allowed to moarn and take the day off but to make sure i didnt miss too much school and to make sure i get my school work done.
there is bullying that goes on pretty much everyday its truely sick.
none of mentor highs policies are good in that fact. i could go all day with this. mentor high is a bad school.

R.I.P ERIC MOHAT AND SLADJANA VIDOVIC
YOU IWLL BE MISSED GREATLY.
AND WE WILL DO SOMETHING ABOUT MENTOR HIGH EVEN IF IT DOES TAKE AWHILE. WE NEED TO MAKE A STOP TO BULLYING AND WE NEED TO ACT NOW.

An Argument For Gay Marriage And Against Traditionalism « Camels With Hammers
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

[...] you care about the alarmingly high rate of suicides by gay teens, if you care about the disproportionate bullying gay kids suffer, I don’t see how you could oppose using our institutions to send the message that no class of [...]

stephne
November 11th, 2009 | LINK

this is crazy cuz people and kidz r so mean now and days now wat if they was gay they wouldnt want anyone to do that to them :>(

tim
October 8th, 2010 | LINK

this makes me sick. Ive been reading about the mentor high suicides and the parent’s lawsuit. the records mysteriously disappeared when they switched to computers.(yeah yank my other chain) id like to send these people some money for the lawsuit. but i dont think there needs to be an emphasis on gay bullying because there should be zero tolerance for this shit. My catholic HS had it right. If there was an incident of bullying( or anything else) you got detention. if you didnt do the detention you got demerits and more detention. we started with 500 guys and about 250 graduated. there was complete control by the brothers. if you wanted to fight it went off campus. this anti program needs to be so strong and encourage other kids to intervine. i remember standing up for a frosh when i was a junior. i then proceeded to get my ass kicked by this bigger kid but it was worth it and the little wimp appreciated that i got this guy off his back and on to mine. now we have the rutgers case. when does it end

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