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Mother of Bullied 11-Year-Old Who Committed Suicide Last Year Calls on President Obama to Do Something to Protect America’s Youth

Jason Cianciotto

October 16th, 2010

First, watch this video from CNN in Atlanta.

The epidemic of bullying in schools has been close to the top of the news cycle for over a month now. The American attention span, often reduced to 30-second sound bites, remains focused on the heart-wrenching stories of young people and their families from around the country. The youth in these stories have ranged in age from 11 to 19 and they have come from all manor of background and socio-economic status.

What they all share in common is the tragic impact of bullying and a lack of successful intervention by those tasked with ensuring the protection of students in school on a daily basis. Inconsistency in action by school teachers and administration is matched by inconsistency in laws and policies designed to address and prevent bullying in schools.

As of September 2010, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws that addresses discrimination, harassment and/or bullying of students in school based on sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

In addition to those states, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin ban discrimination and/or harassment based on sexual orientation (gender identity is not included as a protected category).

A number of additional states have anti-bullying laws that do not enumerate categories of protection, including sexual orientation or gender identity. No doubt these laws were created, in part, to allay the concerns of social conservatives who fight tooth and nail to prevent sexual orientation and gender identity from being included in legislation.

However, as former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the landmark ruling against Colorado’s Amendment 2, “Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply.”

In other words, nondiscrimination and anti-bullying laws should absolutely include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other categories of protection.

In an earlier post, I wrote about unique opportunities that arise to create legislative and social change, often without some coordinated plan by activists and pressure groups focused on a particular issue. This is one of those opportunities to address bullying and discrimination in schools.

I applaud and honor Masika Bermudez-Carrasquillo, in memory of her son, for appealing directly to President Obama to do something to force schools to better care for bullied students and ensure accountability for those who fail to do so, including the parents of bullies.

Leading up to and post the mid-term election, Congressional leaders and President Obama have a historic opportunity to take leadership on an issue that the overwhelming majority or Americans will support: Protecting our nation’s youth.

There is an opportunity to revisit legislation already languishing in Congress – the Student Nondiscrimination Act (SNDA) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) - to see whether their provision adequately address the need to protect students. For example, many Box Turtle Bulletin readers, commenting on a previous post about those laws, called for more explicit provisions that allow parents to take legal recourse against school districts and administrators who fail to protect students.

While the tragic affects of bullying will likely continue, at some point the American consciousness will move on. Our major news outlets will be enraptured by the outcome of the mid-term election and momentum to create change on this issue will diminish.

NOW is the time for the President and Congress to act. I encourage you to contact your Senators, Representatives, and the President to ask them to take leadership on this issue.

I also encourage you to contact the leadership at HRC (202.628.4160), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (202.393.5177), and GLSEN (212.727.0135) to voice your hope that they are doing everything they can to seize this moment to protect our nation’s youth.

Comments

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customartist
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

Just as we have National Hate crimes Legislation, there needs to be National Bias Intimidation Legislation passed.

Local authorities are just not addressing these issues, as evidenced by a one week investigation into the death of the 13 y.o. in Tehachappi, CA. where the Police ended the investigation within one week. A child died, and the local athorities want it to just go away.

National Laws allow, and require, the FBI to enter the picture.

Physical violence is not necessariily a prerequisite to Bullying, which frequently comes in the form of words.

We must protect Children, and adults as well, from Intimidation resulting from biases (of any kind).

“Bias Intimidation” is the correct term.

Richard Rush
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

customartist wrote,

Local authorities are just not addressing these issues, as evidenced by a one week investigation into the death of the 13 y.o. in Tehachappi, CA. where the Police ended the investigation within one week. A child died, and the local authorities want it to just go away.

I agree. Local authorities, including school teachers and administrators, are a product of, and thus now part of, the local communities that are fostering the anti-gay attitudes which result in bullying. It’s naive to expect that these “authorities” would somehow be substantially different in prevailing attitudes than their communities.

So far, it appears that the local authorities are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Bob Barnes
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

On a different track, who really thinks Obama understands what sexual orientation or gender identity really is? I have no faith that this man has resolved his on inner conflict with gays.

Seriously, I’m pretty sure Obama’s path (and final solution) to LGBTI equality is with a whole new set of Jim Crow laws, promoting separate but equal. Exactly the right formula to continue this same environment for hostility.

TomTallis
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

Asking Obama to “do something” is like asking a boulder to dance. It ain’t gonna happen, ESPECIALLY on gay rights/protections issues.

I used to think that Obama was eloquent, but now I realize that I mistook glibness for eloquence. He’s all hot air.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…”

early657
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

This is the same Kyra Phillips who takes every opportunity on CNN to present her personal homophobia during her reports. She only recently titled one of her reports ‘Homosexuality, Is It A Problem In Need Of A Cure?’. As if the topic and title wasn’t bad enough, Kyra included a title at the bottom of the screen “Finding A Cure For Homosexuality”. Kyra Phillips is part of the problem, not the solution. She shouldn’t be on the air. Now she wants us to believe she is sincerely crying as she reports about a suicide? This suicide was enabled by Kyra and her homophobic presentations she does for CNN: “The Most Trusted Name In News” (bullshit).

http://thinkprogress.org/2010/04/06/cnn-gay-cali/

Brian
October 17th, 2010 | LINK

Obama is a waste of time, effort, and space.

customartist
October 18th, 2010 | LINK

Call your congressmen here:
800-828-0498 Congressional Switchboard
202-224-3121 Main Capitol Switchboard
Tell them to create and pass a “National Bias Intimidation Law”. This will allow, and require, the FBI to step in when local authorities do not act with due diligence.
This is the he most correct and accurate definition of the needed legislation. This includes Intimidation and Bullying which is not necessarily physical, nor specific to LGBT’s.
The operator can connect you to your congressmen if you do not know who they are.

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