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Justice Dept: Bullying Complaints On the Rise

Jim Burroway

September 14th, 2011

From The Washington Blade:

Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said on Tuesday there has been a growing number of reported bullying cases during an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“The bullying of kids who are LGBT is probably the largest growth area in our docket,” Perez said. ”This is about safety — whether it’s kids who are gay, whether it’s kids who are Muslim, whether it’s kids who speak English with an accent, whether it’s kids with disabilities, and we have in Tennessee a case involving bullying of kids with disabilities — this is an emerging growth area, I regret to say.”

Perez made the remarks on bullying in response to questioning from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who introduced legislation known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act that aims to protect LGBT youth from bullying and harassment in school.

It’s unclear whether the increased reports of bullying are the result if increased awareness or an actual rise in bullying incidents.

Perez voiced his support for the proposed legislation, saying that while current law prohibiting gender discrimination can be interpreted to include discrimination based on conformity to gender stereotypes, “it would obviously be much simpler if you could expand the universe of cases involving people who have been victimized if you were to expand those definitions” to include sexual orientation and gender expression. He compared that with what he called the success of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which was passed by Congress in 2009:

“One of the really remarkable and helpful ways that this has transformed our government is that is has facilitated additional cooperation with state and local authorities,” Perez said. “We’ve trained over 4,000 local law enforcement officers. I have participated personally in many of them. Our message is this: this is not a law simply for the feds, this is everyone’s law.”

Perez also reiterated the administration’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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andrew
September 14th, 2011 | LINK

Take this with a grain of salt:
I don’t have any numbers, but I was a gay teen once. My strong suspicion is that the numbers are increasing due to the increased visibility of gay youth, as well as a decreased tolerance of / increased awareness of gay bullying. In a way the numbers are encouraging. It means fewer closets, less suffering in silence.

I’d be very curious to see research that tracks these numbers along with teenage suicide rates. My suspicion is that when students stop internalizing the animus and gain comfort in standing toe to toe, there will be a decreased sense of despair and that may help. It will be important to look at OVERALL suicide rates, since you can bet that kids in my generation who killed themselves over sexuality issues didn’t necessarily advertise that fact. But we know that the disproportionate numbers of gay teen suicides may be high enough to take a pretty good chunk out of the overall rate, and that may be appreciable.

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