My name is Dana S., and I am a 1989 graduate of West Valley High School. I felt compelled to write this letter to you after learning about the recent suicides committed by GLBTQ students in this country and after having discovered the Write Your Principal action group.
The GLBTQ students I'm referring to include Tyler Clementi, Justin Aaberg, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas; all of which took their own lives as a result of being bullied and ridiculed by their peers. The idea that they couldn't live happy, peaceful and productive lives because of the hate and intolerance they were subjected as a result of their sexual orientation is of great concern to me.
Consider these facts:
· According to a 2005 National School Climate Survey by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, bullying around issues of sexual orientation, non-conforming gender behaviors and dress was the most common form of bullying, second only to issues of appearance (e.g. body size and disability).
· Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer students hear antigay slurs about 26 times a day, or every 14 minutes. (National Mental Health Association, 2002)
· Nearly 20% of teens surveyed by GLSEN in 2005 report hearing homophobic remarks from school staff
· For every lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who is bullied, four straight students who are perceived to be gay or lesbian are bullied.
· LGBTQ teens are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to be depressed and think about or attempt suicide.
· Among students who identified themselves as LGBTQ, 90 percent had been bullied in the past year. Of these, 66 percent had been verbally abused, 16 percent physically harassed, and 8 percent had been assaulted; LGBTQ students reported feeling unsafe at school three times more often than non-LGBTQ students. (2005 Harris Interactive and GLSEN poll)
I want my ten-year-old daughter to live in a world where one's sexual orientation doesn't result in these behaviors. I teach my daughter every day to embrace BOTH the commonalities and differences in those around her. She is beautiful, intelligent and kind and I can only hope that the schools she attends build on the principles I instill in her at home.
With that said, I have the following questions:
· Does WVHS currently have sexual orientation and gender identity policies on discrimination and harassment? If so, does it clarify in the anti-bullying policies that teasing and exclusion based on sexual orientation is prohibited?
· Are ALL youth-serving organizations training staff and volunteers on effective bullying prevention methods and intervention?
· Is there age-appropriate instruction on sexual orientation in health and sexuality curricula?
· Are concerns about bullying or harassment ofLGBTQ students being addressed and openly discussed?
Avoidance of the subject by parents and other adults may convey an attitude of indifference, or worse, an unspoken acceptance of the harassment experienced by LGBTQ students.
In closing, I truly hope that my former high school propagates acceptance of LGBTQ students and that I can say, with absolute certainty, to my family, as well as my LBGTQ and non-LBGTQ friends that West Valley High School, Home of the Rams, is a safe place to learn.
Thank you for your time and consideration.