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'A Prayer When I Feel Hated': Helping Prevent Gay Teen Suicide

Be with me when people make fun of me,
and help me to respond how you would want me to,
in a love that respects other, but also respects me.
Help me find friends who love me for who I am.
Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

Rev. James Martin, S.J., Huffington Post

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The recent rash of suicides among young gay youths cannot fail to move the Christian heart, or indeed any heart capable of compassion. While any suicide is a terrible tragedy, the suicide of a young person who feels that his or her life will never change, and who moves towards despair as a result of constant bullying and harassment, is especially poignant.

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Many of the gays and lesbians, young and old, who have spoken about this in the last few days have pointed to how wounded they have felt by their churches and by other religious organizations. The Christian community must find a way to reach out more compassionately to gay and lesbian youths, help them feel welcome and valued, and help them know that they are beloved by God -- and by us. We must lead, as we do with any group, and as Jesus did, first with welcome, not condemnation. For my part, here is a prayer I composed for all who feel excluded, rejected, marginalized, shamed or made fun of, in any way or in any place, religious or otherwise: "A Prayer When I Feel Hated"

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Stop the suicides: put an end to bullying in schools!

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  • Ask US Education Secretary Arne Duncan: improve our nation's anti-bullying programs so we can end this tragedy.
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  • Making Schools Safer for Gay Students
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign

This is an epidemic.

Last week (Sep 19-25), Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off a bridge after his roommate secretly recorded him with another male student, then broadcast the video online.

I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident. But Tyler's death as a victim of anti-gay harassment was just one of a number of recent suicides among teenagers who were ruthlessly "bullied to death."

Our schools and our nation cannot sit back and wait for the next tragedy. So today, we're calling on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to speak out immediately – and to push every school anti-bullying program in the nation to include sexual orientation and gender identity like HRC's Welcoming Schools program. Please stand with us.

Ask US Education Secretary Arne Duncan: improve our nation's anti-bullying programs so we can end this tragedy.

Tyler wasn't the only one.

After months of relentless bullying, 13-year-old Seth Walsh hung himself from a tree outside his California home this week (Sep 26 - Oct 2). Billy Lucas of Indiana was 15 years old when he hung himself after being called a "fag" over and over again. Asher Brown's classmates teased him without mercy and acted out mock gay sex acts in class, and last Thursday (Sep 23) he shot himself in the head. He was only 13.

And a single district in Minnesota has seen seven suicides in the last year by young victims of intolerance. As a virulently anti-LGBT candidate seeks the governor's chair (a man who could decide the fate of anti-bullying measures), it's clear that the very lives of Minnesota's children are at stake.

This isn't a new problem. It's been happening for decades. And too often, administrators fail to act, even after parents complain about the bullying at school.

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That's why HRC developed Welcoming Schools, an innovative program that gives elementary school teachers, parents and students across the country the tools to help stop the name-calling, bullying and gender stereotyping that so many students face every day. It helps kids learn respect and tolerance early on, to prevent violence later in middle and high school.

But it's up to those who run our schools – from Secretary Duncan down to every local school board – to act to end the bullying.

Secretary Duncan: No more children should be bullied to death. Help stop anti-LGBT harassment in schools now.

Once you take action, I hope you'll write a letter to the editor of your local paper. I hope you'll also let educators and administrators in your local school district know about Welcoming Schools and explain why you want to see Welcoming Schools in elementary schools near you. The more we spread the word, the better our chances of preventing another tragedy.

If school officials don't act, more young lives will be tragically lost. We can't let that happen.

Related:

Making Schools Safer for Gay Students, Cathy Renna, Renna Communications

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  • New report with recommendations and model legislation
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides, Andy Birkey, Minnesota Independent
“Well, news flash: There are homosexual people all over the world. Having your kid meet a homosexual in school and possibly even having a nice conversation with one isn’t going to turn your kid into one.” --Tammy Aaberg

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MI Assistant AG's blog targeting gay student leader raises free speech issues

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  • "It sounded like it was getting a little strange," (Denis) Dison (spokesman for Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund) said. "I think everyone thinks it has crossed the line." If I'm a gay person living in Michigan, this does not instill confidence that the attorney general's office has my best interests at heart," he added.
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Kathy Barks Hoffman, Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN

An assistant attorney general is using his personal blog to target the openly gay leader of the University of Michigan's student assembly, calling him a racist with a "radical homosexual agenda." The lawyer claims that when he's not at work, he has the right to say whatever he wants.

But the vociferous criticism has raised questions of just how far a civil servant can go, and whether Andrew Shirvell's online attacks — which include putting a swastika over a gay pride flag in a photo of 21-year-old Chris Armstrong — should affect his job.

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Making Schools Safer for Gay Students, Cathy Renna

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  • New report with recommendations and model legislation
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Section(s): 

Making Schools Safer for Gay Students

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    \r\n
  • New report with recommendations and model legislation
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Cathy Renna

A new report documents the persistence of hostile and unsafe school environments that can result in lower educational outcomes and higher rates of depression and suicide for LGBT students.

The report, Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation, contains a series of key policy recommendations to ensure schools are welcoming and safe for LGBT students. These recommendations cover areas such as school climate, curriculum, and the particular role of school sports in defining a school’s culture.

The report also contains model legislation for state legislatures to adopt, including general prohibitions against bullying, harassment, intimidation in schools, and sections addressing teacher education and professional development.  "The addition of a Model State Code to the analysis and recommendations in the report will encourage state legislatures to adopt a comprehensive and tested set of statutes to help remedy the problems of discrimination in our schools," said report co-author Sheila Kuehl, a former State Senator from California.

The overarching purpose of all recommendations from the report is to make schools safe and improve the quality of life for everyone within our education system. “In this area, educators are not required to change their personal values or religious beliefs,” said Stuart Biegel, author of a new book on the subject. “However, all students must be treated with equal dignity and equal respect by school officials, both under the law and as a matter of morality and common decency.”

Jointly released by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, and the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, the report is being formally release today at the National Education Association (NEA) headquarters.

The full report is available here.

Related:

LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says, Huffington Post

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  • Unequivocally, the 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People demonstrates that LGBTQ students, faculty and staff experience a 'chilly' campus climate of harassment and far less than welcoming campus communities.
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides, Andy Birkey, Minnesota Independent
“Well, news flash: There are homosexual people all over the world. Having your kid meet a homosexual in school and possibly even having a nice conversation with one isn’t going to turn your kid into one.” --Tammy Aaberg

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Merit Pay Has No Effect on Teacher Quality

Let’s put Q Comp out of its misery once and for all. Let’s keep its mentoring, collaboration and curriculum development aspects and dump the merit pay and salary revisions. Then it might become a viable program.

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John Fitzgerald, Minnesota 2020

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It’s gratifying when other research backs up what we have been saying all along: Merit pay has no effect on teacher quality.

Education Week published a story Tuesday (Sep 21) headlined “Merit Pay Found to Have Little Effect on Achievement.” Here’s the first paragraph:

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“The most rigorous study of performance-based teacher compensation ever conducted in the United States shows that a nationally watched bonus-pay system had no overall impact on student achievement — results released today that are certain to set off a firestorm of debate.”

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While I don’t know about the “firestorm of debate,” it seems clear that what we have always said is true: Teaching is a profession, not a trade or a clock-punching job. Teachers get into the profession because they love to teach. They have bills just like the rest of us and they want a sound retirement like the rest of us, therefore they worry about money just like the rest of us.

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