Schools Ignore Gay Bullying at Their Own Peril
Bottle-blond bangs swept over one eye—this, the other boys whispered, was not a man’s haircut. One of them—a popular, handsome specimen—grew particularly incensed at his classmate’s new look. He formed a posse and found a pair of scissors. After locating the blond boy, the gang tackled him. The boy screamed for help, but none came. Lock by lock, his hair was lopped off.
Soon after, the boy disappeared from school. Eventually, he returned, his hair clipped short and back to its natural brown color.
There was no disciplinary action, but the incident would forever haunt everyone involved, save for the lead attacker, Mitt Romney. He forgot about it, married a pretty girl, produced five handsome sons, and made hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he wants to be president.
Gay kids have long been a target of bullying. Until recently, incidents could be laughed off as “pranks,” and no one suffered any consequences, save for the gay kid. But in the past few years, that has begun to change.
Some say it started the night Tyler Clementi leapt from the George Washington Bridge. He’d just discovered that his roommate at Rutgers University had used a webcam to spy on a kiss he shared with another man. Police found Clementi’s body seven days later.
Clementi wasn’t the only gay kid to commit suicide that September—there were 10 in all. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old boy from Cypress, Texas, shot himself in the head with his stepfather’s Beretta. Seth Walsh, 13, hung himself in his rural California backyard just a half-hour after his mother had rescued him from a gang of bullies.
“It is a totally unnecessary tragedy for my children,” says Wendy Walsh, Seth’s mother. “I don’t know where all the hate comes from.”
Now bullies everywhere are being held to account. Dharun Ravi, the roommate who spied on Clementi, was charged and found guilty of a hate crime—last week, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail. The Department of Justice brought harsh sanctions down on Walsh’s school district, and the local legislature passed “Seth’s Law,” making it mandatory for schools to formally investigate bullying claims. News of 15-year-old Billy Lucas’s suicide inspired the creation of the It Gets Better campaign, a viral video series designed to show gay kids there’s a better life after graduation.