Deadline Now: Anti-Bullying Efforts in Our Schools
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Deadline Now: Anti-Bullying Efforts in Our Schools

Friday, September 7, 2012

In recent years, most of us have become aware of the how serious bullying can be in our schools. But for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered students, the situation can be far worse. What can we do about the problem?

Jack Lessenberry digs into the issue with three noted experts: Dr. John Corvino, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Wayne State University, Dr. Lisa Kovach, a Professor at the University of Toledo and a school violence prevention consultant, and Robert Salem, a Law Professor at UT who has written about anti-bullying policies in our schools.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

Back in the nineteen fifties and early sixties there was little or no idea in general society that Americans of different sexual orientations should have the same rights as everybody else.

Gay people were thought of as perverts or mentally ill, period. If a high school student had announced that he was homosexual, then the most polite term in use, the best she or he could probably have hoped for was forced psychiatric counseling.

Well, we’ve come a long way -- that is, some of us have.

Today, experts on human biology and development we realize that sexual orientation is largely something we are born with.
There are still many people who don’t accept that, and who, for religious or other reasons, think homosexuality is wrong.

That tension is likely to exist in this society for some time to come. But whatever your religious convictions, there is no excuse for bullying, period, regardless of what you think about sexuality.

For one thing, I often think of a young man I knew named Brian, who was labeled a “queer” and endured what amounted to at least terrific semi-torture for years. Brian had fair skin and blue eyes, and had what the bullies thought were “effeminate” mannerisms.

He was also interested in theatre, which in the bullies’ eyes, just confirmed their suspicions. He was tripped, punched, called all sorts of names, and had dirty slogans written on his locker, on his books, you name it.  Well, today Brian is the principal of a top-notch high school in Massachusetts.

He is a writer and still involved in theatre. And he has a wife and four great children. Though he had and has gay friends, he wasn’t himself gay. His story is significant, however, because  some of those targeted by anti-gay bullies are indeed not actually gay.

Bullying takes its toll on all of us, including the bullies themselves. Bullying coarsens society and damages productivity.

And adults who tolerate it, including educators, are as guilty, or perhaps more guilty, than the bullies themselves.

Our three guests tonight have all worked to both raise people’s consciousnesses about bullying, and to do something about it.  But it’s up to all of us to do the same.