November 09, 2010

>Take Action to Prevent Further Tragedy

>This morning I heard about another horrific loss: Brandon Bitner of Mount Pleasant Mills, Pa., took his own life last Friday after enduring relentless bullying at school. He was only 14 years old. My heart goes out to his family for their unimaginable loss.

Our nation has learned more about suicide in the past two months than we could ever have wanted to know. And the country's attention has turned to the national public health crisis of bullying in our schools, and the daily torment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people. Suicide is tragically complicated—the result of a range of factors and stresses in a young person's life—and not every target of bullies is driven to ultimate despair. But we must harness the current public attention on the issue to make sure schools are safe and affirming places for all students, for students like Brandon.

Adult prejudices and preconceptions about LGBT people currently stand in the way of effective action. Anti-LGBT bias and bullying is NOT an issue with two sides—it is a horrible intrusion of societal bias into the lives of children. It teaches horrendous lessons to all involved—target, bully and bystander—and takes a toll on young lives, even among those that survive it.

Enough is enough. All that remains is to act. No more debate. There are steps to be taken that we know will make a positive difference in the lives of young people RIGHT NOW.

Take action

• Call on Congress to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Nondiscrimination Act:

• Call on President Obama to champion these bills and on the Department of Education to do all in their power to implement the bills’ principles:

Help make schools safe for LGBT students

• Teachers and school staff can make a difference— visible adult support can go a long way in decreasing the feelings of isolation that can lead to despair. Check out GLSEN’s tools and tips for educators.

• Any of us can let the young people in our lives know that we love them no matter what. Join GLSEN’s Safe Space Campaign to ensure that LGBT students can identify at least one supportive adult in their school. Click here to watch campaign PSAs.

• Have you or someone you know experienced LGBT-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination in school? Find out how LGBT students can claim their rights.

Eliza Byard
GLSEN Executive Director


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