Tuesday, October 25, 2005

TGSAN Rally Column from the NC State Technician

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High schoolers fight for change. Can we? Posted: 10.25.2005 Riche Wiley This weekend, I attended a rally in downtown Raleigh at the Capitol building that had the very distinct purpose of petitioning the state government/school board. Information concerning the rally and its purpose was sent across the state and advertised in local newspapers. There was live news coverage of this event and, as the day went on, more and more people showed up. Even students from Charlotte, N.C. made the drive all the way to Raleigh to attend this event and sign the petition. The petition that circulated among the crowd at the rally wishes to change the State Board of Education's current discrimination policy, and this event was planned completely by a small group of high school students in the Triangle Gay Straight Alliance Network (tgsan.org) with only a couple adults being used specifically as resources or free secretaries. The current discrimination policy currently states: "It is the priority of the State Board of Education to provide each and every student in North Carolina's public schools and public charter schools with a safe, orderly and caring learning environment that is free from harassment, bullying or discrimination." However, these students wish this policy was more explicit in what it was saying, and wish that a sentence be added, which states: "This includes, but is not limited to, students of any race, ethnicity, cultural background, ability, religion (creed), sex, socioeconomic status or actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation, as well as those who are associated with people identified by these categories." The reason these students are petitioning and making such a huge deal out of this addition, though it might seem redundant to some, considering the "each and every student" phrase in the current policy, is because with the current policy, a couple of these categories are almost completely forgotten in public schools. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, also known as GLSEN, currently 83.2 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students report being verbally harassed at school specifically because of their sexual identities, and 68.6 percent of these students report feeling unsafe in their school environment. Most of the public school systems today, whether accidentally or purposefully, forget or ignore that these students are being harassed in hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. Some of these students are beaten and spat upon, and nothing is done. Some of these schools tell the gay students that have been beaten or humiliated, "If you didn't act so gay, none of this would happen to you. Don't act so gay and you'll be all right." How many of you have been told, "If you don't act like yourself, you'll be all right and no one will beat the crap out of you everyday after school, and no one will kick you around in the bathroom and call you names. We don't have to do anything for you because you're acting like yourself, which is obviously wrong, so change it?" Probably, not many of you. But, in a small school here in the Triangle, that is basically what was said to a gay student. Personal opinion aside for just a moment (I think the change needs to be made), I was amazed at the effort put forth by these students for something they care so much about. I look around the college students I know and realize that most of them wouldn't even think of standing up for something they believe like that, out of fear or sheer laziness. And it's amazing to think that college students were supposed to be the students that affected these sorts of changes in the communities and in the government, as history definitely shows, but now, it has instead been left to the younger high school students. We're too busy having protests about whether or not we're really Sorostitutes because we do a little bit of volunteering, which is mandatory and not optional, which we complain about and then try to use as a placard stating our obvious non-Sorostituted-ness. (Side-note: Sorostitute really needs to be added to the word processor spell check files.) I think we, as college students, could use these high school students as role models. We need to bring back the days when college students brought change to the world by doing more than clogging up the Brickyard with ugly posters. High school students can fight for change. Can we? Original Source: http://technicianonline.com/story.php?id=012499