Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The NC schools anti-gay harassment report & the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

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In reference to my earlier post... Below is an email I sent today to the members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education and the Superintendent, along with the news desk of the Winston-Salem Journal, the News Clerk of the Winston-Salem Journal, PFLAG Winston-Salem, the News Director of WXII Newschannel 12, and Q-Notes:
Honorable Members of the Board of Education and Dr. Donald Martin, Superintendent: I am writing you today to ask if you have seen or heard about the new report on bullying in North Carolina schools. Part of the text is below, with the full text of the press release available at: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1881.html North Carolina students one-third more likely than students nationwide to say that bullying is a problem in schools New York, NY - GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released ?From Teasing to Torment: A Profile of School Climate in North Carolina,? which provides a rare look into students? experiences with bullying and harassment as well as their attitudes about this serious problem. The results are based on students in North Carolina who were surveyed as part of a national study of secondary school students and teachers conducted by Harris Interactive®. Results from the survey demonstrate that bullying is far too common in North Carolina schools:
  • Nearly half of all North Carolina students thought that bullying was a somewhat or serious problem in their schools and were 33% more likely to say it was a somewhat or serious problem than students in the nation as a whole (48% vs. 36%).
  • The most common reasons for bullying and harassment were appearance, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender expression. Eight out of ten students were harassed due to appearance, and seven out of ten were harassed because they were or were thought to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
  • A majority (78%) of North Carolina students reported hearing homophobic remarks such as, "that is so gay" to indicate bad or worthless; and derogatory terms like "faggot" were heard by 84% of students.
  • Surprisingly, many students heard biased language from school staff. Seventeen percent (17%) of students heard sexist language, 16% heard homophobic remarks, and 12% heard negative religious remarks from teachers and other staff.
  • Four in ten students who experienced harassment or assault at school did not report it to a teacher, principal or other school staff person. Of those that did report incidents, less than half (47%) reported that some immediate action was taken by school staff to address the situation.
"Bullying and harassment are clearly significant issues in North Carolina schools," said Anne Krieg, board member of the Parent Teacher Student Association at Glenn High School in Kernersville, NC. "It is time that parents, teachers, students, school administrators and legislators work together to make sure schools are safer for all students." Less than half (44%) of North Carolina students reported that they were protected by a school anti-harassment policy that specifically mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. About a fourth were not sure if their school provided any anti-harassment protections at all. "It is time to listen to our students and teachers and make some changes in North Carolina schools," said Kevin Jennings, a North Carolina native and Founder and Executive Director of GLSEN. "Training sessions can help teachers assess and respond to incidents of verbal and physical harassment and state-level safe school legislation that include specific categories can help ensure that North Carolina?s schools are safe for all students."
I hope that, as members of the Board of Education and as the Superintendent, you will take this report seriously and take a long, hard look at the numbers. 84% of our youth, are hearing derogatory, homophobic remarks! That is unacceptable. Please, I beg you, as I have ever since I was a freshman at R.J. Reynolds High School and started the gay/straight alliance there... step up and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. All youth deserve to feel safe and comfortable in schools and these new statistics show that North Carolina youth are not being receiving proper protections against harassment. MATT HILL Class of 2004, The Richard J. Reynolds High School
====== As of this evening, the only response I have received from this email was from Mr. Donny Lambeth, Chairman of the Board of Education. His response simply stated, "No [in referene to my question of whether he had seen the report] but I will look at this. Thanks for bringing it to our attention." I sincerely hope that the Board of Education will look at this data and see that they really do need to do something. The numbers are appalling!