Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Protecting New York's students

New York State is lagging behind in the movement to protect public school students from bias-based bullying. Ten states have already passed measures that provide schools with important tools to deal with bullying and harassment on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and gender expression (among others). The New York State Assembly has passed the "Dignity for All Students Act" six years in a row, but the Republican-led State Senate has yet to act on the bill.

Today, students in schools across the country are taking a vow of silence to protest this type of harassment. Daryl Presgraves, a member of the GLSEN communications team, contributes the following call to action to The Agenda on this Day of Silence:

As hundreds of thousands of students take a vow of silence across the country today as part of GLSEN’s Day of Silence to protest the anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying, harassment, name-calling and discrimination that takes place in schools, the New York legislature will join them, though not in solidarity.

New York is one of 40 states that has chosen not to protect some of its most vulnerable students from bullying and harassment by passing a comprehensive safe schools bill that includes enumerated categories such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.

Students at nearly 400 New York schools registered through to participate in one of the largest student-led days of action in the country to send a message to their schools, communities and the legislature that the time has long since passed to recognize the injustices LGBT students and their allies face every day in school.

In a 2005 survey of New York students as part of the national Harris Interactive report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, more than a third-of New York students reported that bullying, harassment and name-calling was a serious problem at their school.

Additionally, bullying and harassment based on how a person expressed their gender, or because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation was also very common. Fifty-seven percent of respondents reported that students were bullied or harassed at least sometimes because of the way they expressed their gender, and about a quarter (23%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often. More than five out of ten (52%) reported that students were harassed because they were or were perceived to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual – even as only 5% identified as being so. About a quarter (24%) said these behaviors occurred often or very often.

The time has come for New York to speak up on such a crucial issue and recognize that protecting our youth in school is not only a common sense thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.

As students all across the state are asking today, what are you going to do to end the silence?


Anonymous said...

It is ironic today that during the day of silence, our US federal supreme court has also silenced women's right to choose (by limiting later-term abortion). I am wondering if anyone is as upset as I am with our Bushy conservative croneyism supreme court? Roe V. Wade wasn't just about abortion--It was about the importance of limiting government intrusion into our private lives and allowing us all to make our own decisions about sexual health and reproductive freedom, without political intrusion!
Signed--Pissed Off in NY

Anonymous said...

As a high school student in NY, I think the Day of Silence is a great idea, but has some unfortunate downsides. Sometimes taking part in the event actually causes MORE bullying and teasing than on all other days. Two years ago when I first participated, I was actually physically attacked for the first time. Before then, I'd only been verbally assaulted. So, I can't help but wonder if it may do more harm than good for some students.