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July 3, 2009


Ohio schools are unsafe for LGBT kids, report says

“Ohio schools were not a safe place for many LGBT secondary students,” says a research brief released by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network on June 17.

The study, which surveyed 244 high school students in Ohio and 6,209 nationally, is a follow-up to the 2007 National School Climate Survey, which came to similar conclusions.

In Ohio, the study concludes, LGBT students still lack access to important school resources such as gay-straight alliances, and are not protected by comprehensive school anti-harassment policies.

Almost all of the Ohio LGBT students--97%--reported regularly hearing the word “gay” used as an insult. Some said it was frequently used this way.

Over three-quarters, 78%, regularly heard homophobic epithets like “faggot” and “dyke” from other students.

Negative remarks on gender expression were heard from classmates by 88% of Ohio students.

In addition, these students regularly hear staff and teachers make the same sort of remarks.

Most Ohio LGBT students, 87%, were harassed during the past year due to their sexual orientation, and half--48%--of that harassment was physical.

Sixty-five percent of students who were harassed or assaulted never reported the incident; at the same time, only 30% said that reporting the incident led to an effective intervention.

“It is clear that there is a need for action to create safe school environments for Ohio students,” the report continues. “All Ohio schools and school districts should implement safe school policies that offer explicit protection to students who are most often the targets of bullying and harassment based on personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

This recommendation almost became Ohio law a few years ago, but it was kept out of the measure.

Ohio Senate Education Committee chair Gary Cates, a West Chester Republican, helped block a 2006 attempt to include protection for LGBT students in an anti-bullying law that eventually passed without it.

Cates was asked to comment on this latest GLSEN report, and released a statement through spokesperson Sarah Spence.

“As the father of a child who switched schools because of bullying, I believe that bullying is bullying no matter what the reason. No child should be subject to that kind of intimidation in school regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, weight, hair color or shoe size. However, placing special qualifiers into law singling out a certain group of students only serves to weaken the law because then one would have to try to list every possible instance in which bullying could occur,” Cates said.

Cates, a civil engineer, was present during the 2006 hearings as witnesses explained that the ambiguous language Cates champions is unenforceable and leaves LGBT students unprotected.

“Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discrimination concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Romer v. Evans, which struck down a Colorado ban on gay and lesbian equal rights laws.

As vice chair of the committee at the time, Cates helped pull the rest of the Republicans into the position he holds today.

Pressed with Kennedy’s declaration, Spence replied, “Senator Cates watched what his son endured and is concerned for any child subjected to bullying. With all due respect to your opinion, nothing in his statement suggests otherwise.”




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