The research compiled by the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University in San Marcos is heartbreaking: since 2004, at least six Texas teens have been so tormented by bullying and abuse at school that they have taken their own lives. Another attempted suicide by jumping from a two-and-a-half-story balcony.
Some of the students were gay or lesbian (or perceived to be their tormentors). Others weren’t. One Rockdale student shot herself after constant bullying over her weight and physical appearance. A transgender teen from the same town hung herself just the next month. A high school student in Cleburne, harassed repeatedly because of facial scars and a hearing impairment, was reportedly told: “If I had a face like yours, I’d shoot myself.” He went home and did just that.
Today more and more adults are standing up to say, “Enough.” They are calling on lawmakers to pass anti-bullying legislation that helps protect all children from this abuse. And they are appealing to young people — gay and straight — to keep the hope that life gets better. We were especially moved by this video of an openly gay Fort Worth City Council member, Joel Burns, speaking at a council meeting earlier this week.
Religious-right groups continue to oppose legislation that would help protect young people from bullying and abuse. They claim such legislation “promotes homosexuality” to kids.
Some elected officials even encourage schools to stigmatize gay and lesbian children. In 2004, Texas State Board of Education member Terri Leo, R-Spring, insisted that middle school health textbooks portray gay people as “more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use, and suicide.” Fortunately, textbook publishers refused to obey her demand. This year, when state board members revised social studies curriculum standards, another board member — Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands — bizarrely interpreted a particular standard for the high school sociology course as somehow promoting homosexuality and transgenderism. She succeeded in removing the standard.
Texas children deserve far better than politicians promoting their own divisive personal agendas instead of ensuring that schools provide a sound education and protect their students from abuse.