By Andrea Persephone Sand
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA proposed armed guards and teachers in the school to prevent violence. Really? America would consider this, but we wouldn’t even entertain the thought of an inclusive bullying-protection policy?
We are more comfortable turning our schools in to something more akin to legitimate prisons where students are going to see guns and people looking at them suspiciously on a daily basis than we are with all students being protected from harassment and assault at the hands of their peers and authority figures?
Protecting children means creating a culture of tolerance, understanding and compassion, not arming everyone to the teeth. In 2013, let’s resolve to do just that.
To adapt a phrase from the great leader for peace, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: a threat to children anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.
I wrote in late October that the East Aurora school board were cowardly and flopping about back and forth on the issue of protection for all of its queer students, not just the LG ones. A policy that was supposed to protect the safety of gender outlaw kids was vigorously opposed by the Illinois Family Institute, an organization deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center–and the bigots won.
The East Aurora School Board formed a committee to better assess the situation and try to find a good solution–but in the face of constant harassment from the IFI, it has now been dissolved.
I attended a Catholic high school. I have read the Old Testament and New Testament, and studied it in depth. Jesus never spoke out against the queer community, but had plenty of things to say about hypocrites and the falsely pious. In his own words, “What you do unto the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”
According to the Transgender Discrimination Survey by The Taskforce, in the K-12 setting alone, 78% of students who expressed a “transgender identity or gender non-conformity” were harassed, 35% were physically assaulted, and 12% were victims of sexual violence. This harassment and these assaults come not only from our peers, but from our teachers and principals. Six percent are expelled just for being themselves, or 1:17. Harassment is so awful that 15% will drop out, or about a sixth. Suicide attempt rates are nauseatingly high, somewhere around 1:2 or 1:3.
There are, quite literally, children’s lives on the line with this debate–and these children can be saved not with a weapon of violence (like the Bushmaster .223 rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 people), but with words of peace and inclusion.
Words like these:
It is the District’s goal to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student.
The above is what the Illinois Family Institute objected to.
Someone’s little girl has to go to school every day and use the wrong everything and hear all sorts of awful names thrown at her by her peers and potentially her teachers. She has to face the risk of her teachers and authority figures turning blind eyes to her suffering. She has to face the risk of growing up to be a drug dealer or prostitute (16%) to make ends meet, and she faces the risk of she herself being a drinker or drug user to cope with the harassment (32%). Someone’s little girl isn’t getting the same opportunity as everyone else’s little girl.
There are other gender non-conformists in the school district, but I remember when this all started over a little girl wanting some pee-ce. She is the visible, un-seen face of the gender outlaws of East Aurora. Her plight, and her victory, will bring attention and a much larger victory to all her classmates just like her. It will be a hopeful, reassuring whisper of “You will overcome this” that has been long over-due and been much needed.
Please sign and pass on this Change.org petition asking the board to reinstate its commitment to protecting ALL children:
And please contact East Aurora School Board (firstname.lastname@example.org) members:
Ignacio Cervantes: email@example.com
Mary Anne Turza: firstname.lastname@example.org
Raymond Hull: email@example.com
Annette Johnson (President): firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Leonard: email@example.com
Stella Gonzalez (Vice-President) firstname.lastname@example.org
Anita Lewis (Secretary) email@example.com