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Utah Middle School Defends Outing Gay Student To Parents As Bullying Prevention Effort

First Posted: 12/15/2011 1:22 pm Updated: 12/16/2011 3:00 pm

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates have slammed a Utah middle school's decision to disclose a gay teen's sexuality to his parents.

As The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting, the 14-year-old boy's parents, who have asked that their names not be released to media, were notified by a teacher because officials at Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi say they were making an effort to be "proactive" in preventing bullying. "We do include parents any time there's a potential safety issue with a student," said Rhonda Bromley, a spokesperson for Utah's Alpine School District.

After the student revealed he was gay in a class assignment, an administrator talked to the boy and encouraged him to discuss the issue with his parents, to which he reluctantly agreed. “The student chose himself to make his sexuality known in a variety of ways,” Bromley told MSNBC. “And there had already started to be some negative feedback. If there is the potential for a bullying or a harassment situation, it’s the responsibility of the school to step in and to make sure the student is safe." Reportedly at the boy’s request, he was not present when his parents were told, MSNBC noted.

However, local news channel ABC 4 cites a text message the student apparently sent to a friend, which reads: "The next day, she calls me down to the office and … tells that she is going to basically force my (sic) out of the closet, by telling my parents that I am gay, despite my protests."

Although Bromley noted the student's parents have been "very supportive" of their son, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) criticized the school's decision. "Schools should not out LGBT students without their consent," GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard said, according to The Advocate. "Outing a student not only violates their right to privacy, but also could compromise their safety. Parents can be notified of their child being bullied at school, but without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity."

View a slideshow of recent LGBT bullying cases and other milestones below:

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  • Tyler Clementi

    The disturbing rash of LGBT teen suicides began receiving attention last fall. Among those who took their own life was Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New Jersey and New York after his roommate allegedly filmed him having sex with another man.

  • Seth Walsh

    Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old California teen, hung himself in September 2010 after reportedly being bullied because he was gay.

  • Raymond S. Chase

    Gay Rhode Island-based student Raymond S. Chase, 19, became the fifth in 2010's disturbing spate of teen suicides last fall.

  • Obama's Anti-Bullying Video

    In October 2010, President Obama released a video in support of LGBT youth who were struggling with being bullied.

  • Pastor's Confession

    In November 2010, Jim Swilley, the pastor of a Georgia megachurch, revealed to his congregation that he is gay. The 52-year-old father of four said the recent spate of teen suicides, particularly that of Clementi, prompted him to change his mind. "For some reason his situation was kind of the tipping point with me," Swilley told CNN's Don Lemon this weekend.

  • Daniel Radcliffe Honored

    In June, "Harry Potter" actor Daniel Radcliffe was honored with the Trevor Project's "Hero" Award for his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/26/daniel-radcliffe-speaks-o_n_478960.html" target="_hplink">ongoing suicide prevention efforts</a> for LGBT youth.

  • Jamey Rodemeyer

    In September, Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year-old boy from Williamsville, N.Y., took his life Sunday after what his parents claim was years of bullying because of struggles with his sexuality, months after posting this "It Gets Better" clip on YouTube.

  • Lady Gaga's Dedication

    After vowing to stop bullying and make it illegal, Lady Gaga -- a longtime advocate for LGBT causes -- dedicated a performance to Rodemeyer at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. "I wrote this record about how your identity is really all you've got when you're in school," Gaga told the crowd. "So tonight, Jamey, I know you're up there looking at us, and you're not a victim. You're a lesson to all of us."

  • Bachmann Speaks Out

    Days after being faced with a petition that urged her to publicly address gay bullying in her district, Rep. Michele Bachmann noted, "That's not a federal issue," according to CBS News. Previously, Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, a gay teen in the Anoka-Hennepin school district who committed suicide after having been bullied in area schools, delivered petitions to Bachmann's office asking her for support.

  • Jamie Hubley

    Jamie Hubley, a gay 15-year-old from Ottawa, Canada, committed suicide Oct. 14. In this clip, the teen performs Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me."

  • Hubley Tribute Video

    Friends created a poignant tribute video to Hubley, the Canadian 10th grader who committed suicide on Friday.

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Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |