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Wayne Besen

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Another Suicide: It's Not School Bullying... It's School Mugging

Posted: 10/26/2011 5:29 pm

Before 15-year-old Ottawa student Jamie Hubley committed suicide Oct. 14, he documented his torment on the Internet.

"I hate being the only open gay guy in my school ... It f--ing sucks, I really want to end it," he wrote.

According to a story in The Ottawa Citizen:

"Even though he was feeling down all the time, he always made everybody else feel better," [close friend Steph Wheeler] said.

A gifted actor and singer -- he loved Lady Gaga, Adele and Katy Perry, and posted numerous videos of himself singing on his personal YouTube channel -- Jamie wrote a month ago that he was looking forward to taking dance lessons this winter.

"Something to look forward to," he wrote.

But he also wrote of his sadness and despair, about being called a "fag."

In a post three weeks ago, he said he was depressed, that medications he was taking weren't working, and that being gay in high school was so hard -- a thousand times harder in real life than on the popular television show, Glee, which he loved.

I am so fed up with writing the same story -- over and over and over again. This madness has to stop, and the first way we decrease these tragedies is to stop minimizing the torment and harassment by reducing it to mere bullying.

These kids are not getting bullied; they are getting mugged. The schools where these kids go are not places of education but cages where students are psychologically and physically tortured. What they endure is "bullying" in the same way dropping a mouse into a snake tank is mere "bullying." What many of these helpless students put up with is more like The Wire or Oz than a legitimate learning environment.

If the same violent incidents occurred on the subway or at the grocery store, they would be considered mugging, and the perpetrator would be arrested for assault. But if these criminal acts happen in the prison yard -- um, I mean schoolyard -- they are dismissed as bullying.

The dirty little secret is that the majority of the teachers know exactly what is going on. They know who the thugs are. They know who the victims are. Yet they often do nothing and sometimes contribute to the terror -- particularly if they are anti-gay. Many teachers also want to be seen as cool, so they cozy up to the popular jocks who often lead the daily assaults.

I frequently hear that we cannot stop bullying/mugging. What a load of nonsense. We can significantly reduce it by holding teachers and administrators responsible for their actions. If a teacher is aware of a campus mugging or abets the crime, he or she should be immediately suspended without pay for a month. If the infraction occurs a second time, the teacher should be suspended for an entire year. A third violation would lead to termination. The same criteria would apply to district administrators.

Efforts at stopping school muggings must specifically include LGBT students, because they are the most prolific targets. The Southern Poverty Law Center analyzed 14 years of federal hate crime data and found that homosexuals are far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States.

A 2005 survey by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) showed that 61 percent of school bullying was based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The only job of schools is to educate young people, and anyone who is being mugged on a daily basis or has to think about being verbally and physically assaulted cannot get a proper education.

Think about how you would perform at work if you knew that every time you entered the office a co-worker would demean, spit on or punch you. Do you really think you could excel -- or would a disproportionate amount of your energy focus on fending off or eluding your would-be attackers?

We can stop much of the anti-LGBT violence today if we really wanted to. All we have to do is make it known to the muggers and their adult enablers in the classroom that there will be consequences for both violent action and inaction.

The media should also ask tough questions of so-called "pro-family" groups that do everything in their sinister power to block efforts to curtail these muggings -- all in the name of religion. Why doesn't the media ask, "How can you say you are pro-life when the policies you promote lead to LGBT teen suicide?"

Something has to be done. We can no longer allow beautiful young LGBT people to take their lives. We also can no longer take part in the charade where those who aided and abetted such crimes are allowed to throw up their hands and disingenuously ask, "How did this happen?"

We know damn well how it happened, and we know how to stop it. What we need is the will to stand up to the muggers and their moralizing lobbyists.

 

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