On December 7, in Fayette County, Georgia, a 16-year-old Whitewater High School student was arrested for making threats after being bullied and harassed by fellow students on the way home from school. The student, a sophomore, is accused of lashing back at bullies on the bus by saying he was going to "shoot up the school Columbine style." He's been suspended for 10 days and charged on counts of making terrorist threats. Authorities have found no weapons or evidence at his home.
School officials sent a note home with students, and the news made the local media. But what hasn't happened at Whitewater High? Any public statement critical of anti-gay bullying, or any move made to discipline the classmates who targeted this boy with cruel anti-gay taunts. While the student who retaliated against anti-gay bullying is banned from school, the bullies can freely attend classes.
By punishing the victim, but not the bully, Whitewater High School is contributing to the problem of anti-gay bullying in American schools. Threats of violence should always be taken seriously with student and community safety in mind. So should taunting based on race, sexuality, gender and creed.
Tell school administrators at Whitewater High School to adapt a zero tolerance bullying policy, one that is inclusive of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. All students deserve a safe place to go to school.
Photo credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr
Threats should always be taken seriously, and it was right to address these threats swiftly and firmly. However, I am concerned about your district's lack of disciplinary action taken toward the students who taunted this student with anti-gay words and criticism. Authorities say that the student was retaliating after a "series" of anti-gay taunts and teasing.
Bullying is never permissible in a learning environment, and Fayette County needs to step up to address this problem in school. Disciplining the student, but not the bullies who taunted him, sends the message that it is okay to taunt and tease a student - indeed, to push him to desperate words and measures.
Fayette County needs to set the record straight and make it known that it is not a place for anti-gay bullying. I urge you to take a stand against anti-gay bullying by doing the following:
- make a public statement decrying anti-gay bullying and announcing disciplinary action against the students participating in the bullying activities detailed by law enforcement
- commit to anti-bullying training at Whitewater High School
- begin the process of investigating and adopting a zero-tolerance bullying policy at Whitewater High School. This policy should support services and guidance for both victims and bullies, and create a climate of tolerance and respect.
Please email a response to firstname.lastname@example.org with your course of action and any comments you would like to make.