Bullying: Making a safe environment for everyone

By CATHY BROWNFIELD

Family Recovery Center publicist

Can a safe, healthy environment be created for all students, straight and LGBT? Bullying is an issue everywhere but are you aware that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders are at greater risk of being bullied?

The state of Ohio defines bullying as “multiple written, verbal, graphic or physical acts toward a student that are intentional.” Related terms include severe, persistent, intimidating, threatening, abusive. In dating relationships there is violence. And don’t disregard electronic bullying, harassment and intimidation.

LGBT bullying is bullying on your prejudices against a particular group. It creates a negative environment in the schools where teachers and staff do not act to stop it. There may not be anti-bullying policies in the school, and if there are, LGBT students may not be included. What about dress code rules? Are they discriminatory? Discipline? If the policy is zero tolerance, do school officials and educators follow through? School dances? Bathroom and locker use? Do curricula and library materials include LGBT people, history and issues?

Negative effects of bullying affect everyone. The student’s health, academic performance and social development can suffer. Mental health issues may include depression, low self-esteem and suicide. The student may resort to alcohol or substance abuse and risky sexual behavior. Absenteeism and lower grade-point averages may be problematic, holding the student back from achieving their greatest potential. Socially they may suffer anxiety and problems with intimacy. No matter how you look at it, bullying hurts everyone.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), a national education organization, works to create safe schools for all students, not just LGBT students. The desired result is that all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, be valued and respected. These things do not determine a person’s value to society and a brilliant mind is a terrible thing to waste.

GLSEN explains the five steps of intervention:

1. Act instantly.

2. Pinpoint the behavior.

3. Educate.

4. Assist the victim.

5. Use discipline.

GLSEN cites a lack of protection for the LGBT students. Do teachers intervene in cases of verbal harassment? Their survey says only 18 percent of LGBT students reported intervention by their teachers. Does your school have anti-bullying policies? Survey says only 4 percent of Ohio students report their school has anti-bullying policies.

GLSEN also states that, though there has been some improvement, eight of 10 LGBT students are still harassed for sexual orientation and six of 10 for gender expression. There also are four evidence-based solutions.

1. Train educators how to intervene and encourage them to be allies.

2. Use LGBT-inclusive curricular materials with positive representations of LGBT people, history and events.

3. Adopt and enforce school policies that protect all students from bullying and discrimination and specifically mention categories of students often targeted.

4. Support the creation of Gay-Straight Alliances and other extracurricular student clubs that make schools safer and improve the school climate.

Respect is a huge issue in society today. Children learn how it works by watching their parents, guardians and caregivers in action. Everyone is a stakeholder. The Trevor Project Hotline, 866-488-7386, is available 24/7 nationwide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. This is the first national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline.

April 27, 2018 is officially tagged Day of Silence. Across the country people are taking a vow of silence throughout the day, and breaking the silence with a rally or assembly near the end of the day. For more information, visit the GLSEN website.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board and contracts with school districts (currently Lisbon and Leetonia) in our county.

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