Southern Poverty Law Center Targets Anti-Gay Bullying

Teaching Tolerance Film, Bullied, Offers Lessons for Students, Educators

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Sept. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project is targeting anti-gay bullying in a new documentary film – Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case that Made History – that will premiere in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday, Oct. 5. The film, which offers lessons for students and educators on the devastating effects of bullying, is available along with a teaching kit – free of charge – to every school in the country.

"As we've seen very recently in the news, the effects of anti-gay bullying are devastating," said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. "Unfortunately, thousands of incidents like those that led to the recent spate of heartbreaking suicides are happening in schools across the country every day. We hope this film will help students gain a better understanding of these effects and, along with their teachers, realize the necessity to act."

Bullied chronicles the powerful story of a student who stood up to his anti-gay tormentors and filed a federal lawsuit against his school district. The suit led to a landmark federal court decision holding that school officials could be held accountable for not stopping the harassment and abuse of gay students.

Despite that ruling, anti-gay bullying continues to be a severe, nationwide problem. In Massachusetts, for example, 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover hanged himself with an extension cord in 2009 after being bullied by classmates who perceived him as gay. In Indiana, another student hanged himself earlier this month after being subjected to anti-gay bullying. In the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, at least four gay students have committed suicide in the past year alone.

Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students experienced harassment in the past year – a rate three times higher than students in general, according to a 2009 GLSEN survey. Lesbian, gay or bisexual adolescents also are twice as likely to be depressed and think about or attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers, according to research cited by the government.

But anti-gay bullying is not confined to students who are actually gay. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Mental Health Association, anti-gay bullying is frequently directed at straight students who are perceived as gay.

Bullied tells the story of Jamie Nabozny, who suffered relentless verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his classmates in Ashland, Wis. School officials failed to stop the attacks, despite pleas from Nabozny and his parents.

"Students should never be afraid for their safety at school," said Nabozny, now 34. "This film offers hope to students who are being harassed and should inspire educators to live up to their responsibility to stop the bullying that is shattering lives."

The SPLC urges school districts to adopt policies that specifically address bullying based on sexual orientation or gender expression.

Bullied is the seventh film produced by the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program. Four of the program's past documentaries have been nominated for Academy Awards®, and two films – "A Time for Justice" and "Mighty Times: The Children's March"– have won the Oscar® in the short documentary category.

As one of the nation's leading providers of anti-bias education resources, Teaching Tolerance reaches hundreds of thousands of educators and millions of students annually through our award-winning Teaching Tolerance magazine, multimedia teaching kits, online curricula, professional development resources like the Teaching Diverse Students Initiative and special projects like Mix It Up at Lunch Day. These materials are provided to educators at no cost.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization, based in Montgomery, Ala., that combats bigotry and discrimination through litigation, advocacy and education. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.

SOURCE Southern Poverty Law Center



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