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LAUSD fights anti-gay bullying at schools

October 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Los Angeles Unified School District has partnered with the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to launch a new program designed to help gay and lesbian youth deal with bullying because of their sexual orientation.As part of the new Safe Space program, school teachers and staff members will receive kits to help them create a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students. The kit provides reading information on how young people can deal with on-campus bullying, cyber bullying, coming out, and homophobia.

"The key to student achievement and to student well being is knowing that they have the support and care of adults in their school community and they have somewhere to turn when they are in trouble," said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN.

According to GLSEN, nine out of 10 LGBT youth are harassed at school because of their sexual orientation and four out of 10 students report that they have been physically harassed at schools. The group is hoping that this program will help reduce those kinds of statistics.

Anti-gay harassment is to blame for the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and three other young people in three recent weeks. Many celebrities are now lending their voices in hopes of changing a homophobic climate in schools nationwide.

Country singer Chely Wright, who came out to the public in May, is helping promote the Safe Space program now in place in L.A. and schools in Maine and New York.

"I am a happy, well-adjusted Christian woman with good family values but I am a lesbian. And this was important to me to make certain that young people who feel alone that they feel less alone," said Wright.

Students at James Monroe High School, where the program was launched Thursday, say in recent years gay and lesbian students and others who are perceived as being different are finding a greater acceptance amongst their peers.

"As students we all are there for each other in support. When we see something happening like that we always stand up for each other. And I think year by year as I have been here as a student, I've seen our support for each other just increase throughout the years," said student Yesenia Gutierrez.

"We now realize that there's no differences with one another and that we're all the same just of different thinking and points of view," said student Nirav Prajapati.


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