School board decided to hide; nine students died

 

Courage can be described as displaying strength in the face of grief or taking the right action despite disapproval. This is not a blog about courage. It is a note on cowardice and how it potentially led to nine high school students’ suicides.

An article from this week’s Rolling Stone profiles a few of the teen suicides in a Minnesota school district, an area far right-wing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann once represented.

The Anoka-Hennepin school district’s policy did not adequately protect kids from being bullied for their sexual orientation. The policy confused some teachers to a point where if they witnessed students bullied about their sexual orientation, sometimes they simply ignored it. They feared losing their jobs.

I asked Eastern Michigan University junior and LGBT Resource Center Advocacy Coordinator Jennie Rokakis her thoughts on the school board.

She said, “The school district’s actions are deplorable. Teachers should be able to stand up against bullying and not fear that they are going to get fired.”

Even after the bullied kids began committing suicide at alarming levels, the school board refused to fully revise the policy, electing instead to offer a timid revision that caused even more confusion amongst teachers. Seemed the school board feared a handful of far right-wing groups guised as Christians.

What is even more despicable than not standing up to a few zealots is the school board deflected any responsibility for the suicides and blamed the dead students.

“It is sickening to hear of so many students committing suicide and yet the school district won’t step up and make strong policy changes, much less apologize,” Rokakis said.

Is there a word that describes lower than disgraceful?

Bachmann and her fellow far right-wing religious types have said homosexuality is a mental illness. I disagree. However, I cannot say the same for acts like the cowardice perpetrated by this school board — maybe they are just spiritually ill.

Rokakis urges anyone feeling suicidal to talk to someone and seek help.

“You are not alone and you have many people who love you just the way you are.”

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center is located in room 354 of the EMU Student Center. Their contact info is 734.487.4149 or lgbtrc@emich.edu. You can also visit their website at www.emich.edu/lgbtrc.

Students can also seek help from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on the second floor of Snow Health Center, 734.487.1122.

_This article was revised Feb. 6, 2012. _

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