UPDATE: April 13, 2009 – It saddens me to report that an 11-year old boy from Springfield, Massachusetts (my home state), hanged himself last week due to bullying over his perceived sexuality. Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover was found, by his Mother, hanging from an extension cord on the second floor of his home. According to his Mother, Carl had been repeatedly bullied and threatened at the Charter School that he attended as a sixth-grader.
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, almost 30% of youth in the U.S. are involved in bullying as either a bully, a target of bullying, or both. The Resource Center also reports that a survey of students in grades 6-10 shows that 13% report having bullied other students, and another 11% said they were the targets of bullying. A report released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday showed that the suicide rate among young male adults in the state rose 28% in 2007. The category, however, does not reflect deaths among teenagers and students Carl’s age.
According to Carl’s Mom, she reached out to the school on numerous occasions to support and protect Carl. Another life lost to fear, ignorance, and lack of school-authority training. My friends at GLSEN and The Trevor Project have already spoken out on this tragedy. Our schools remain unsafe for students. Carl should not have felt unsafe, unheard and alone.
Original post continues below…
Over the weekend I noticed a lot of traffic to my post on the anniversary of Lawrence King’s murder. I also noticed that variations of “gay teen” showed up a number of times in the past two weeks from search engine word searches. Seems like a good time to revisit some startling, and fairly unchanged, statistics relating to LGBT Youth (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender). During my 7+ years working with The Trevor Project we would quote, Suicide is among the top three causes of death among 15 – 24 year olds. According to the National Adolescent Health Information Center only motor vehicle accidents and homicide account for more deaths among this age group. Suicide is still a taboo subject in this country and certainly doesn’t get the attention that teens in car crashes or teen on teen homicide gets. By the way, all three leading causes are preventable. According to a recent Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey, LGBT Teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-gay peers. This doesn’t even account for questioning or closeted teens. According to a pediatrician friend, emergency room personnel might not even ask if gender identity was connected to a suicide attempt.
In a 2007 National School Climate Survey 86.2%of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically harassed and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
Murder, Assault, Suicide, Harassment in our schools? Yes! Gay teens remain at risk in today’s world. Fortunately, LGBT teens have a lot of resources available to them today. We have to make sure that they know that they have help. Besides The Trevor Project, there is GLSEN, the GSA Network, LifeWorks Mentoring, Project 10, and a whole network of online resources. Community support and assistance from these and other organizations, friends and family, can help turn these numbers around.
This Wednesday, March 11, 2009, the Douglas Blasdell Outreach Program and the Los Angeles City College Foundation host Celebration 2009. The Douglas Blasdell Outreach Program provides funding towards student scholarships, Gay and Lesbian awareness programs, HIV education material and other initiatives. More information can be found by clicking the link above or visiting the Where We Go section.