Harassment in the Hallways Leads to Violence
March 26, 2008
On February 12, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot at E. O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. The gunman was Larry’s classmate 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, according to police. Larry died later in the week after being taken off of life support. According to classmates, Larry identified as gay and sometimes wore feminine clothing, jewelry and makeup to school. Brandon was one of a group of students that harassed Larry because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.
What may have started as verbal harassment, like name-calling and making threats, turned into physical violence and ultimately Larry’s death. The reality is that every day, thousands of teens across the country like Larry are bullied and harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
Senseless and shocking school shootings have left many teens afraid and wondering “Could this happen at my school?” The truth is that yes, it could. But there are ways we can prevent shootings like the one that happened in Oxnard, California. You can help put an end to bullying and harassment of GLBTQ people in a few simple ways:
1) Listen up. If you pay attention to the words people use you might be surprised. A lot of people say things like “that’s so gay” and “no homo” all the time without ever realizing that they are creating an unfriendly environment for GLBTQ people. Harassing people with words like “faggot” and “dyke” is extremely hurtful and can easily turn into physical harassment. So, before you say “that’s so gay,” stop and think about the meaning behind those words. Read up on how these hateful words have affected the lives of teens in school.
2) Speak out. If you know someone is being bullied and harassed because of his or her sexual orientation or gender expression, tell someone, preferably a trusted adult. You might think this issue has nothing to do with you, or you might be afraid that if you get involved, people will harass you, too. But NOT taking action can lead to continued harassment and even violence. Let the end of discrimination and violence begin with YOU. Check out some ways that you can speak out.
3) Improve sex ed. Fear and intolerance of GLBTQ people is usually due to belief in stereotypes and misinformation. Not all sex ed classes cover sexual orientation and gender. But if they did, they would give teens accurate information and a chance to explore how they feel about these topics. Think changing sex ed in your school is impossible? Check out this story on how one teen changed sex ed all over Chicago!
Visit the “Remembering Lawrence King” MySpace profile and add them as your friend to show your support. Find more ways to make a difference in your school and get information on GLBTQ issues and other teen sexual health topics like sex, relationships and birth control at Sexetc.org.