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"It can reach out and get you 24/7. I think that's really hard for youth," says Vickie Henry, senior staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. "We've had situations with youth spending a lot of time online trying to respond to these attacks."

The same Iowa study found that gay-bullying victims were less likely to go to an adult for help, especially if their parents were inclined to restrict Internet access or take away their cell phones.

In an attempt to stop anti-gay harassment, Facebook has stepped up its reporting options and formed a coalition with groups like Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Advocates have fought in and out of court with school districts that claim to be absolved of responsibility for student behavior off school grounds.

Tyler Clementi's parents say that if their son's complaint had been taken seriously by his dorm's resident assistant, their son might still be alive today.

"Maybe if his RA had reported it as a crime right away, if some adults had gotten involved, the police could have assisted Tyler," says Jane Clementi. "We didn't know about it until it was too late."

They hope Tyler's story will open parents' eyes before it's too late.

"We realized that losing a child is probably the worst experience a parent can have," says Tyler's father, Joseph. "We started the Tyler Clementi Foundation to remember Tyler and try to keep other parents from going through the kind of suffering that we went through."

Yet social media has also been an invaluable tool for the anti-bullying movement. After Dan Savage posted the first It Gets Better video, he received 200 submissions in one week. Now the campaign counts 50,000 contributions — everyone from Adam Lambert to the L.A. Dodgers has participated.

"I just spoke at a high-school journalism conference in Seattle," says Savage. "There were thousands of high-school journalists, and half a dozen kids approached me and burst into tears because of the difference It Gets Better has made in their lives."

******

When schools tell students they can't have a same-sex prom date or wear a "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe" T-shirt, advocacy organizations like the ACLU, Lambda Legal and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) come to their aid. They now also have a powerful ally in the White House.

"Once Obama took office, people started really running," says Deborah Temkin, the Department of Education's research and policy coordinator for Bullying Prevention Initiatives. "We are engaged with nine other federal agencies, and I believe at last count it was 32 offices within those nine agencies all working on this issue, which is unprecedented. We came together without a congressional mandate."

Despite howls of outrage from Republicans, GLSEN founder Kevin Jennings was appointed to the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act became law, making assault based on sexual orientation a federal hate crime.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sent what's known colloquially as a "Dear Colleague" letter to every school in the country declaring that this administration would consider discrimination against LGBT students a potential violation of Title IX.

"We're seeing a much more active role by this administration," says Alison Gill, public-policy manager at GLSEN. "It's started to create this tipping point."

Two days after the "Dear Colleague" letter, the Department of Justice received a complaint from Wendy Walsh. She wrote that her son was harassed from the day he came out in sixth grade until the day he hung himself. Federal investigators took the case.

"Despite having notice of the harassment, the district did not adequately investigate or otherwise respond to it," the Office of Civil Rights concluded. "Based on the evidence gathered in the investigation, the departments concluded that the school district violated Title IX and Title IV."

New York Civil Liberties Union attorney Corey Stoughton reports that the Department of Justice was eager to help when she sued on behalf of Jacob Lasher, a gay student in the Mohawk school district of upstate New York who dropped out over violent threats from other students and harassment by teachers.

"They called us. They told us they'd been looking for a case to establish this Department of Justice's approach," Stoughton says of the DOJ. "The Bush administration never would have done this."

But no school district received as much national attention as Anoka-Hennepin in Minnesota. The district experienced nine student suicides in two years, many of them directly related to LGBT bullying. A district policy mandating that teachers remain "neutral" on topics of sexual orientation left the adults standing on the sidelines.

Six student plaintiffs told of being stabbed with pencils and urinated on in restrooms. The media frenzy culminated with a Rolling Stone article that caught the attention of celebrities including Aziz Ansari and Howard Stern.

"It was the first time anyone had taken any interest in what was actually going on," says Rebecca Rooker, whose son Kyle used to plead to come home from his Anoka-Hennepin school. "We got basically everything we asked for."

Years of denial finally ended when the district tossed out its "no homo promo" policy and agreed to five years of DOJ monitoring as well as a raft of anti-harassment precautions.

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20 comments
U.S. Citizen
U.S. Citizen

Wow - what a stretch to know what Romney's intent was when that incident occurred in 1960. That's pathetic journalism.

Nunya
Nunya

who finds Mitt handsome?

Phxguy1940
Phxguy1940

you want to find gays on campus? look first toward the athletic department and then to the administrators...youll find plenty of them there

Josejose
Josejose

Wow, this article is not biased toward homos and democrats at all is it?? Sickening

Faycless
Faycless

Homosexuals will be a federally protected class? What exactly does that mean?

SEO Company India
SEO Company India

I went to university in the Anoka-Hennepin section and the only factor about this that amazed me was that someone is lastly doing something about it. A lot of violence went on toward a lot of children for a lot of different factors and the educational institutions never did anything to try to quit it as far as I remember. Sometimes personal instructors would but the section as a whole didn't really health care all that much about their learners.

dirtydave777
dirtydave777

Lets all throw a pity party and elevate them higher on the Victim pedestal.The only thing lower than these social lowlifes are the whiners who encourage them.GROW UP and quit looking for reasons to be a crybaby.Life's hard.....It's even harder when your Stupid.

Phxguy1940
Phxguy1940

i'd like to see your comment after your gay son comes home beaten and bloody from bullying or your daughter is raped just to show her how "real men" take care of women...its knuckle draggers like you that perpetuate this kind of behavior...too bad you had to miss germany in the 30s...youd have really liked that

Crandle
Crandle

...when "your" Stupid.When your Stupid does what?

Funguy5244
Funguy5244

Dirty Dave thinks its ok to be cruel. I wouldn't want to be part of his family or his pet.

Terry Ray Anderson
Terry Ray Anderson

Most bullies have always been bullies from an early age. Corporate Bully Romney now wants to be President Bully Romney, having been Schoolhouse Bully Romney. Whether it was a gay kid or a fat kid or a forgeign kid or nerd kid is unimportant, bullying is unacceptable. It is the idiocy of power over those who have none, and it is un-American to allow ANY underdog to suffer ill treatment by those who gain their glory at the expence of those who cannot defend themselves.

calhounp
calhounp

I'd like to publish some of these comments -- even Wilk's -- in our print letters to the editor section, ideally with full names/towns. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

Jo Jonesey
Jo Jonesey

This is what Americans call "CIVILIZATION"?

Joey Loughary
Joey Loughary

gays are a center target for a lot i wonder if "brad" has ever been harassed in his life ... its nice to know that so much is being done about bulling in all spectrum's and one day maybe we wont have so many annoying dipsticks bulling and harassing people cause of the differences there are between them ....... there is still a lot we can do and a lot more should be done........... westword best blade of grass growing i have read keep up the good work

Brad
Brad

Hate to break it to you Westword but there are others living in this world who also get harassed besides gays. It seems to me you couldn't possible comprehend the idea of leaving the homosexual issue alone for 10 minutes and writing about other issues. Here is a small list of people who get harassed on a daily basis in our public school system.

Fat peopleSkinny peopleShort peopleTall peopleJewish peoplePeople who wear thick glassesNerdsFashion victimsVirginsGoths and freaksSluts

and the list goes on and on. Your articles are about as boring and dull as watching the grass grow. I think you can spare the general public from your next worthless article..."Cross dressing gays don't always feel accepted while riding the bus".

Someone
Someone

I went to school in the Anoka-Hennepin district and the only thing about this that surprised me was that someone is finally doing something about it. A lot of bullying went on toward a lot of kids for a lot of different reasons and the schools never did anything to try to stop it as far as I recall. Occasionally individual teachers would but the district as a whole didn't really care all that much about their students.

The Wilk
The Wilk

I wonder how newspapers like Westword survived without weekly stories promoting gay, marijuana, and goth newslines! Patty, you should be ashamed!

Lilly
Lilly

You're pretty stupid and really pathetic (and really confused).

Wilk the Moron has written in the past:

"It is not the duty of DPS to feed the world. Those kids need to carry lunch and eat breakfast at home like kids have done for two hundred years in this country. Their parents have set a great example of freeloading. Let's not teach the kids to do it for the next 75 years. And how many illegals are we feeding this week?" - Sigh... I hope you're never mistaken for a humanitarian or anyone with a soul. Quick, someone get the garlic and a wooden stake!

"These two are so anti-business that I can't believe the liberal Denver Post, mouthpiece for the N Y Times, has the guts to publish this article! Time after time, these hens vote anti-business. I can't believe the residents of Degette's district are stupid enough to fall for her extreme style of Socialism...unless they are all on welfare!" - You probably used a dictionary to look up socialism, but I don't think you really know what it means. Ask a Frenchman what socialism is and if we have it here in the US. We don't, you backwoods, redneck idiot.

"The very students that need abstinence only instruction are the very same students that fail in school, produce babies like rabbits, drop out, and are dependent on the government for the rest of their lives. They are raised w/o self control and are happy to display no self control when faced with sexual situations!" - Huh. That seems like a liberal idea. Are you a closet liberal, Wilk? It's said that some of the most anti-homosexual individuals out there are secretly gay and that their stance on homosexuality is meant to draw attention away from their true selves. I think you've just proven that the same concept applies to you, but you're hiding something a little different.

To top it all off, you're reading the Westword. You must be a gay stoner goth. You probably also like fish sticks. You probably like to put them in your mouth.

 
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