Quote of the day
"We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. "
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Saturday, February 16, 2008
California Middle School Student Murdered in School Because of Sexual Orientation
Students pass by a makeshift memorial honoring fifteen-year-old Lawrence King which lies beneath the flagpole at E.O. Green School Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008.
NEW YORK, Feb. 14, 2008 – Ten years after Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered because of his sexual orientation, a 15-year-old gay California student is brain dead after a student allegedly shot him because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.
Lawrence King, an eighth-grader at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, was being kept alive today for organ donation after being shot Tuesday morning in class. The 14-year-old attacker, among a group of students known to bully and harass King because he sometimes wore makeup and jewelry and told classmates he was gay, will be charged with murder and a hate crime.
“This incident of senseless violence is truly horrifying, and our hearts go out to the student’s friends, family and the E.O. Green School community,” said Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. “As a nation, we’ve had our heads in the sand for far too long. We need to do everything we can to prevent something like this from happening again.
“In doing so, it’s absolutely crucial that we name the problem of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment and address it directly to find a solution to the everyday fear that keeps countless youth from feeling safe in school. We must confront the fact that LGBT students are much more likely to be threatened with a weapon and much more likely to feel unsafe at school than other students.”
The 2001-02 California Healthy Kids Survey for the California Department of Education found that California students who were harassed because they are, or are perceived to be, gay or lesbian were more than five times more likely than other students who were not harassed to report being threatened or injured with a weapon (28% to 5%).
“I am deeply saddened by the terrible news about the shooting of Lawrence King. My prayers go out to all of Lawrence's friends and family,” said Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “This terrible incident underscores the fact that we cannot let hate go unchecked in our schools and communities. Our young people need our direction and guidance to prevent this type of crime from happening. I urge all parents and teachers to educate their children and students about acceptance, understanding and compassion.”
Two of the top three reasons students say their peers are harassed in school are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 Harris Interactive report commissioned by GLSEN. The top reason is physical appearance.
As was the case at E.O. Green Junior High, what begins as bullying and harassment too often escalates to violence. In GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey, nearly a fifth (17.6%) of LGBT students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past school year because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth (11.8%) because of their gender expression.
California is one of only 10 states that protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and one of only five that protect students from bullying and harassment based on gender identity/expression.
“Safe schools laws and policies are vitally important, but simply having a law is not enough,” Jennings said. “Schools need to implement staff development and trainings to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Schools also need programs that teach young people respect and tolerance. Every student deserves to feel safe in school. We must take action and take responsibility for our inaction.”
Another crucial intervention to protect students and all Americans is to pass the Matthew Shepard Act as an appropriate and measured response to the unrelenting and under-addressed problem of violent hate crimes committed against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN's educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
See story in the LA Times
Nearly 1,000 gather to remember Lawrence King
Lorri L. Jean's remarks on the killing of Lawrence King (Must See!)