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Safe Schools Coalition's letter regarding the article in Advocate magazine about Lawrence King
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Subject: fyi: Safe Schools Coalition letter to the Advocate
From: Beth Reis
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008

[:ssc907:] fyi: Safe Schools Coalition letter to the Advocate Dear Safe Schools Coalition members and friends:

March 25, 2008
Dear Advocate Editors:

Neal Broverman asks the important and provocative question, “Who’s to blame [for Lawrence King’s murder]?” http://www.advocate.com/issue_story_ektid52689.asp His answer seems to be, at least partially, the adult allies who, he says, encouraged Larry to be out. First, I would ask, “Did they?” Telling him he had a right to be himself and still be safe at school is not the same as encouraging him to be out or promising that he would, in fact, be safe. We weren’t there. We don’t know what grown-ups said to Larry.

Here’s what I would recommend to the teachers and allies of youth: It’s not adults' role to push someone in either direction (to be more out or to be more closeted). It's the adults’ responsibility to make sure every young person feels valued just as they are and to help young people to appreciate the possible costs of both openness and hiding. Because neither is without costs. Youth deserve to be supported in whichever choice they make.

Besides, I would question the assumption that being out increases a child’s risk. Gay and, especially, gender variant children are often harassed at school long before they are consciously deciding whether to be out or not. I doubt very much that the bullying Larry endured at school began in eighth grade when he went to live at Casa Pacifica. I would be flabbergasted to learn that it hadn't been happening since he was in kindergarten or first grade. Gender variant little kids don't "choose" to be defiant about the larger culture's gender straight-jackets; it’s how they’re born. They may become more overt about it as they become more aware, at puberty, of its meaning and of their rights, but the harassment is hardly something they bring on themselves. In fact, whether you’re gender variant or gay/lesbian/bi or both, coming out sometimes even reduces the harassment you experience. It's not so much fun to hurl the vicious, "What are you ... gay or something?!" at a person whose response is a simple, non-defensive "yes."

If adults did anything wrong, I doubt it was “urging” Larry to come out.

Maybe there were family dynamics that shaped Brandon; maybe there were mental health issues. Do we, as a culture, value family support and mental health care enough to provide it when it’s so crucially needed? Maybe Brandon had too easy access to a gun. Do we, as a culture, value freedom to shoot more than freedom to live? And, yes, the schools should be teaching about bias. Violence reduction and prejudice reduction must go hand-in-hand and the teaching shouldn’t stop at 5th grade. I agree with Kevin Jennings that schools, in this era of No Child Left Behind, are being forced to focus almost exclusively on test scores, to the exclusion of teaching pro-social skills and addressing prejudice. Are scores really what we, as a society, most value? How are Larry’s and Brandon’s test scores this year?

Let’s not, as a community, decide to encourage closets. Closets kill, too.

Sincerely,
Beth Reis, Co-Chair, Safe Schools Coalition

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Safe Schools Coalition member organizations include:

Ally Action
American Friends Service Committee
Anti-Defamation League
Diversity Productions
Families United Against  Hate
Gay & Gender Research
Gay Straight Alliance Network
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition
GLOBE (Snohomish County GLBTQ youth group)
GLSEN - Washington State
Greater Seattle Business Association
GroundSpark (formerly Women's Educational Media)
Human Rights Campaign
If You Don’t They Will
Ingersoll Gender Center
King County Sexual Assault Resource Center
Lake Washington Education Association
Lambert House
Lifelong AIDS Alliance
North Carolina Healthy Schools Initiative
OASIS Youth Center/Pierce County AIDS Foundation
Odyssey Youth Center
Olympia Community School
Oregon Safe Schools and Community Coalition
OSPI (The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State)
Passages Northwest
Peninsula Pride Alliance
PFLAG National – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – and 3 local chapters: Bellevue, Olympia, and Seattle

Planned Parenthood of Western Washington
Power of Hope
Pride Foundation
Public Health - Seattle & King County
Puget Sound Community School
Rainbow Beach at the Center Project
Ravenna United Methodist Church
Respect Sacramento
Safe Schools of Wyoming
St. Vrain Valley School District (Colorado)
Scouting for All
Seattle Counseling Service
Seattle LGBT Community Center
Seattle Public Schools
Turning Institute
University of Puget Sound
University of Washington - Q Center
Verbena
Vista Youth Center
Washington Association of School Social Workers
Washington Education Association
Washington Gender Alliance
Washington State University’s Gender Identity/ Expression & Sexual Orientation Resource Center
Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation
YouthAware Educational Theatre
Youth Guardian Services
Youth Suicide Prevention Program

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Seattle, WA 98122-4203

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About Safe Schools Coalition

The Safe Schools Coalition is a public-private partnership of 80+ organizations (government agencies, schools, community agencies, churches, youth/student groups, gay/lesbian groups, human rights groups) and 400+ individuals working to help schools become safe places where every family can belong, where every educator can teach, and where every child can learn, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Safe Schools' website: http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org

Got a problem at school with anti-gay harassment?
In Washington State:
1-877-SAFE-SAFE
(1-877-723-3723) 24 hours a day - the phone line is answered at the Sexual Assault Hotline and they will have a Safe Schools Coalition Intervention Specialist volunteer get back to you within 24 hours. Or contact us by email: Intervention

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For donations: "Safe Schools Coalition" c/o Lifelong AIDS Alliance, 1002 E Seneca, Seattle, WA 98122-4203 (or call 206-957-1621)

Co-Chairs:
Frieda Takamura, Washington Education Association, 253-765-7062
Elizabeth “
Beth” Reis, Public Health - Seattle & King County, 206-296-4970
Marsha Botzer, Ingersoll Gender Center and The Task Force, 206-601-8942

Listserv Managers:
Beth Reis, for news and action items, resource messages (books, films, curricula, etc.) and help needed by reporters/authors, researchers, and member orgs

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Gabi Clayton, for legislative/elective and fundraising messages

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This message has been distributed as a free, non-profit informational service, to members of the Coalition and others who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. Please do not publish or post in a public place on the Internet, copyrighted material without attribution. Forwarding of this material should not necessarily be construed as an endorsement of the content.

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FUAH's Letter regarding the shooting death of Lawrence King in Oxnard CA by Steve Schalchlin - here

 

Information On Two Memorial Funds for Lawrence King and Other Responses to the Killing of Lawrence King here

 

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