June is an exciting time for most school children. The pressure of the school year dissipates in that one glorious moment of caps in the air, or maybe simply the flutter of notebook paper and handouts set free in summer breezes from the back of the bus or from backpack parades. Freedom is wild and fantastic!
For all too many students, the last day of school promises even more freedom, but it’s fantastic at all. For bullied kids, the last day of school is a parole of sorts from the horrible torture of their classmates. With over 80% of LGBT kids reporting that they were harassed in the previous year and bullying rates as high as 9 out of 10 LGBT kids at some point in their youth, there are way too many queer kids walking out of school at the end of the year battle worn and in need of respite. That is if they in fact made it through the year. For obvious reasons, being the victim of bullying highly correlates with school dropout and suicide rates.
My hope is those kids come home to parents who get it. Who accept them and assure them of their inherent worth, and who try to figure out how to help create safer schools. Kids who are hit with the one-two punch of bullying at school and rejection at home or in their neighborhoods have it even harder.
It can be overwhelming as a parent to know that things are nightmarish for your child socially. While some behaviors can be contained with help from administrators, other biases and behaviors are more entrenched and take concerted efforts at all levels of a school’s culture, and some bullying gets worse when it’s addressed, and some is even more intractable.
June is also Pride month, where we celebrate freedoms that are actually quite related to freedom from traditional school bullying. One of the sweetest moments in Pride parades is always the marching of the PFLAG contingent. The original allies, PFLAG was founded in 1972 by Jeanne Manford who wanted to make a difference by standing up for her gay son by marching in a Pride parade. In celebration of heroes like Jeanne Manford, PFLAG is partnering with major corporations Johnson & Johnson and Walgreens in order to raise money for Safe Schools programs through a Care with Pride program. They are creating awareness about the bullying of LGBT kids through activities at Pride events, through advertising and through a coupon program.
I love that all of these amazing allies from individuals to corporations are circling wagons of care, trying to make things better for their children and for all of our children by making schools happy environments for learning instead of battlegrounds for preserving personal dignity against bullies.
I hope we use the inspiration of PFLAG to make sure we do our homework, our summer reading assignment if you will. We need to use our summertime to learn about how to improve our schools’ responses to bullying in general and to LGBT kids and to crafting plans with our school administrators before we ask these bullied kids to head back into a schoolyard nightmare. I’m all for kids feeling free on that last day of classes. I don’t even mind picking up some of their backpack or bus window parade litter as I walk through my neighborhood. I just want them to feel happy about summer for the right reasons, and most importantly, not to be afraid to go back to school in fall.
More info about Care with Pride.
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