On Thursday we shared with you the story of Dynasty Young, the openly gay high-school student who's now facing expulsion after using an electrical self-protection device in response to severe bullying.
At Arsenal Technical High School in Indianaplois, Indiana, Dynasty's classmates cursed at him in the hallways, taunted him with anti-gay slurs, followed him home from his bus stop and on many occasions threw bottles and rocks at him while threatening to beat him up. All of this went on for months, and Dynasty's mother, Chelisa Grimes, repeatedly brought all of it to the attention of school administrators.
But the bullying continued. Larry Yarrell, the school's principal even went so far as to suggest that Dynasty was the cause - not the victim - of his own bullying. Rather than rightfully hold the school (and it's adult leaders) responsible for protecting Dynasty, Yarrell wrongfully places the burden on Dynasty, who at 17 years old is still legally a child.
"If you wear female apparel, then kids are kids and they're going to say whatever it is that they want to say," Yarrell said in an interview with Carrie Ritchie at The Indianapolis Star. "Because you want to be different and because you choose to wear female apparel, it may happen."
What Yarrell doesn't understand is that attitudes like this make it much more likely to happen.
According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) 2009 National School Climate Survey of 7,261 middle- and high-school students, nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students surveyed had skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
Discourged by the school's lack of responsibility for her son's physical safety and fearful that there may come a day when Dynasty did not return home, Chelisa was forced to ask herself a difficult question that no parent should ever have to ask:
How do I protect my son from danger while at school when the school itself will not?
Chelisa made what couldn't have been an easy decision for a parent to make: she sent her son to school with an electrical self-protection device. Dynasty was given clear instructions that the device was only to be used in the case of an emergency.
"I do not promote violence," Chelisa said in an interview with GLAAD. "Quite the contrary. When no one at the school took Dynasty's bullying seriously, I gave my son a self-protection device to stop the violence he was facing."
On April 16, after being cornered by a group of students who called him names, cursed and threatened to beat him up, Dynasty fired the device into the air. The students backed off, and no one was injured. Shortly thereafter, school police officers came into Dynasty's classroom and handcuffed him. Dynasty has been suspended from school and is now facing expulsion.
A hearing on whether to expel Dynasty took place on Wednesday, the outcome of which is said to come sometime next week.
In the meantime, GLAAD urges the media to cover this story in the thoughtful manner that it requires. The focus should not be on the electrical self-protection device, which was only ever discharged into the air. The focus here needs to be on the harm that Dynasty has experienced, the school's lack of proper response and on the question of just what exactly is a parent to do in a situation like Dynasty's? How do parents protect their children from bullying when the child's school refuses to take it seriously? Fair, accurate and inclusive media coverage will raise these important questions. Only by asking these questions now can we have real hope for a day when parents no longer have to.