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San Marin High School: Failure to Protect a Student?

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network Asks:

How Many More Must be Attacked Before We Act ?

Compiled By GayToday

schoolgang.jpg - 8.13 K New York, New York-- San Marin High School officials in Novato, California, were sharply criticized Tuesday by The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for allegedly failing to protect an openly gay high school student from repeated harassment and physical abuse.

The harassment culminated in a vicious physical attack last Friday, in which "fag" was carved into the student's chest and forearm. According to newspaper accounts, senior Adam Colton has been subject to ongoing verbal harassment at school, has had personal property vandalized on school grounds, and recently decided to enter an off-campus independent study program because he felt unsafe at school.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network again urged school officials around the country to step up efforts to provide safe and affirming school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation.

"The fact that any student feels a need to leave a school community because of fear for personal safety should outrage any parent," said GLSEN Communications Director Jim Anderson.

"Parents want assurance that when they send their kids off to school in the morning, they'll be returned in the same physical condition in the afternoon. That clearly isn't the case when talking about gay youth."

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According to newspaper accounts, Adam Colton, who came out at San Marin High School last September and went on to form a Gay/Straight Alliance club, awoke in the hospital last Friday with memory loss, substantial bruising and the word "fag" carved into his forearm and chest.

Police reportedly suspect the attack was bias-motivated and more than likely to have occurred on school campus. Anderson notes that if school officials consistently failed to provide a safe learning environment for the student, they could be found liable by a court of law.

He points to a 1996 decision in which Jamie Nabozny of Ashland, Wisconsin, was awarded nearly $1 million after a federal jury found school district officials liable for failing to protect him from anti-gay abuse ranging from verbal to physical harassment.

"Our schools simply fail to recognize and respond to the consistent harassment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) youth," Anderson continued.

"It's much easier to look at these incidents as isolated, as not happening 'in our school', than it is to acknowledge the statistics showing that LGBT students face varying degrees of emotional, verbal and physical harassment all the time, in school communities everywhere. How many more youth have to be attacked before we find the will to act?"

Studies show that:

  • Average high school students hear anti-gay epithets 25 times a day
  • When teachers hear these comments, they fail to respond 97% of the time
  • 76% of our nation's school fail to train teachers about issues facing gay youth
  • 80% of gay youth report having been verbally abused
  • Gay youth are more than five times as likely as their straight classmates to skip school because they feel unsafe
    The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is the largest national organization dedicated to ending anti-gay bias in public, private and parochial K-12 school. Established nationally in 1994, GLSEN now has 85 chapters in communities across the country.

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