Surge in Anti-Gay Bullying Suicides or Surge in Politics?

Posted by on October 10, 2010

Saturday’s Associated Press story entitled, “Suicide surge: Schools confront anti-gay bullying,” raises a couple of important questions:

  1. How do people know within hours or even days that the reason behind a teen suicide is because of bullying or anti-gay harassment? Can the reason(s) behind a suicide be determined that quickly? What type of formal investigations, if any, are conducted by professionals to determine the causes of the suicide and do they not take longer than a few hours or days?
  2. Are anti-bullying advocates, gay rights advocates, and the media too quick to jump to conclusions in attributing suicides as anti-gay and/or caused by bullying?
  3. Is there statistical evidence of an increase in teen suicides directly and solely caused by bullying and/or anti-gay harassment or has the recent spate of incidents in national media created the perception of a statistically-significant increase over a broader period of time?
  4. In the study of suicidology, is there even actual evidence-based research concluding that bullying can be a sole and direct cause of a suicide, or are there typically other underlying mental health issues making a person who completes suicide more vulnerable?

Surge in Suicide or Surge in Politics Behind Anti-Bullying Advocacy?

While questions loom around a “surge” in suicides directly and solely caused by bullying, it is clear that there has been a surge in politics behind anti-bullying and civil right advocacy.

An October 5th article in Citizenlink (a Focus on the Family affiliate) entitled, “Teen Suicide is a Complex Issue” challenges The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy organziation, for calling on Education Secretary Arne Duncan to push for anti-bullying policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.   

The article goes on to note that, “…respected researchers and experts on the issue of suicide have long warned that oversimplified, sensationalized and snap-judgment reporting of the issue can actually have a detrimental impact.”

On Saturday, candidates for governor in Minnesota drew headlines by debating the need for, and value of, anti-bullying laws. 

The politics on school anti-bullying laws and policies in Minnesota goes deeper than the race for governor.  The Associated Press story features the political tensions in the Anoka-Hennepin School District following a gay student’s suicide.  The story reports of a politically diverse school-community, a politically-sensitive school board, and a superintendent who claims he might bring in the Justice Department to mediate disputes between gay rights advocates and conservatives who are strongly divided on the issue.

The Minnesota Family Council strongly holds that bullying policy should focus on the wrong actions of the bullies and not the characteristics of the victim, according to the story.

Meanwhile, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) argues for policies which “name the problem,” says GLSEN’s executive director, Eliza Byard.

GLSEN, and more specifically Byard, appear to have taken their advocacy to the Minnesota school district according to posts on GLSEN’s Twitter site back on September 27th:

EByardHeaded to MN to join Anoka Hennepin advocates in call for effective anti-bullying policies and greater support for district schools. @glsen 10:17 AM Sep 27th via web

EByard Inspired by statments of Anoka Hennepin Gay Equity Team at this afternoon’s event. Hoping for progress @ School Board mtg tonight. @glsen 5:26 PM Sep 27th via txt Retweeted by glsen and 1 other

This is an interesting example of how national and local special interest advocates, along with social media, can multiple forces upon a school district in a very short period of time.

Political Impact Hard on Local School District

The Associated Press story highlights how this political battle impacts a local school district:

Carlson says his district, seven years ago, was among the first in the state to implement a comprehensive anti-bullying program. Now he’s exasperated by the highly charged, politicized debate that has flared since Aaberg’s suicide.

“It’s a terribly sensitive situation,” he said. “Hurtful statements on either side are not helpful … and the kids are watching.”

Are your school boards, superintendents, and principals ready if the politicization of bullying and school safety lands in their office?

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

2 thoughts on “Surge in Anti-Gay Bullying Suicides or Surge in Politics?

  1. Michael B. Music says:

    Grace and Peace,

    Two thoughts:

    Besides limiting bullying and controling bullies, it is imperative to empower any who may be possible victims of bullying. Attitude adjustments and a positive self-concept are at the core of it.

    I once talked to a Gay Latino teen boy who was taunted for being Gay and found it degrading and almost unbearable.

    As his older “Gay brother” ( closer to Gay grandfather ) I mostly listened and told him how I could relate his experiences to some of mine.

    Then I asked him if ugly comments about his Mexican-American identity and background would be just as bad to experience.

    ” Hell No ! he exclaimed, going on to tell me what he’d tell … and the rest of his words are unsuitable for delicate readers, but were certainly unambiguous.

    I suggested that in he imagine equally blunt and unambiguous things to say to fag-haters. And he promised to think about it and talk to me again soon.

    My second idea, consistant with stressing the positive and lighting candles rather than cursing darkness ~ or bullies is this.

    Stress the practice of exceptional, remarkable, conspicuous KINDNESS as a lifestyle. Make Kindness the mark of strength, street smarts, and real virility.

    Get kids into competitions to see who can be the Kindest — dream up Kindness Olympics, organize Kindness teams perhaps even a Kindness World Series ?

    I’m a grumpy old man and even I have, on occasion, been described as kind.

    If I can, you can ~ almost anyone can !

    Be well

    Michael B. Music
    San Francisco, Ca.

  2. Kristin Land says:

    Kindness is key, yes. But where does kindness start? It starts in the home. That’s what is lacking in our kids is indeed, kindness in the home. Kinds practice what they learn. It’s not entirely up to our school districts to put an end to bullying. It’s up to us parents…it starts about the age of 1 year old. Kids hear it, repeat it, live it. So the next time you say something in your home to your children, stop yourself and imagine them repeating it and inturn becoming a bully to someone some day. It’s NOT okay for our kids to make unkind statements. Just today my daughter said she thought one of our sons friends was “fat” – NOT OKAY. I stopped her in her tracks and told her that was unkind. Try to get your kids to enpathize growing up what it would feel like to be that bully’d child. But to me, it seems like everyone is trying to take the strawberry icing off the cake and replace it with another flavor when really, we need to change the recipe before it hits the pan. Be kind to eachother!!! Peace! – Sonoma, CA

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