Religion’s role in gay teen suffering

When I behold the callous reaction of some right-wing Christian fundamentalist leaders to the rash of bullying-related teen suicides, I … Continued

When I behold the callous reaction of some right-wing Christian fundamentalist leaders to the rash of bullying-related teen suicides, I can only recall the famous question that the lawyer Joseph Welch asked in 1954 of a witness in the Army-McCarthy hearings: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins says that the gay suicides are caused not by bullying but by the inner understanding of the teenagers that homosexuality is “abnormal.” There is no correlation, he told NPR, between societal attitudes toward homosexuality and “depression and suicide.” Perkins sees gay activism by students as the real problem. The solution: more activism by “Christian” high school students aggressively promoting the case that homosexuality is a sin. Yes, that should prevent tormented gay teenagers from hanging themselves or jumping off bridges and persuade high school bullies not to slam gays (or people whom they think are gay) against lockers or taunt them to tears: Tell the kids that gays–not people who torment gays–are going to hell.

In October, the U.S. Department of Education informed schools tht they were obligated by civil rights laws to try to prevent all forms of harrassment and bullying, including those based on sexual orientation. Schools are left to decide for themselves how best to do that. It’s disgusing that anyone has to remind schools of their obligation to maintain a safe environment for all students.

In many areas of the country, right-wing church leaders and parents have objected to any mention of homosexuality at school (except by those who hate gays) and have demanded that parents be allowed to withdraw their children from any courses in which the subject is discussed. These are, in fact, the same people who don’t want any honest information about hetereosexuality taught in sex ed classes.

After two suicides by gay students, the Anoka-Hennepin Country school district specifically included gay and lesbian students, along with other target groups, in its anti-bullying policies. But the schools also stated that teachers must be neutral on questions of sexual orientation and not endorse gay parenting. In some instances, children of gay couples have been bullied whether the young people are gay or not.

It’s important to realize that bullying is not just a “gay” issue. About 30 percent of American sixth-to-tenth graders say they have been involved in bullying, according to a 2008 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is however, much more common to be bullied if you’re gay. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Network’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, more than 60 percent of gays said they felt unsafe in school.

Other groups targeted for bullying–if I’m remembering my own school years correctly–are overweight teens (especially girls), kids who seem too studious and don’t hide their intelligence, and boys of small physical stature. In the early 1960s in Okemos, Michigan, most of us had only the vaguest idea of what homosexuality was, but it’s significant that boys who were athletically inept or particularly good students (unless they were also jocks) were often called effeminate. So the prejudice was out there, even though it wasn’t articulated because there was no such thing as an openly gay student in an ordinary high school in middle America at that time.

What has changed–apart from the presence of gays openly demanding their civil rights–is, of course the Internet and the the tendency of many teenagers to flout authority in ways that were simply not tolerated in most schools 50 years ago. The kind of language many kids routinely apply to one another today–particularly slurs against women and gays–are often ignored by school officials, in part because they know that many parents won’t back them up if the students are punished.

I remember very well when one of my classmates became pregnant as a junior in high school–a real scandal in a small town at that time. The school administration–progressive, I believe, for its day–decided that this girl would be allowed to finish the school year. I’m sure that she must have been mortified, and must have endured some taunting from some students, but teachers and most of our parents made it clear to us that “teasing” (as they called it) was not acceptable. A lot of students stood up for this girl and her right to an education. A boy who taped a picture of a nursing mother to her locker was suspended for a week and told he would be expelled if anything like that ever happened again.

I don’t know how much schools can really do to promote genuine “tolerance” of anything that differs from what teens consider their norm. I suspect that many fundamentalist parents, in objecting to any explicit discussion of either homosexuality or the existence of families with gay parents, are exaggerating the degree of influence that schools have over students. Schools are certainly powerless to affect what all teenagers can do on the Interent if they want to torment their peers. But I know one thing schools can do: they can police the halls and lunchrooms vigorously and make certain that every student is safe within the classroom–not only physically safe, but safe from the kind of ridicule that scars kids for a lifetime.

Another thing an intelligent school administration could do is bring in alumni who were victims of bullying in middle and high school–alumni whom kids can recognize as successful adults–to talk about the lives they have today as well as their experiences in high school. The Fort Worth City Council member, Joel Burns, who spoke up about what bullying meant to him, did a powerful lot of good. I’d like to see a lineup of successful gay men and women, successful overweight men and women, successful scientists and scholars–all of whom were bullied for different reasons in high school–telling their stories in terms that the most hardened teen tormenters and the most vulnerable kids can understand.

The real problem for gays, of course, is that many gay-baiting teens are influenced by what they hear every day from adult gay-baiters in pulpits and in homes. Schools can’t do anything about that, but they can offer their students an alternative view. It is the obligation of educational institutions to offer a vision of a broader world: that is the very definition of education, derived from the Latin verb ducere–”to lead out.”

And by the way, bullying is too weak a word for kicking a gay teen in the testicles on the way home from school or posting intimate pictures on the Web. The right words are violence and cruelty. The fundamentalists who talk about hating the sin and loving the sinner, who shirk all responsibility for creating a climate in which teens are humiliated and made to feel unworthy of life, are conscienceless bigots. It almost makes me wish there were a Judgment Day on which they would be punished as they have contributed to the punishment of innocent young people in this life.

About

Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism"­ and is completing a secular history of religious conversion.
  • WmarkW

    “It’s gets better” is a good theme for teenagers whose life is unhappy due to anti-gay bullying or any other reason. Since they’ve experienced few perspectives in their comparative short and often sheltered lives, it’s extremely common for them to exaggerate every occurence into a disaster (“I’ll just DIE if Phil doesn’t go to the dance with me.”)During my mid-teens, a sometimes-friend committed suicide because he was going to get in trouble with his father over repeated trespassing incidents involving a local business. Someone really should have been able to tell him, that after taking his lumps, life does get much better.School students have been bullying each other since time immemorial. Although Susan above does look in bullying in a broad context, this really became an issue recently specifically due to bullying of gays. It doesn’t seem to have been an important issue to liberals as long as the victims were those overweight, studious, unathletic or unpopular; it only came to the front when they could associate it with one of their officially recognized victim groups.In my school, a lot of bullying was by black students of whites. I don’t suppose we’re going to discuss THAT as a group identity issue.

  • BillJ4321

    You can bet your bottom dollar that if the situation was reversed, and gay children were brutalizing, degrading, and tormenting heterosexual children to the point of suicide, a landscape of laws regarding this behavior would have already been passed.What isn’t being said here, is that IT DOESN’T GET BETTER. And your gay children see that. They see that when they finally do get to leave school, THEY WILL FACE THE SAME TREATMENT FROM ADULTS. They will be beaten in the streets. They will be spit upon in public. They will be told that they can not marry. They can not serve their country, and that in 30 states, they can lose their job and their home for being gay.So really, WHEN does it get better and FOR WHOM, exactly???Seriously, if we can not even have an honest conversation about what is going on in this country, how in the hell do we expect our children to stop their violence and hatred toward gay citizens, when the adults participate in this behavior right along-side their children.I have yet to hear an intellectually honest discussion on this matter. Bullying isn’t a child’s problem, it is an adult problem.They are learning this by watching American adults, and how most of YOU treat gay citizens. Your refusal to acknowledge this assures that many, many more children will die. And it seems that if contained to gay children, no one really cares.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Susan,You ought to communicate to Tenety et al that your column is not on the Main Page. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of broadcasting to folks the links to your current and new columns every time they are removed–for mysterious reasons.Your last one was replaced by an essay on the niqab which has gone nowhere and which was originally accompanied by a thumbnail of you. As I mentioned on your last thread, Ender3 rushed to your defense big time, and the thumbnail was removed.Please help; this is annoying.

  • WmarkW

    Susan,You ought to communicate to Tenety et al that your column is not on the Main Page.It IS on the Main Page; it’s just not the headline blog with photo. It’s the one under it.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    BillJ4321The reason why gay teens and young adults kill themselves is because the bullying that they are subjected to seems sanctioned by important parts of society, by the churches, prominent and respected political parties, by their own friends, and even their own relatives. When children, kids, and teenagers, as well as young adults are in the process of maturing and acquiring worldly wisdom, they cannot put it together that even very important people, even the POPE, can be wrong. It is hard to resist the loud voices of so many, telling you that you are an abomination in the name of God, and basically daring you to live unhappily or kill yourself.”It gets better … ” means that in time, gay people acquire the wisdom to face down the religious political hypocrites and tell them it is they who are wrong, not gay people, it is they who are mixed up, not gay people, and it is they who need psychiatric counseliing, not gay people, it is they who MUST change, not gay people.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    When I was a little kid and a teenager, I was the typical target of the bully-mentality, sort of a nerdy egg-head. Somehow, I managed to fend them off and did ok for myself. In reaction to being bullied, I put off a hostile, cold, and silent vibe and didn’t cry or speak much in reply. They usually just gave up and left me alone.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Susan,You ought to communicate to Tenety et al that your column is not on the Main Page.It IS on the Main Page; it’s just not the headline blog with photo. It’s the one under it.There is a point at which I understand the agony of conservatives with PC, not of you, Mark, but of others.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Maybe, send those in charge to Mexico. Alternatively, talk to the students and see what’s up.It’s been known to happen.

  • Susan_Jacoby

    This message is specifically for WMARKW:You’re so on the lookout for what you consider liberal PC behavior that you don’t seem to realize that I consider bullying of gays–which only became a “hot” issue after several gay teenagers committed suicide–a good opportunity to discuss bullying in general. Bullying is always directed toward minorities–whether a white in a majority black school, a black in a majority white school (you don’t think they get bullied too?), a very smart, studious kid in a school that exalts mediocrity, or just a kid who looks “different.” I agree with everyone on this thread who says these attitudes originate in the home, but that does not negate the obligation of schools to create as safe an environment as possible, insofar as that is within their power, for all students. Schools today do a lot better job of protecting identifiable racial minorities than they do of protecting the less obvious targets of bullies, so I think that while the tragic results of gay teenagers driven to suicide represent an extreme, they also represent what others have endured. The basic attitude of most schools has always been “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls.” This is not a “group identity” issue. It is an issue of whether schools expect civilized behavior on their premises, or whether they don’t.

  • eezmamata

    If the gays and the christians could meet, somewhere in Antarctica or the Sahara for example, and open fire on each other, we might be able to rid ourselves of both of them.Sure, lots of good gay people and good christians would die, but then all the bad ones would die too.Sound crass, unenlightened? Well, I’d sure like to get rid of Tony Perkins and those other evil SOBs trying to murder the gays. I’d be willing to pay the cost.LOL!

  • armandduncan83

    “I’d like to see a lineup of successful gay men and women, successful overweight men and women, successful scientists and scholars–all of whom were bullied for different reasons in high school–telling their stories in terms that the most hardened teen tormenters and the most vulnerable kids can understand.”If you think that that is likely to have any effect other than to harden the little bastards’ hearts, or make their eyes glaze over, you have serious misconceptions about the nature of teenage boys.

  • texanpotomac

    “Now this just a liberal PC idoleogical position of the “blacks can’t be racists” vintage.”You do realize that you wrote that right after quoting Jacoby giving a white student as a majority black school as a potential target of bullying? It helps to read the words!

  • WmarkW

    @texanpotomac: Welcome, I don’t remember seeing your name before.The issue I was taking was with the point “bullying is always directed toward minorities,” although the minority status can be local like whites at a black school, or socially-defined like nerdy studious kids.I don’t think minority/majority status is a necessary element, unless one defines minority as someone whose vulnerability is insufficiently stood up for by the surrounding culture and authorities, and majority as someone whose wrongful actions are tolerated by them. But that’s a kind of circular definition. Privileged athletes can terrorize regular kids, like in Columbine, without there being a majority/minority dynamic working.Caveat: I’ve never lived in a family with a school-age girl in it, so my experience is limited to males. But the Jena Six case reveals another side to bullying dynamics. The Six were the kind of privileged athletes that can get away with a lot of stuff, and did. As soon as someone tried to discipline them for seriously assaulting a (white) student, they suddenly became victims of a racist system. You really think in most modern schools black-on-white bullying is taken as seriously as white-on-black, when society at large almost invariably considers the latter, but not the former, racially motivated?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    ON religion and bullying of gays and minorities:Yes, religion contributes to the bullying of gays and Jews. MOst ignored with respect to the former is the large number of black churches which discriminate against gays openly. Accusations of effeminacy are actually used by ministers to bring wayward straight teens in line.Now, here is where Mark may have a solid point. I’ve seen the victims of black Christian gay hatred and have posted on this issue many times, asking that OnFaith address it. OnFaith, however, prefers the formula of white Christian conservative bigots against the good guys, whether gay or other. Boring, dishonest, Leftette drivel.As for the church encouraging bullying against minorities–the Jews killed Christ.And let us not leave out Islam on either of the foregoing.

  • Jihadist

    “Boys will be boys, girls will be girls” would seemingly seem to be the attitude in mixed gender schools. In all girl schools there are alpha females who do bully others they deem wonkish, non-sporty, nerdy, geeky, dweeby, or just plain unstylish, untrendy girls. The word used is not teasing, but “ragging” apart from “bullying”.In my neck of the woods, the primary all girl schools (6 – 12 years old) I went to are not the problem. The secondary all girl schools (12 to 17 years old) which is part boarding school, is – the seniors ragging the juniors, and their fellow classmates.Being in all girl schools seem to free girls to be competitive and perform well in sports and academically without boys “teasing” and “distracting” or having the burden to act to “gender” stereotypes and expectations, but it also makes girls more aggressive and become bullies too, in ways more insidious than physical bullying. For some girls, words can be more scarring that a punch in the face. So too for boys if they will admit it, or there won’t be fist fights on slurs and insults leveled at them. If they dare fight back, for bullies always seem to run in packs. Slurs and insults are the verbal equivalent of a fist fight apart from deliberate degradation and dehumanisation.Which bring us back to gay suicides brought on and about by bullying. Where, who are the Harvey Milks of today to fight off the Anita Bryants of today? God help us if the school bullies resort to explaining their behavior due to eating too much Twinkies, were high on Twinkies as the “Twinkies defence” for their behaving insensitively and badly. The dragging to court of a former deputy prime minister over here on sodomy charges is disgusting and dismaying, and there is also a first “politically-religiously” correct and “approved” movie on and about gays. Oh yes, that “first” gay movie here made me rent “Milk” and thus know of Harvey Milk’s battles for gay rights in the seventies in the last century in San Francisco. Nothing quite change for gays as yet – coming out and beaten back, coming out and beaten back to the closets and the shadows.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    SUSAN JACOBY:How about an article on anti-gay bias in African American churches? There are some black church leaders who are combating it and are having a hard time. They could use a hand.An interview with Dan OlweusAn article on skepticism–its early roots, etc.Definition of secular humanism. Explain what atheism, agnosticism offer in lieu of godliness. Atheism is more than NON.

  • onthejourney

    The quote from Mr. Perkins seems devoid of anything Christian. I wonder how he’d feel if his child was the subject of such hatred.

  • WmarkW

    The quote from Mr. Perkins seems devoid of anything Christian. I wonder how he’d feel if his child was the subject of such hatred.(Note: the above contains no implication of my own opinion.)

  • WmarkW

    I worry when people suggest making an exception to First Amendment principles for connotive judgement-laden words, like whether “pornography” is an exception to a free press or “worshiping evil spirits” to freedom of religion or “hate”, “harassment” or “bullying” is an exception to free speech. Using the info on the Wiki page, Phoebe Prince was the victim of a defined crime (having a paint can thrown at her) and a whole bunch of speech whose evaluation is in the eye of the beholder, like taunting, bullying and harassment. (Other than the statutory rape, a charge that implies she was a willing accomplice.) It could well be that social networking websites have allowed the taunting of a single individual to go viral, if that’s the right cyber-term. One person taunts you, so you avoid them. It sounds in Price’s case that Facebook or similar had enabled the creation of a school-wide network all targeting the same individual. If that’s the problem, then making it a crime is not the solution.It also sounds like the taunting was from other girls over Prince’s perceived sexual availability. This is a common, and many would argue, a valid social technique. If there’s a supply of easy girls around, it cheapens the relationship value of other girls and puts pressure on them to be similarly loose, so girls ostracize their classmates who appear to be giving it up too easily. If that’s the problem, again making more laws is not the solution.So is the issue here that teens have coarse manners? What else is new? Maybe it’s that social networking has created 24/7 taunting opportunities. That’s one of those “our morals don’t always keep up with our technology” problems. But “we need laws to protect a group I like from speech I disagree with” needs better justification than “they shouldn’t have to put up with hearing their deeds criticized.”

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WmarkW I agree with Susan. You seem to be hyper aware of rooting all that is PC.But in doing, you seem to defend the bullies; you have a definite anti-gay bias.That is too bad.

  • WmarkW

    Since there’s apparently some confusion about my position, and I’m the only one not totally on board with the consensus position, let me articulate my contrary position from the beginning. Let’s assume we’re not talking about assault or other established crimes here, just speech as bullying.1. We’re discussing having government limit free speech. Either passing laws against bullying, or school officials (government agents) prohibiting its practice within their jurisdiction. This is something that should be done with the utmost care.2. The arguments presented here all appear to be along the lines of how awful it is to bully someone. Fine. But that’s because bullying is a subjective term, and one person’s bullying is another’s strenuous argument. If you want to make a free speech exception, you have to have a definition of what it is that is available for everyone to apply.3. When you start proposing laws based on perception terms like “bullying” you’re asking government agents to draw subjective lines about where it starts and stops. According to Susan’s message to me (November 12, 2010 6:45 PM), bullying in her view is something always directed to minorities, although there are broad categories of those. This sounds like a method to limit the expression of majority opinions if minorities don’t like them. 4. The primary examples that have been used in this discussion have involved gays. Contrary to what some people would like to believe, gayness is a controversial issue. The tone of discussion here is that speaking against gayness is like calling black people N-words. That is an opinion. Others think it’s like telling drug addicts to get clean. That’s an opinion, too. I don’t think we’re going to hear anyone complain about bullying of known drug users, since that’s obviously an opinion people have the right to express.5. So what’s being proposed is essentially an opinion-regulation law. Gayness is something honorable and the people who disagree are simply hating and their opinions don’t deserve respect. In other words, one opinion on homosexuality is to be codified into law as the only legitimate one.

  • areyousaying

    Maybe, send those in charge to Mexico. Alternatively, talk to the students and see what’s up.It’s been known to happen.Posted by: FarnazMansouri2Keep your “Christian” trash there. I moved to Mexico to escape them.

  • Jihadist

    The essence of humiliation is being mocked when you know your mockers have a point. The implication of Clementi’s suicide was that he agreed with those who were mocking him. But how could that be so after all the decades of propaganda — which has nowhere been more intensive than at our residential colleges?- John Derbyshire*******************************************The point of the mockers are that, they are in power, they have the power, they have the upper hand as there are more of them. Humiliators and mockers are usually of the majoritarian ethnic, religious and behaviorial groups. Members of the majoritarian right hander would sometimes mock or tease left handers as “lefties”. In schools, it is usually called “peer pressure”. In adult life and society at large, the term used is usually “mainstream” values and norms – usually those of prevailing majority ethic and religious majority. Surely Mr. Derbyshire understands the very simple fundamentals of anthropology, sociology and psychology; press pressure, majoritarian norms and values; teens with hormones raging and finding themselves, finding out who they are etc. Can anyone imagine what it would be like for a 15 year old left-handed African-American Scientologist who did very well academically, into country music, who realised she’s gay, likes the Pepublican platform of the Barry Goldwater sort, and prefers to read anything by the Bronte sisters over anything written by Maya Angelou?

  • Jihadist

    The essence of humiliation is being mocked when you know your mockers have a point. The implication of Clementi’s suicide was that he agreed with those who were mocking him. But how could that be so after all the decades of propaganda — which has nowhere been more intensive than at our residential colleges?- John Derbyshire*******************************************The point of the mockers are that, they are in power, they have the power, they have the upper hand as there are more of them. Humiliators and mockers are usually of the majoritarian ethnic, religious and behaviorial groups. Members of the majoritarian right hander would sometimes mock or tease left handers as “lefties”. In schools, it is usually called “peer pressure”. In adult life and society at large, the term used is usually “mainstream” values and norms – usually those of prevailing majority ethic and religious majority. Surely Mr. Derbyshire understands the very simple fundamentals of anthropology, sociology and psychology; press pressure, majoritarian norms and values; teens with hormones raging and finding themselves, finding out who they are etc. Can anyone imagine what it would be like for a 15 year old left-handed African-American Scientologist who did very well academically, into country music, who realised she’s gay, likes the Pepublican platform of the Barry Goldwater sort, and prefers to read anything by the Bronte sisters over anything written by Maya Angelou?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Of course, throwing pennies at Jewish students, bashing in my Jewish daughter’s teeth don’t count because Jews are sui generis.Did this happen in America? We have strong hate CRIME (not speech) laws to protect this. Verbal antisemitism is prevalent as well. Hate speech, such as that directed against Jews and gays is not protected by the First Amendment.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Those who drove Samantha Kelly and Phoebe Prince to suicide should, IMO, rot in jail.

  • joe_allen_doty

    An anti-Christ person, that’s what an atheist really is, shouldn’t be the one leading a discussion on this topic. I don’t understand why an “I have no faith… I am an atheist” person even is allowed to post a “blog” of sorts in the “On Faith” section online.

  • WmarkW

    Those who drove Samantha Kelly and Phoebe Prince to suicide should, IMO, rot in jail.From what I read on Wiki, Price and Kelly were driven to suicide by the accumulated effect of a large number of people parroting the same taunts (a generic term that could encompass harassment or bullying, depending on circumstance). if the problem was that she could have tolerated 2-3 people doing it, but not 100, then that’s not a problem well-addressed through the legal process. It’s difficult to make a crime out of being one of 100 people doing something that each individual could have been justified doing individually.Going back to the well-used example of homosexual teens. Can someone articulate what the lines are between bullying and free expression? Is it just a matter of degree? Of 100 dittoheads repeating what could be tolerated from 1? Of course, slamming anyone into a locker is a crime that already has associated punishments. But is saying “homosexuality is unnatural, ungodly, and transmits bloodborn diseases*” an opinion protected by our free speech traditions, or something activists are hoping to censor through the back door by calling it “bullying”?* Not to imply this is MY view

  • PSolus

    joe_allen_doty,”An anti-Christ person, that’s what an atheist really is, shouldn’t be the one leading a discussion on this topic.”And yet, one is.Is that the only thing that you don’t understand?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Mark,There are any number of problems criminalizing bullying, yet it has been criminalized.The tormentors of Prince have been indicted. Those of Kelly should be. It is true that we cannot say formulaically that X number of taunts by Y number of persons will result in someone’s suicide. However, we can’t say that X act will result in Y’s heart attack either, but actors have been prosecuted as responsible for deaths by heart attack.How neat and logical this is I don’t know. I suspect that the laws on harassment and bullying may be somewhat more precise, but will grant that they may need fine-tuning.Be that as it may, I have written to the prosecutor who declined to try the animal who probably raped Kelly for his crime in hopes that he will prosecute him and his cohorts for bullying.I’m thinking that there is a human rights issue here as well. The voice of Kelly’s mother in the courtroom haunts me and should haunt us all.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Psolus,Joe Allen Doty is an Antisemitic Evangelical, a sect little known under that name. In fact, he is also a Roman, a Christ-killer and hater.May I interest you in a parable, fable, or tale?

  • Jihadist

    Going back to the well-used example of homosexual teens. Can someone articulate what the lines are between bullying and free expression? Is it just a matter of degree? Of 100 dittoheads repeating what could be tolerated from 1? Of course, slamming anyone into a locker is a crime that already has associated punishments. ******************************************How very sly – knowing that hate speech, incitement to hatred can’t be charged under law against those who does so when the person committed suicide as a result of slurs, insults, deragotary remarks which are in fact, hate speech and incitements to hatred or result of hatred.So, essentially, it is all right for kids or adults to say anything if it causes no actual physical harm to the reciever of such. So, too bad for them who are at the butt of it to commit suicide, for it is their fault they can’t take it, can’t take the “truth” about them socially, politically, sexually, physically, religiously, racially and what else people harass, insults, bullies, rags, taunts others for.Surely it is not a mad, madding, maddening mob defaming, shaming, tarring, feathering and lynching a person, and in this day and age, ICT as the tool too to do so. If there is a law, and a stingent one too, against hackers, perhaps there should be law against those who participated in ICT harassment and bullying leading to mental duress and anguish leading to suicides. Not the whole group aiding and abetting in worsening, but the originator of the ICT bullying. And oh yes, those who did sustained verbal bullying too. Perhapo to make them do community service for 12 months at least. So, freedom of speech is important and worth dying for, including kids or adults committing suicide if they can’t take it.

  • Jihadist

    Going back to the well-used example of homosexual teens. Can someone articulate what the lines are between bullying and free expression? Is it just a matter of degree? Of 100 dittoheads repeating what could be tolerated from 1? Of course, slamming anyone into a locker is a crime that already has associated punishments. ******************************************How very sly – knowing that hate speech, incitement to hatred can’t be charged under law against those who does so when the person committed suicide as a result of slurs, insults, deragotary remarks which are in fact, hate speech and incitements to hatred or result of hatred.So, essentially, it is all right for kids or adults to say anything if it causes no actual physical harm to the reciever of such. So, too bad for them who are at the butt of it to commit suicide, for it is their fault they can’t take it, can’t take the “truth” about them socially, politically, sexually, physically, religiously, racially and what else people harass, insults, bullies, rags, taunts others for.Surely it is not a mad, madding, maddening mob defaming, shaming, tarring, feathering and lynching a person, and in this day and age, ICT as the tool too to do so. If there is a law, and a stingent one too, against hackers, perhaps there should be law against those who participated in ICT harassment and bullying leading to mental duress and anguish leading to suicides. Not the whole group aiding and abetting in worsening, but the originator of the ICT bullying. And oh yes, those who did sustained verbal bullying too. Perhapo to make them do community service for 12 months at least. So, freedom of speech is important and worth dying for, including kids or adults committing suicide if they can’t take it.

  • WmarkW

    So, freedom of speech is important and worth dying for, including kids or adults committing suicide if they can’t take it.”I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” is a popular quote among civil libertarians, traditionally attributed to Voltaire, although probably not original.Like I said before, we’re trying to balance: a) the right to free speech, especially when being limited by government officials, such as public schools; and b) the need to maintain a healthy social and educational environment for all students.Many people believe that b) has been used to squelch legitimate uses of a). When Bill Cosby criticized African-American parenting, a lot of people felt “many whites have been saying that for years and dismissed as racist; why can the same opinion be expressed only by a black be taken seriously.” Especially in school environments, the range of opinions on the causes of black socio-economic disparities is severely limited by offensiveness codes. As relates to gay teens, is b) being used to suppress a)?Suppose a known gay teen makes a practice of ogling same-sex members in the gym locker room. Are the others justified in acting the same way a girl would be if she found a male was sneaking a look? (I doubt we’d fault her for acting irrationally and perhaps violently under the circumstances.) Or would only someone with the “wrong” opinion on gays even bring up a question like this?

  • Jihadist

    This discussion is not about passing laws, most of which would not pass the First Amendment smell test. *******************************************Could not agree more. All the same, adults are more dangerous gangs, cliques, packs, organisers of their prejudices based on religious rationales or just plain bigotry. Or we won’t have groups not legalising or delegitimising the rights of others by laws and regulations by pushing for laws against their rights, or in not supporting laws for them which others have. Laws may be there to protect the rights of ethnic, religious or sexual minorities, but it still does not prevent adults from marginalising these minorities from equal access by stating they are under-qualified, or over-qualified etc. Human rights and fundamental rights, including free speech as guaranteed in the Constitution and/or Bill of Rights, is effectively used as a basis for depriving or delegitimising the rights of specific groups for the “greater good” or the “public good”.The hatred, cruel and bad behavior of kids is simpler and easier to address. Adults are a wee more complicated as legitimate members of political parties, lobbying groups and pressure groups saying and doing excreble things using the law and specific rights – from abortion to gays. Certainly messy for the language and tactics adults use in their “culture wars” are in the public square which surely the kids could not miss and pick up on. But one hopes kids grow up and out of such notions, attitudes and behaviors even if some adults still can’t and won’t. They are obviously still into deliberate and sustained bullying against minorities.

  • edbyronadams

    “Certainly messy for the language and tactics adults use in their “culture wars” are in the public square which surely the kids could not miss and pick up on.”Certainly that is true in the comments on articles in the WaPo, in which commenters self segregate into major political factions often on the slightest pretext. My main point is that an automatic in group-out group association is a human characteristic. It should be ameliorated by the thought process and a recognition of everyone’s innate more endearing human characteristics but that gets left behind often and attacks degenerate into the senseless ad hominem variety. Even our dear Ms. Jacoby automatically lumps all people of faith into a category she labels “irrational”.It is also a problem for anyone of faith to uphold their beliefs, something that, by its nature, is one of “I’m right. You’re wrong” without stooping to vilification and stereotyping. The true challenge for everyone is the battle within to raise our better nature against the lesser. A primary focus on out groups nasty behavior is a bad priority. While bad ideas should be challenged and bad acts constrained, a primary focus should be on oneself and the leadership of groups with which you do affiliate. There through one’s own efforts, change is possible.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WmarkW If you have a problem wih the very strong and aggressive policy of tolerance for gay people, then perhaps you could keep your opinion to yourself; hold your tongue; watch what you say; just stay in the closet and keep quiet, and there won’t be any trouble, because people like you, speaking up, when they ought to know enough to remain quiet, is the source of the problem.The public schools are for everyone, not just for straight people. The government has no business singling out gay people for persecution, even if being gay is against some people’s relgion. The government is not supposed to have a religous opinion or point of view, and it is not supposed to allow the bullying of some kids by others, becaue it approves of one group and disapproves of another.So as I said before, as far as I am concerned, people like you can go into the closet, shut the door, and keep quiet. If all of the anti-gay people were to keep quiet for a change, instead of the gay people, then there would be no problem, case close, problem sovled.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WmarkW “Suppose a known gay teen makes a practice of ogling same-sex members in the gym locker room. Are the others justified in acting the same way a girl would be if she found a male was sneaking a look? (I doubt we’d fault her for acting irrationally and perhaps violently under the circumstances.) But this is a disingenuous question, because this typically does not happen. You seem unable to grasp the problem. The problem is that innocent gay teens and adults are harrassed, bullied, threatened, beaten, and worse, simply for being gay, not for “oggling” someone or “coming on” to someone. And you do not seem to comprehend what freedom of speech means. It is freedom of speech before the law, before the government, before Congress, the police, and courts. There are plenty of people who curb their tongues for reasons other than government persecution. You would not ask your father for intimate details of his sex life with your mother, would you? Your freedodm of speech is curtailed on this matter, but it is not the government that has done it.In what way do you feel threatened that the government will quash your freedom of speech? Do you plan on bullying gay people about being gay? Expressing opinions on a public forum, such as this, is not bullying; surely you know that; and there is no government crackdown, as far as I know to suppress the kinds of anti-gay opinions that you express here.Most of your comments seem deliberately disingenuous, that you do not feel that gay people deserve the simple and ordinary respect that is due to everybody, and you are tryiing to justify this with all kinds of nit-picky irrelevancies.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    JihadistYou have common sense and a good heart.

  • timmy2

    “Even our dear Ms. Jacoby automatically lumps all people of faith into a category she labels “irrational”If you are talking about religious faith then one can easily make the case for this faith being irrational. Faith in something for which their is no supporting evidence is irrational. And there is no evidence that supports any religious claim I have ever heard of.Religious faith is simply people pretending to know things that they do not know, based on folk lore and superstitious mythology. It is a form of self delusion.

  • WmarkW

    Most of your comments seem deliberately disingenuous, that you do not feel that gay people deserve the simple and ordinary respect that is due to everybody, and you are tryiing to justify this with all kinds of nit-picky irrelevancies.The nit-picky irrelevancies are about where the lines of free speech and vigorous debate lie. Susan cited the example of slamming gays into lockers. That’s a crime, and “gays drive me temporarily insane” is not a defense.The list of bullying behaviors on olweus.org includes many actions (social exclusion and derogatory comments) that are also legitimate means of communication of disapproval when used in proper proportion. That sets up school administrators to act arbitrarily based on ideology or parental influence to decide whether a particular incident qualifies. Suppose two students show up on AIDS awareness day wearing buttons “Fight AIDS: Practice Safe Sex” and “Fight AIDS: Don’t use the Back Door.” Both of these are tremendously good advice to reduce the risk of transmission, but I suspect a lot of schools would consider the second to be anti-gay and hence impermissable. That’s the sort of thing that worries me about giving too much arbitrary discretion.

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