Monday, September 27, 2010

Indiana Suicide Invokes Inspiring YouTube Outreach

On September 13, we learned that a Billy (William) Lucas, a 15-year-old student at Greensburg High School in Indiana, tragically took his own life, after enduring persistent bullying and harassment for being “different.” While many of Lucas’ classmates perceived him to be gay, he had not come out to anyone. His mother found him after he had hanged himself in his grandmother’s barn, reportedly shortly after kids at school had verbally taunted him and told him to “go kill himself.”

In response to this tragedy, Dan Savage, a gay political blogger and activist who was moved by the news of Lucas’ passing, has teamed with his longtime partner Terry to create a new Youtube channel titled the “It Gets Better.” The channel is an attempt to reach out to LGBT youth and assure them that their experiences in high school are not indicative of how the rest of their lives will play out. Savage’s goal is to recruit others in telling their own individual stories and providing encouragement for those who may be suffering through the trials and tribulations that someone like Billy Lucas was facing.

To date, hundreds of videos have been uploaded by family and friends of LGBT youth along with LGBT people themselves to voice their support and demonstrate how their lives have improved or how they managed to get through high school, despite the obstacles. To visit the channel or to contribute to the cause with your own video, click here. In addition to sharing your stories, we encourage you to continue educating and engaging community members in school districts across the country about how to cultivate respect and build safer schools for all students. There are three key things you can do today to help:

1. Report incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Education Department. To learn more about how to file a claim, please visit our new Claim Your Rights Resource Center.

2. Write to your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. and S.) along with the Student Non-Discrimination. To learn more about lobbying and talking points for these bills, please check out our latest version of Bringing the Message Home.

3. Learn more about our Cultivating Respect Program and the top ten ways to make schools safer for all students by clicking here.

This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.

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