Author Archives: david

Opinion: “Traditional” prom is homophobic and promotes bullying

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Prom time is upon us, and an increasing number of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are showing the courage to attend their school dances with a same-sex date. In a number of communities, lesbian and gay youth are finding less resistance when they’re out at school dances. Ali, a high school senior from suburban Philadelphia, explains that there are more lesbian and gay couple than during previous years: “Other students treat them like they’re a regular couple. No one says anything to them. People look but they’re not going over there and saying anything. They’ll stare at them, but they’ll walk away.”

For many, being out at school dances can be challenging as they fear discrimination, harassment, and bullying by their peers. Sadly, in some communities, they have to be worried about harassment and discrimination by adults as well. In Sullivan, Indiana, a group that consists of students and at least one teacher is proposing a “traditional prom.” Making the anti-gay prom all the more painful, there is a teacher on their side supporting this discriminatory program.

The movement for the anti-gay prom is in response to same-sex couples planning to participate in Sullivan, Indiana’s prom this year. The principal has said that the school will not discriminate. The principal is following the basic rights of students that have been well documented since Aaron Fricke in 1980.

While there appears to be a backlash against those planning this anti-gay prom, the reality is that their plan puts increasing pressure on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students to remain in the closet. We know that bullying incidents increase in places with the lowest teacher-student ratio. Research demonstrates that students commonly point to areas such as stairwells and cafeterias ( While school dances are infrequent, their very nature is a more limited adult supervision than we would find in the classrooms.

Indeed, according to the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 2011 National School Climate survey, 20 percent of LGBT students report discriminatory policies at school dances and other functions. In fact, Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN, explains how damaging the anti-gay prom is for children, particularly in this case in which a teacher is involved: “Prom is a universal rite of passage, and undermining that tradition in the name of prejudice sends a soul-crushing message to LGBT students in that community. Having a teacher play such an active role, and make such awful comments, ups the ante – teachers are meant to be a source of support and role models, and having teachers support is perhaps the most important ingredient for LGBT students’ success and well being.”

As a longtime educator who teaches both high school students and teachers in graduate school, I know that it is critical that we create a school climate that recognizes the dignity of all of our students. Indeed, what makes our public schools so great is that they provide a place in our society in which we all come together. We teach them together. They graduate together. They should also celebrate together.

David M. Hall, Ph.D., blogs for CNN, is the author of the iPhone and Droid app BullyShield, and the author of “Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment.”

Opinion: What the tragedy of Tyler Clementi teaches about teen sexting

by Filed under: CNN

Dharun Ravi made videos of his college roommate, Tyler Clementi, sexually involved with another man. Tyler was unaware that he was being recorded and broadcast. Confronted with this violation of his privacy, Tyler committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington bridge.

In 2008, Jessica Logan, a high school senior in Ohio, sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he forwarded those photos to others. Logan was called a slut and a whore, according to numerous news reports. She eventually committed suicide – just weeks  after graduation- by hanging herself in her bedroom closet.

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Opinion: What ‘Glee’ tells us about new LGBT allies

by Filed under: CNN

The Valentine’s Day episode of “Glee” introduced the God Squad’s Joe Hart, a student who is a committed Christian. His only tattoos are bible quotes, and each of his dreadlocks is named after a bible verse. Joe wants to make Christianity cool, so the God Squad, a Christian club, agrees to sing “vocal valentines” for any student who dedicates a song.

When the God Squad sings to Rachel, an irate Santana – who was already angry with her principal because of his double-standard regarding public displays of affection between gay couples – asks if they are Christian. When they say yes, the cheerleader tells them she wants to send a “vocal valentine” to her girlfriend: “And I don’t mean my friend who’s a girl. I mean my girlfriend girlfriend. How’s that sound?”

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Opinion: How bystanders can protect kids from bullying

by Filed under: CNN

(CNN) – When EricJames Borges was in college, he said, his mother performed an exorcism over him to “cure” him of being gay. He recalled reaching a breaking point in high school when he was assaulted in class while a teacher was present. He said that verbal and physical assaults, which included being spit on, occurred on a daily basis.

Borges’ personal pain was evident in the “It Gets Better” video he published in December, when his disposition and mood seem to provide a window into the ways he was tormented. In an effort to help vulnerable LGBT teens, he volunteered for The Trevor Project, an LGBT suicide-prevention organization.

Last week, Borges committed suicide.

In coverage of this tragic story, much attention has been paid to the fact that through his work with The Trevor Project, he knew what counseling resources were at his disposal, though he didn’t manage to access them. However, little attention has been paid to what bystanders could have done at a more formative time in his life. Allies and bystanders could have protected Borges from years of isolation and the devastating feelings that accompany it.

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Attention Rick Santorum: Here’s how to support a gay child

by Filed under: CNN

(CNN) – During the final Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Rick Santorum was asked how he would respond if his son told him he was gay.

“I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it,” Santorum responded.

He received applause for this statement, which is surprising since loving our children is expected and should not merit applause. But further inquiry is necessary to understand whether Santorum would support his son in a way that would help him lead a healthy, productive, happy life.

In a 2003 interview, Santorum was asked how he would respond if one of his children were gay, and he stated that he would “point out to them what is the right thing to do. And we have many temptations to do things we shouldn’t do. That doesn’t mean we have to give in to those temptations… it doesn’t mean you have to submit.” Millions of parents across this country have similar feelings to Santorum. What Santorum and like-minded parents need to know is the immense harm that this response can cause their LGBT children.

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