HELP STU­DENTS FEEL SAFE AND CA­PA­BLE

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Opinion -

Nearly 11 years ago Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Preven­tion Act which ex­panded ex­ist­ing U.S. Hate Crime Laws to in­clude those mo­ti­vated by a vic­tim’s sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or dis­abil­ity. It was 20 years ago when then 22year-old col­lege stu­dent Shep­ard was bru­tally beaten and left to die tied to a fence. This hor­rific act of ha­tred led to a gen­er­a­tion of ad­vo­cacy for the equal rights of LGBTQ in­di­vid­u­als.

Vi­o­lence still looms over the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. Ac­cord­ing to the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign 2018 re­port, 70 per­cent of LGBTQ stu­dents have heard ver­bal threats and 3 in 10 ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal threats. More than 1 in 10 have been sex­u­ally at­tacked or raped. Could it be that ig­no­rance and fear are ma­jor fac­tors in the con­tin­ued ha­rass­ment and vi­o­lence? We fear what we do not un­der­stand, what is dif­fer­ent from our­selves.

Teach­ing Tol­er­ance is a pro­gram where ed­u­ca­tors are given tools to ad­dress the lack of knowl­edge sur­round­ing di­ver­sity in stu­dent pop­u­la­tions in an ef­fort to dis­pel the fear and stop the vi­o­lence. The LGBTQ Best Prac­tices Guide cre­ated by Teach­ing Tol­er­ance helps schools to help all stu­dents feel safe and ca­pa­ble of suc­ceed­ing. This guide can be down­loaded at www.tol­er­ance.org/ lgbtq-guide. Oc­to­ber 11 is Na­tional Com­ing Out Day. Let’s con­tinue to pro­vide school en­vi­ron­ments where all stu­dents feel safe and ca­pa­ble of suc­cess.

– Teresa Sch­midt, Shiloh

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