Tag Archives: bullying

Survey shows post-election spike in bullying of young people

A post-election survey of youths found 70 percent witnessed bullying, hate messages or harassment, with racial bias the most common motive cited.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, released the online survey of 50,000 young people on Jan. 18.

More than a quarter of LGBTQ youth said they have been personally bullied or harassed since Election Day — compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth — with transgender young people most frequently targeted.

Additionally, Hispanic and Latinx respondents were 20 percent more likely than other youth to report having been personally bullied, with harassment targeting both immigrant and nonimmigrant communities.

“Whether the threats come in their schools or from those holding the country’s highest offices, no young person should be bullied or made to feel unsafe,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release. “The alarming results of this groundbreaking survey underscore our fears about the damaging effect the recent election is having on our nation’s youth, and serve as a call to action to all of us committed to helping our young people thrive in an inclusive and supportive society.”

Young people reported feeling nervous and hopeless after the election, with almost half of LGBTQ youth saying they have taken steps to hide who they are by delaying coming out, dressing differently or questioning their plans for the future.

Hispanic and African American young people also reported changing their appearances and routines out of fear of harassment and Muslim, Jewish and Hindu youth all described concealing symbols of their faith to avoid being targeted.

In responses to open-ended questions on the survey, many young people shared stories of how  campaign rhetoric encouraged harassment and bullying.

Wrote one Hispanic 18-year-old from Illinois: “My family and I go shopping and wash clothes at 2 a.m. to avoid seeing and hearing people’s comments.

Findings include:

● 70 percent of respondents reported witnessing bullying, hate messages or harassment during or since the 2016 election.

Of those, 79 percent said such behaviors have been occurring more frequently since the onset of the presidential campaign.

● Among young people who reported seeing bullying and harassment, 70 percent witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent saw incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 59 percent saw incidents motivated by immigration status and 55 percent witnessed incidents motivated by gender.

● Over the past 30 days, about half of transgender youth reported feeling hopeless and worthless most or all of the time and 70 percent said these and similar feelings have increased in the past 30 days.

About 36 percent were personally bullied or harassed and 56 percent changed their self-expression or future plans because of the election.

● Before Election Day 2016, more than half of survey respondents reported thinking about  the election every day and a third thought about it several times each week.

Respondents were solicited through HRC’s social media channels and other organizations, including Mental Health America, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Southern Poverty Law Center, True Colors Fund and The Trevor Project.

Wisconsin bullying ordinances gain international attention

Anti-bullying ordinances adopted by several Wisconsin communities are generating global buzz. The ordinances fine parents whose children repeatedly bully classmates.

Since enacting such laws, police chiefs in Shawano, Plover and Monona have fielded calls from news organizations from other states, as well as Canada and Australia. They’ve also received thank-you emails from victims who still struggle with the effects of bullying.

The latest town in the state to pass an ordinance holding parents of bullies accountable is Shawano, a town of 9,300 people about 40 miles northwest of Green Bay. Under a measure passed in May, parents of bullies could be fined $366 for the first offense and $681 for the second offense in a year.

The Plover Village Board approved an anti-bullying ordinance last November. That ordinance gives police the ability to notify parents in writing if their child is caught bullying and to ticket the parents if their child is caught bullying again within 90 days

In May 2013, the Monona City Council was the first to pass such a law. City officials told the Wisconsin State Journal at the time that no specific incident led to the decision. Instead, it was the refusal of parents to hold their children accountable, or even to believe that their kids could be guilty.

“Sometimes you’ll knock on someone’s door and they won’t want to talk to you — their kids are perfect, they could never do anything wrong,” Monona Police Chief Wally Ostrenga tol the Journal. “This is for those times when we get the door slammed in our faces.”

In Monona, parents have to pay a $144 fine for a first violation. If parents have subsequent violations in the same year, they’re fined $177 for each additional one.

Plover’s police chief says he would love to see other cities in the state and country adopt similar ordinances.

Call to action on ‘Day of Silence’

Thousands of students across the country will participate on April 15 in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an annual event that brings attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in schools.

Students typically take a vow of silence as a symbol of the silencing effect of anti-LGBT language and bullying.

This year, through the theme “Silence is Ours,” the focus will be on reclaiming this silence, shifting it from something forced upon LGBT students to a strategic tool they use to advocate for safe and affirming schools.

GLSEN’s Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country, with students from more than 8,000 middle and high schools, colleges and universities in every state.

According to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey, the only survey on the school experiences of LGBT middle and high school students in the country, 85 percent of LGBT students were verbally harassed at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds heard homophobic remarks frequently or often.

The first Day of Silence was observed in 1996, when students at the University of Virginia responded to a class assignment on non-violent protests

In 1997, organizers took their effort national and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated.

In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

Day of Silence on the Web

For more information about the campaign or to register, click here.

For resources, click here.

Fair Wisconsin, state’s largest LGBT group, endorses Clinton

Fair Wisconsin PAC today announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton in next week’s Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary.

In a press statement announcing the endorsement, the group’s political action committee called Clinton “a champion for LGBT equality.”

Fair Wisconsin is the state’s largest organization dedicated to advancing and achieving equality for LGBT Wisconsinites.

The press statement said in part:

“In the U.S. Senate, Clinton championed hate crime legislation, fought for federal non-discrimination legislation to protect LGBT Americans in the workplace, and advocated for an end to restrictions that blocked LGBT Americans from adopting children. As Secretary of State, she advanced LGBT rights abroad and enforced stronger anti-discrimination regulations within the State Department, declaring on the global stage that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

Clinton’s LGBT agenda

FW went on to praise Clinton for having “the most comprehensive and far-reaching LGBT policy agenda ever produced by a presidential candidate.” The group detailed her LGBT agenda, which includes:

Fighting for full federal equality for LGBT Americans. Clinton has said that she would work with Congress to pass the Equality Act, continue President Obama’s LGBT equality executive actions, and support efforts to clarify that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.”

Supporting LGBT youth, parents, and elders. Clinton has vowed to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act to combat bullying.

Honoring the military service of LGBT people. Clinton said that as commander-in-chief she would upgrade the service records of LGBT veterans dismissed due to their sexual orientation and support efforts to allow transgender personnel to serve openly.

Securing affordable treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS. Clinton would work with governors to extend Medicaid coverage to people living with HIV, cap out-of pocket expenses for people with HIV/AIDS, and expand the utilization of HIV prevention medications, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Protecting and advancing transgender rights. Clinton would direct the federal government to improve its reporting of hate crimes and streamline identity documents that impose barriers on transgender Americans seeking official identification documents.

Promoting human rights of LGBT people around the world. Clinton would continue to ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world. She would increase the U.S. investment in the Global Equality Fund to advance the human rights of LGBT people around the world.

For a full list of Clinton’s endorsements, click here.

Information in this report was provided by Fair Wisconsin.





Wisconsin school nixes reading of book about transgender kid

A southern Wisconsin elementary school canceled a planned reading of a children’s book about a transgender girl after a group threatened to sue.

The Mount Horeb Area School District released a statement saying it would not proceed with its planned reading of I am Jazz, the Capital Times reported. The district said it would give the board of education the opportunity to address a situation for which the district has no current policy.

Earlier in November, the principal of Mount Horeb Primary Center sent a letter to parents saying the book would be read and discussed because the school has a student who identifies as a girl but was born with male anatomy.

“We believe all students deserve respect and support regardless of their gender identity and expression and the best way to foster that respect and support is through educating students about the issue of being transgender,” the letter said.

The Florida-based Liberty Counsel threatened to sue, saying it was contacted by concerned parents. Reading the book would violate parental rights, claimed the Liberty Counsel. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the Liberty Counsel as a hate group that advocates for “anti-LGBT discrimination, under the guise of religious liberty.”

In its statement, the district said as it seeks to address the needs of the individual student, it will be mindful of the needs of other students and families. It also said families whose children may be affected will be notified of future actions and the goal is to protect all students from bullying so they can learn together in a safe environment.

‘Wicked’ lends its themes to anti-bullying campaign

Wicked’s reign as one of the most popular and lucrative stage shows in history continues 12 years on, with crowds eagerly packing theaters on Broadway and on tour.

Two of those theaters will be in Madison and Milwaukee, where Alyssa Fox will take the stage to portray Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.

Over the course of Wicked, and the novel of the same name, Elphaba begins as a gifted, strong-willed and intelligent young woman, but is increasingly painted as an evil witch by those around her. Their fear and misunderstanding is initially prompted by one unmistakable difference — her green skin.

“Elphaba was born as someone who is immediately different from everyone around her and got a lot of criticism for just being who she is on the outside because she’s green,” says Fox, who has been playing Elphaba since January and has been with the tour since 2011.

“I think I relate to her a lot,” she adds. “I was a little bit of a different kid. I was very sensitive and quiet and shy. I had different interests than other people and I got made fun of too for that and that’s something I really can put myself into as the character onstage.”

It isn’t easy for Elphaba to be green — and that’s something that victims of bullying culture can relate to intimately. So as musical has become more of a cornerstone in society, the show has partnered with an organization called BullyBust to help school-aged children learn about bullying through the story. The program trains students to identify bullying in their school communities and work to diffuse it. 

Fairy tales and social morality have been linked for centuries, and Wicked is truly just the latest example of this tradition.

In Wicked, Elphaba’s ultimate best friend was first her enemy, a so-called “popular girl” named Glinda. As both Elphaba and Glinda mature, their relationship develops into a close friendship as they learn more about each other. 

“That absolutely can happen in real life if people open themselves up to each other and accept each other despite their differences,” Fox says. “You can be two completely different people who disagree on things but still be really wonderful friends.”

As a prominent social climber at their school, Glinda, with a turn of phrase or simple action, can sway the position of other students. Taking the first step and speaking out can likewise be the first step for students to be positive forces for equality in real life. 

“As Glinda changes the temperature around her, because people look up to her, if she does something kind for Elphaba and brings her into the community then everyone else rallies around that,” says Fox. “It’s a really great example for social leaders in schools these days. One person can take a stance and be accepting and other people will catch onto that kindness.”

The show not only works to bring the issue of bullying in schools to light, but also touches upon cultural and racial stereotyping as well as abuse and mistreatment. There are characters of many creeds and colors who are persecuted throughout the show by the overwhelming group-think of the residents of Oz.

“The show was written in that time after 9/11 when a lot of judgments were being made,” says Fox. “Wicked definitely touches on that subject a lot in the show, (where there is) somebody who is seen as ‘the other’ and as ‘the scapegoat’ and people end up making those people the enemy.”

When asked what one lesson could be taken away from this particular theme in the show, Fox responded that, “The important thing is to not ever consider yourself to be over someone else, likewise, no one is under you — we are all equal, we’re all human and we’re all fighting our own battles. That speaks volumes, because if one person steps up then it opens the doors for everyone else too.”


The national tour of Wicked will appear at Madison’s Overture Center, 201 State St., through Nov. 1, and Milwaukee’s Marcus Center, 929 N. Water St., Nov. 4 – 15. Tickets in Madison are $33 to $135, while tickets in Milwaukee are $42 to $152. Visit overturecenter.org or marcuscenter.org to order tickets.

Kenosha team lauded after standing up for bullied cheerleader

Kenosha’s Common Council on March 16 honored several middle-school basketball players for coming to the defense of a cheerleader who has Down syndrome during a game at Lincoln Middle School.

After hearing mean-spirited comments directed at cheerleader Desiree Andrews coming from the stands, three players confronted the opposing team’s fans. Seventh-graders Chase Vazquez, Scooter Terrien and Miles Rodriguez approached the bullies and warned them to stop ridiculing Desiree, whose nickname is “D.” The entire team stood behind them.

News media around the globe reported the incident, which provided a welcome contrast to the tragic endings that too often accompany bullying stories. Desiree’s father Cliff Andrews told the Kenosha News that his phone rang “nonstop” after the story went viral, with calls from individuals, as well as from talk shows and news outlets. He said Desiree was “on cloud nine” from all the attention, but he added that the story is really about the boys taking a stand against bullying.

Lincoln Middle School principal Star Daley said that people had been calling the school and sending letters of congratulations.

The Kenosha Common Council publicly thanked the basketball team and presented a special video message to Desiree and the team from the actress who plays Becky, a cheerleader with Down syndrome, on the TV show Glee. Desiree told WiG that she got the idea of becoming a cheerleader from the show.

Team members described the incident as a spontaneous effort to protect someone they care about.

“We just jumped in right away,” said Miles Rodriguez. “We didn’t have time to ask what was happening.”

“It was spontaneous and I don’t know how to explain it … it just happened,” agreed team member Austin Carrana. 

“We felt like we had to stand up for somebody like her,” said Martin Lopez. “We were just saying it wasn’t cool what they were doing and they needed to stop.”

The young men said they’re happy about the way the world responded to what they did and proud they could show their city in a positive light.

“To do this for Desiree shows that this town has some character and young gentleman who are nice and polite,” said Scooter Terrien. “You see a lot of stories about crime, but not stories like this coming from a small town. “

Team member Harrice Hodges said he believes Lincoln’s anti-bullying program deserves credit for making students more sensitive about the feelings of others. He said it seemed as if bullying at the school has gone down “a whole bunch” since the program began.

Daley said she’d like to think the program, which began last year, had something to do with the basketball team’s actions. The program helps students develop positive character traits, including “caring about self and others,” she said.

Kenosha has adopted a districtwide campaign, dubbed “Stand Up, Kenosha,” Daley added.

Since the bullying incident, the gym at Lincoln Middle School has been named “D’s House,” in Desiree’s honor.

U.S. bill would deal with bullying on college campuses

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., recently reintroduced legislation to address bullying and harassment, which affects one in five students at colleges and universities across the country.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2015 would require institutions of higher education to establish policies prohibiting harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. The bill also would establish a grant program to support campus anti-harassment activities.

The legislation is named after Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who took his life after his roommate and another student harassed him over the Internet.

“Bullying is a real and persistent danger for far too many students at our colleges and universities and too many of these students are targeted for their sexual orientation,” Pocan said in a statement. “This bill ensures no student has to suffer the humiliation of being harassed for who they are, or who they love. Institutions of higher learning should be a place of open expression, which celebrate diversity and embrace students from all different backgrounds.”

In ‘From Up Here,’ a family copes with stress following school incident

High school senior Kenny Barrett is not popular. In fact, he’s picked on and teased. His response to the situation has put everyone around him on high alert, and he’s required to make a public apology to the entire school body. But what will the brooding teenager do next?

How Kenny’s family copes with his situation is at the heart of From Up Here, a 2008 New York Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle nominee for best play and the season opener for Madison’s Forward Theater.

“For me, this is fundamentally a play about a family struggling to stay together,” says author Liz Flahive.  “Because the event that sets the play in motion happens before the play begins, I felt like I had better access to address a larger issue of school violence in a way that allowed for a different conversation.”

The topic and its treatment are what attracted Forward to the project, says artistic director Jennifer Uphoff Gray, who is directing the production.

“On a personal level, I’m a mom and these issues terrify me,” she says. “Most treatments of the subject are so dark that I can’t go there as a parent and don’t want to put the audience through it. This play seemed constructive, community-minded and positive, and it’s a great way to get us talking about these issues.”

Kenny’s family is already dealing with the usual challenges that create everyday stress. Kenny’s mother has divorced his father and remarried, prompting predictable stresses between the son and the stepfather. There is an estrangement between mother and son that becomes a major through-line of the narrative, Gray says. 

The character of Kenny, played by high school student Alistair Sewell, the son of Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra maestro Andrew Sewell, leads a quartet of local teen actors that gives the show the needed energy and veracity, Gray says. 

“The character Kenny, which is beautifully written, is central because his story sets the play’s action in motion, but the responsibility seems to be equally balanced on the shoulders of all the characters,” Gray says. “It doesn’t seem to be as much about Kenny as it does about everyone around him dealing with their responsibilities.”

The play’s theme is consistent with what Gray considers the theatrical company’s responsibilities to the Madison area.

“As an arts org, our mission statement is that we exist to serve the community in a variety of ways that reach beyond artistic levels,” Gray says. “There’s an opportunity for art to have a more measurable social impact on issues. Madison in particular is a great lab for doing this.”

In addition to the usual pre-show talks an hour before curtain at the Thursday and Sunday performances, Forward Theater will partner with community leaders on Nov. 14 for a free symposium on the issues raised by From Up Here. The symposium will include actors performing a brief scene from the play, followed by the panelists sharing their experiences dealing with related issues in the Madison area.

Among the panelists will be representatives from the Madison Metropolitan School District, the Madison Police Department, the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and a professor of psychiatry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The event will be held at the auditorium on the CUNA Mutual campus, 5810 Mineral Point Road.

The outreach will allow experts to discuss some of the play’s important issues and the way they relate to the Madison community in a meaningful way, says Gray.

“This is a family and community play,” she continues. “Something has happened and what do we do next? How do we work together and come together as a family and community? It’s a play less about the headlines and more about those themes.” 

On stage

Forward Theater’s production of Liz Flahive’s From Up Here runs Nov. 6–23 at The Playhouse at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St. For more information, call 608-234-5001 or visit www.forwardtheater.com.

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Jason Collins: Common ground and conversation

I feel that we can all help start more conversations in regard to leadership, diversity inclusion and respect. The old adage never judge a book by its cover applies to all walks of life. I remember when I first went to Stanford University, I participated in a group activity with my entire freshman dorm. All of us were apprehensive about this new chapter in our lives. The leader had us stand in a straight line and would pose a question to the group. Students would either take a step forward or stand still based on their individual response.

I took a step forward. I looked around the room and saw a group of people of different religions, races, genders, you name it. And they all answered the same way I did. The actual questions that brought us together weren’t important; the questions and answers that followed were. All of a sudden, a group of strangers realized a collective common ground, which served as a jumping off point for conversation.

A lot of times it’s just a lack of exposure and awareness that is holding people back. Conversation and interaction help erase the lack of understanding by challenging people to discuss different things; share and appreciate new points of view. Eventually, we are able to accept and grow.

I’ve always found basketball to be a great vehicle to bring people together. It’s such an easy sport to understand. It’s just two hoops and a ball. You can play it indoors or outdoors and there is something about five people coming together — and finding common language.

What sports can do is create a safe space for children. Some kids are going through some really difficult circumstances and dealing with adversity. But when they are on the court for a few hours, there is a safe space and a safe environment to play, interact, talk and hang out. It’s so important to know that someone else out there cares about you, that someone is trying to help and is on your team.

When you see guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and many other players in the sport showing this level of care to work with young people, it’s pretty telling how important that type of work can be.

I’d invite people of all ages to be an ally to someone who is less fortunate. You might be in the midst of a good situation—but take the time to be a counselor, a mentor or just a positive role model because it’s a great thing to do and you never know when the person who needs the help could be you. At some point, you’ll be going through that tough time and you’ll appreciate the support.

There are so many ways to get involved. Last year, I was thrilled to work with the league to donate the proceeds of my Brooklyn Nets jersey to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and GLSEN. They are two organizations that do tremendous work to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Your gender, religion, race or sexual orientation has no effect on your ability to lead conversations. You can help others recognize the common ground and ultimately, you can change hearts and minds.

Jason Collins is an activist for LGBT civil rights and an advocate for improving the climate for young people in sports. He came out as gay at the end of the 2012-13 NBA regular season. When he returned to the court with the Nets, he made sports history.