Last month, a teenager at Arsenal Tech High School here in Indianapolis was reprimanded and eventually expelled for firing a stun gun at school. Why did Darnell “Dynasty” Young own a stun gun, let alone have it in his possession on school property? The answer is horrifying yet simple–his mother gave it to him because she didn’t know any other way to help her son cope with the bullying he endures on a daily basis.
When I saw this story on our local news, I was shocked and angry and saddened, as much by the desperation I felt as a mother myself–that I’d do anything to protect my children–as by the fact that the faculty and administrators of Darnell’s high school seem to feel that it was somehow his fault that he was being bullied in the first place. Darnell, you see, is what some might call flamboyant, and the powers-that-be at Arsenal Tech seem to equate Darnell’s mannerisms and the way he dresses as an open invitation for bullying, much the same way that society re-victimizes rape victims by believing that if they’d only dressed less provocatively, they’d never have been raped. The rationalization behind that mentality is so ass backwards that it terrifies me to think these people are in charge of molding and shaping future generations of this country’s youth.
I live in a northern suburb of Indianapolis, not far from Darnell’s neighborhood, in terms of miles, but worlds away in terms of advantages and opportunities. My community couldn’t be more typically middle to upper class Midwestern if it tried, though we are becoming more beautifully diverse. It’s wonderful to see how much my children’s classrooms have changed for the better over the years–they don’t look like a white-on-white 1950s television show anymore–but for all that, the families who populate the area still fit the Mom/Dad/2.2 kids demographic.
There’s one thing my community and our school district does very, very right, though. The administration has implemented a Zero Tolerance Bullying Policy, but even better than that, they enforce it, which is the important part in the equation. My daughter is a sixteen-year-old sophomore at one of the high schools in town, so I have inside information on the inner workings of her school. I know that there’s a Gay/Straight Alliance at her school. I know that the couples at her school who walk down the hallways holding hands and who sneak kisses by their lockers between classes aren’t all Male/Female. I know that gay and lesbian students go to the prom together–as couples–and I know that my daughter says that she’s never witnessed an incident of any of these couples being bullied on school property or at school sponsored functions.
I’m not so naive as to believe it doesn’t happen elsewhere, but I’m so proud to know that there are adults in charge of my children while they’re at school who value diversity and the right to live and to love openly.
Hop on over to the Hop Against Homophobia website and join some of the participating authors and organizations that are working for and celebrating our diversity.