Press release from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition; July 31, 2012:
Across the state of Tennessee, several school districts start the 20112-2013 school year this week. The past year saw a plethora of transphobic and homophobic actions in every part of Tennessee, and at least four LGBT identified students committed suicide.
One of the smallest school districts had two LGBT identified students commit suicide in the past year due to incidents of bullying. Sadly, when a group of students and adults asked the school board to strengthen their anti bullying policy, the school board sat in stony silence during their testimony, and only responded positively when the school board attorney assured them that their policy was “adequate.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center was forced to step in and defend a student at Hardin County High School who wished to wear pro-equality slogans on her clothing.
A male student at Lexington High School was suspended for wearing makeup in an attempt to impose conformity in gender expression.
After student at Lenoir City High School published an article in the yearbook titled “It’s OK to be Gay,” the Loudon County School Board chair called for a criminal investigation of the faculty advisor for permitting such talk of tolerance of diversity.
A female high school student was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted bullet wound in Athens after reports of bullying.
A 17 year old student at Sequoyah High School in Madisonville, was physically assaulted by his principal last week for wearing a T-shirt in support of efforts to establish a gay-straight alliance club on campus.
Phillip Parker of Gordonsville commited suicide after reports of bullying. His death was publicly announced at an anti-bullying conference in Cookeville.
Attempts by a student to organize a Gay Straight Alliance at Wilson Central High School were publicly rebuffed by both the Wilson County School Director and the Wilson County School Board Chair.
Despite the bad news, there have been some positives this past year. Putnam County became only the fourth school district in the state, after Memphis, Metro Nashville, and Knox County, to adopt a fully inclusive, anti-bullying policy, students in Sumner County organized a “NoH8 Campaign,” and several Legislative Interns working in the General Assembly posted their own It Gets Better video in the midst of the most anit-LGBT legislative session in the state’s history.
As we begin the new school year, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition urges all to be proactive in pushing your local school board to address the epidemic of bullying LGBT students. Every student should feel safe at school and have the opportunity to express themselves without fear of harrassment.