Sunday, November 06, 2011

Bullied Gay Teen Fights Ariz. School District

After Merik Castro, a gay Arizona teen who was bullied so relentlessly he once considered suicide, collected more than 3,000 online petition signatures and generated publicity, the school board updated its bullying guidelines at a packed public meeting last month, adding "sexual preference" under its harassment policy.

The problem is that the wording still needs to be changed to be effective according to Castro. The word "preference" implies that orientation is a choice, he says, assigning blame to victims. Nothing new there.

"It basically says you’re choosing this lifestyle," Castro told EDGE. "You’re choosing to be bullied."

According to EDGE, "Castro said he was called names, pushed into lockers and taunted so severely by his classmates at Wigwam Creek Middle School that he wrote a suicide letter. He eventually reached out to Caleb Laieski, a 16-year-old activist for bullied LGBT youth.

After Laieski sent in an anonymous tip about a student being bullied for his sexual orientation, the school focused on Castro and launched an investigation. Three students were eventually suspended and Castro transferred schools.

'I feel like they expelled me out to get rid of the problem,' he said. 'They got rid of the victim, but not the bullying.'.
Ann Donahue, community liaison for the Litchfield Elementary School District, said Castro chose to transfer. She could not confirm allegations that the superintendent pulled aside Castro and his mother, a school district employee, and pressed them with questions about his sexual orientation.

"She told me, ’Well now that you’re choosing this alternative lifestyle, there come consequences and you’re going to get bullied,’" recalled Castro.

This is the same story we hear over and over as bullied students are either forced to change schools, commit suicide, or end up being home schooled. School Districts across the country must come to the realization that ignoring bullying does not make it better in any sense of the word.

Laieski (the 16 year-old activist) is helping Castro look into legal options and the process of recalling school board members.

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