Archive for Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Campaign to help protect gay teens

Rally increases awareness of harassment in high schools

August 27, 2003

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— A campaign to increase the safety of high school students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender kicked off with a program at a city park where teenagers were teased and bullied while others watched.

The "Makin' it Safe" rally Monday was designed to talk about the abuse that many such students face during their adolescent years.

Sarah Ivy, a 1997 graduate of Blue Valley Northwest High School, wrote some of the skits performed at the rally.

"I wouldn't advise any teen to come out," said Ivy, who kept her sexual orientation a secret while in high school. Those who do reveal their sexual orientation, she said, endure a lot of harassment.

The Youth Violence Prevention Project of Greater Kansas City is sponsored by the National Coalition for Community and Justice. The project, which is still evolving, aims to increase awareness of violence and discrimination toward all high school students, but Monday's program focused on sexual orientation.

Organizers hope to work with school districts to make all students feel safe and welcome.

Jaron Asher, coordinator of the project, said other people needed to learn that gay students are like other teens -- "going through puberty, trying to make grades, trying to fit in."

Homosexual students are not the only targets, said Jamie Rich, director of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

"Sometimes, straight kids get beat up because they are effeminate," Rich said.

"Teachers and principals are always ready to address that by telling students that people are different shapes," Rich said. "Some are long, some are round. But a lot of administrators and teachers don't know what to do with gay kids.

"Sometimes they act like it's the kid's fault and he brought it on himself."

Mayor Kay Barnes encouraged the students to choose to live in Kansas City after they completed their education.

"This community is not perfect, but we are moving in the right direction," Barnes said.

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