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Gay students face hostile environment, report says (Newsday, 10.28.05)

Gay students face hostile environment, report says
By Ellen Yan
staff writer
Newsday
October 28, 2005

Many gay and transgender students have been harassed daily in city schools, including by staff who call them names or remain silent when they see bullying, concludes a report released Thursday.

The survey from the nonprofit Advocates for Children, which interviewed 75 current students and dropouts, is considered the first to scope out problems faced by an estimated 14,000-plus “LGBT” city students, those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender or transsexual.

“I was so scared to go to class because I would be picked on,” said Daniela, a 20-year-old transgender man who graduated in June from Bushwick High School but had to fight to wear girls’ clothes and use the girls’ bathroom.

In the survey, about a third of the students reported being called names daily and 26 percent said they had been hurt or threatened. Others said schools did not investigate complaints.

“You have a climate that is hostile to LGBT in every school in this city, and when you have peer pressure enforced by an administration that’s hostile, it drives students to drop out of school,” said Pauline Park, chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy.

The Department of Education has launched bias and diversity sensitivity training for key staff, including one led by the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan. “We do not and will not tolerate any bullying or harassment in our schools,” said department spokesman Keith Kalb.

Critics said the training is “minimal” and blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg for ignoring the Dignity for All Students Act after the City Council overrode his veto of the measure last year. It bars bullying and requires tracking of cases, but the mayor said state law already makes bullying illegal.

Advocates for Children conducted the survey last school year after hearing stories about mistreatment, including of students who were not gay but perceived to be so.

One boy threw a gasoline-soaked paper ball at a student and ignited it after she caught it, the report said, while a transgender student was illegally suspended for wearing make-up.

This article originally appeared in the 28 October 2005 of Newsday.

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