My 38 year old son called recently to ask what I was doing about a problem in our schools and churches. Bullying and physical violence is directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) children. No child is immune.
We know that teachers and administrators frequently ignore or dismiss the problem, and in some cases have encouraged or participated in such abuse themselves.
We know this harassment has damaging and sometimes tragic consequences for GLBT youth. Studies consistently find they have about a 3 times higher rate of attempted suicide.
We know these struggles are compounded for GLBT youth facing other forms of oppression based on race, gender, disability, class, immigration status, religion or language.
We know the majority of youth who harass and assault GLBF people don't fit a stereotype of hate-filled extremists, but are average young people who often see nothing wrong with their behavior.
We know that in several tragic school shootings, including Columbine High, the youth who pulled the trigger experienced anti-GLBT harassment.
We know that anti-GLBT" harassment destabilizes the learning environment for all students.
We know every student has the right to a safe and equitable learning environment free from harassment, violence and discrimination.
We know that 83% of parents support putting in place or expanding existing anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies to include GLBT students.
We know that, thanks to recent court cases and new laws, ensuring a safe learning environment is also a legal duty.
This safe environment for all students requires work on a number of levels.
The United Methodist Church has discriminated against Blacks and women. The Church has since apologized for that discrimination.
The UMC Book of Discipline's mention of "homosexuality" is both demeaning and manipulative. My prayer is that the bashing and bullying will stop. Let us go about God's work together.