Staples Takes A Stand

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GLSEN - Safe Schools
GLSEN Protest|Image by Sam T (samm4mrox) via Flickr

Cheyenne Haslett ’13
Web Feature Editor

Society isn’t perfect, as was made clear this month by the flurry of suicides by homosexual teens. The suicides ranged from middle school students to college students, but each suicide made just as much of an impact.

On the week of October 3, Tyler Clementi of Rutgers University jumped off the George Washington Bridge, marking the fifth suicide of a gay teen in three weeks.

As the numbers began to near double digits, Staples students took action. October 20 was Spirit Day, which the Gay-Straight Alliance club took part in after receiving a newsletter from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.

Students dressed in purple and bought rainbow pins and t-shirts from GSA to support homosexuality across the country.

The point of the day was  “to memorialize the seven who committed suicide,” said Francis Furmanek ’11, the head of GSA.

In another act to raise awareness, Elizabeth Tillemans ’14 invited all her friends to a Facebook group telling everyone to wear purple on October 20, and to support gay pride. “Everyone should be aware of [homosexual teens in high school] and know that its ok to stand up for these people, and I think that [some students] may be afraid of being bullied themselves,” said Tillemans.

The turnout of Spirit Day was “pretty good,” said Furmanek. “The week in general is to celebrate our alliances. It was a slow start but we got a lot of pledges.”

The pledges state that the person signing it will no longer use slurs or insult any lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual person because of their sexual preference.

However, opinions on the suicides range much further from just Staples High School, and Joel Burns, a politician running for Fort Worth City Council District 9 Campaign, made a very touching speech on the topic in a City Council meeting that took place on October 12.

Burns made it clear that he was a strong supporter of gay pride, and of teens being comfortable in their schools in the announcement, which was then posted on the web and seen by millions.

“We will have it that this bullying and harassment in our schools must stop and that our schools must be a safe place to learn and to grow. It is never acceptable for us to be the cause for any child to feel unloved or worthless and I am committed to being a part of that conversation,” Burns said.

Burns went on to say that his message was not just to persuade adults to support gay pride, but for the young people “ who might be holding that gun tonight, or the rope or the pill bottle….” His message was clearly displayed that “yes, high school was difficult, coming out was painful, but life got so much better for me and I want to tell any teen to give yourself a chance to see how much better life will get.”

Finding the link on youtube.com of Burns speaking on a friend’s tumblr, Tillemans decided Burns’ message was important, and posted it to her Facebook. “I thought that his story was really moving and although it was long it was worth watching. I wanted not just a few tumblr followers to see it, but everyone I know. I posted it on Facebook hoping people would watch it and realize just how terrible the abuse is getting,” she said.

A strong proponent of gay pride, Tillemans expressed great passion to the subject, saying that she, and many other children grow up watching television or movies about only straight couples, and hearing fairy tales about only princes and princesses. “I’ve never heard of a straight person committing suicide due to their sexuality, why is that?” Tillemans said.

Tillemans left off with a strong message for not just Staples, but all teens. “I just want everyone out there who has been harassed, bullied, or abused for whatever reason, sexuality, race, religion, anything, that you will grow up and you can get away.”

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