It is not easy to come out. Especially, when you’re not emotionally or mentally strong to deal with the negativity. And it is worse for a child. In the case of Tristan Peterson, his school was not very supportive of his orientation. His constant exposure to bullying is what caused him to commit suicide.
Tristan Peterson was a 12-year-old boy who decided to tell people he was gay. In 2017, the Upper Deerfield School student came out to his peers. He was not accepted with any support. The students in turn harassed, bullied and threatened Tristan for being gay. Tristan probably could not handle the brutality so he committed suicide on 3 Dec 2017 in his home.
Marcy Peterson blames the school for her son’s death.
Tristan’s mother Marcy Peterson filed a lawsuit against the Upper Deerfield school district. The suit accuses the school of failing to address the bullying and intimidation that his son had faced because of his sexual identity. Marcy contacted many school officials to report the mistreatment of her son many times. But the school never took any action against it. She claims in the suit that the death of her son was the cause of the bullying and harassment he faced at school.
Days before Tristan’s death, he was subject to threats from students at Woodruff School (the school he studied in before being transferred to Upper Deerfield). The suit claims that the school knew about the incidents. Members of the school had reported the same But the school failed to act upon any complaints. In ignoring the harassment, intimidation, and bullying of the kid. The school had violated the state’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights by failing to investigate the incidents. The suit, accuses the schools, the Principal and teachers and counselors of negligence, violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, creating a hostile learning environment and wrongful death.
“failed to properly and/or prevent the abusive behavior,” the suit claims, adding, “The defendants had a duty to provide for the safety and security of students.”
Suicide is the second leading cause of death.
Bullying is quite common in schools and leads to many suicides every year. LGBTQ students, in particular, are the ones who are being harassed the most. And GLSEN is a teacher founded organization that works to end harassment and bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Every year GLSEN conducts a survey called the National School Climate Survey. The survey by GLSEN says that 60 percent of kids in New Jersey are verbally harassed by their peers. While 20 percent face brutal physical harassment. While these are the New Jersey number the national numbers are even worse. Nationally, 87.3 percent of cases of harassment are reported out of which 12.4 percent report Physical abuse. There are also those that hurt with words. According to the survey, 79 percent of students hear words like ‘gay’ or ‘fag’. Which is also another way of harassing the LGBT+ kids.
GLSEN is also taking an initiative to help schools teach about empathy and respecting those who are different from the others. Moreover, schools should take an initiative to maintain strong policies against harassment, bullying, and intimidation.
Laurie McGuire, the coordinator with GLSEN’s Southern New Jersey chapter hopes that the new LGBTQ curriculum makes a difference in schools. The program educates kids about the political, social and economic contributions made by LGBT individuals.
“The idea that there are students that are marginalized, that there are students that are bullied and picked on and harassed because they are perceived or seen as different from others and that don’t fit the norm that society has created for them, those students need a space that is supportive and affirming,” McGuire said.
Schools are unsafe for LGBTQ+ kids.
A school is usually a kid’s second home. They should feel the most comfortable in the area where they spend so much time. But that is not the case for LGBTQ children. At least 60 percent of LGBTQ kids said that they feel unsafe at school. An uncomfortable environment leads to lower academic performance. It is also the cause of suicides among children. With the help of GLSEN, there seems to be an improvement in the rate of deaths due to suicides. LGBTQ students are finding little support from their administrators and other school officials.
A supportive staff at school could make a huge difference in helping a kid through his needs. In the case of Tristan Peterson, his school ended up doing nothing against the bullying he was facing. It is not easy for a child to not be accepted in school. Maybe a little support or counseling would have changed Tristan’s mind. And he would have avoided taking such a drastic step.