When are we going to start holding school administrators, state school boards, and state legislatures responsible for what to me amounts to child neglect?  If this were a parent who let this happen they would be sent to jail.

Jaheem Herrera

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (MyFOX Atlanta) – A DeKalb County mother discovers her fifth grade son dead. He used a belt to hang himself from a bedroom closet. The family said the boy was bullied by classmates. 

The family of 11-year-old Jaheem Herrera is highly critical of Dunaire Elementary school officials. They said they repeatedly complained about harassment, but nothing was done. 

Jaheem's mother, Masika Bermudez said she had complained to the Dunaire School principal that her child had been bullied — harassed physically and verbally because he looked different and spoke with an accent.

Of course, the Fox news coverage here wouldn't degrade themselves by mentioning the word "gay", but other news outlets stated that the boy complained about being called gay and the mother confirmed this fact in a video interview (which I can't find posted yet).  Notice how the reporting made it sound like "generic" harassment.  No harassment of any kind should be tolerated, but withholding the true cause of the harassment does a disservice to the LGBT community when trying to convince the general public that this is a real issue.  Of course, it is sad state when we have to convince people in the first place.

How many more does it take?

NOTE FROM PAM: Here is the video:

Also, I want to re-share with you the interview I did with Chapel Hill High School senior Kat Gipson, who shared her personal story of being gay-bashed in school. In October of last year, I spoke to the Chapel Hill High GSA, and they were up-front about stories of bullying — and lack of acceptance by religious conservative parents.

(My transcription below- Louise.)

Pam Spaulding: Tell me now, what was the incident that made you want to join the GSA?

Kat Gipson: When I was in tenth grade, I had a girlfriend and we had been dating for about 3 months. It was fine until, in the hallway I started getting comments- I would just hear them over my shoulder- quick words like, you know, like “effing lesbian”, or “we don’t need people like you at our school” or “you need to, like…”. Just random things regarding my sexuality and threats.

I actually got a death threat at one point, right in front of the administrator’s office, so every time I would turn around really quickly and no one would be there. Because it would be like, in a crowded hall of students, and I just wouldn’t see anybody. Or I would see people walking away. And… so… this went on for awhile, about 2 weeks, and there were several incidents.

And then there was one day that I left a class early because I asked if I could go to the bathroom and my teacher said, “Just take your stuff and just go ahead” so it was right before the bell rang. And I was coming out of my bathroom, the bathroom, and I was walking this way. And as I was turning, I saw out of the corner of my eye, just figures, I mean they all had their hoods up and I was like, “Whatever”…

Pam Spaulding: The sweat hoodies?

Kat Gipson: “They’re just coming out of class; it’s not a big deal.”

I turned and started walking down the hall and then I started hearing footsteps, like RUNNING, and I turned around really quick, and someone grabbed the side of my face, and slammed me into a locker, and I had a group of people around me, just pushing me, like continuously into a locker, saying stuff like, “Fag”, “Lesbian”, like, “Get out of our school”, all these different things like…

I just curled up in a ball and covered up my head, because at that point I just didn’t care who it was, right then. I was just like, “Don’t hurt me”. And then the bell rang. And they all just got up and ran down the hall.

And at that moment I was so terrified that I was shaking and I got my stuff- I got up and I went to my teacher, who I trusted alot, and told her. She took me immediately to Mr. Herseburger, and he took us directly to the security. The administrator didn’t do anything, um, throughout the entire time, nothing-      

Pam Spaudling: Did your parents speak to them?

Kat Gipson: My parents spoke to them; they came in and this was when I was, when I had to come out to my parents, because it was a legal issue. And so um, I did have to tell them, you know, “So, hi guys… A- I got beat up at school and B- I’m gay, by the way, that’s why”.

And so they came in- we had this huge conference, with like my counselors and the security guard. We looked over the surveillance tapes, um, we couldn’t actually see- there wasn’t a tape of them beating up, but we could see behind me in the hallways. And I would turn around really quickly. And I’d say, “Right there. Right there. That’s the person.” But we never caught their faces.

So this went on for 2 weeks, maybe, with people like reviewing tapes, and, but during this time my parents wrote several letters to the administration, came in several different times to talk to our head principal, who is no longer our principal, and um, nothing happened regarding that.

And after a little while, they had a police (officer) following me to my classrooms, at a distance, um, just to see if it happened again and it didn’t. So after that, it just kinda faded away into nothing.  

Pam Spaulding: And no one came forward to say that they did it, no one identified who had…

Kat Gipson: Nope, nope.

Pam Spaudling: And the investigation went nowhere.

And for folks out there, this is why we need an anti-bullying bill passed in this state.

Kat Gipson: Yes, yes.

Pam Spaulding: Thanks!

And conservatives are always saying — “What about the children?” Well, yes, what about all of the fringe bible beaters who work to prevent anti-bullying bills from passing because of inclusive language that protects on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity?

In this video Kat also mentioned that she would like to move to Portland, Oregon once she’s out of college; she doesn’t feel that she can remain in this state, or in the South, for that matter, as long as states in this region don’t legislate full civil equality for LGBTs. Some of the best and brightest will choose to migrate to states where their full rights and relationships are recognized. That is a bottom-line reality that our state government needs to think hard about. Is this what mainstream conservatives really want? I know it’s what the fundies desire.

In NC, the School Violence Prevention Act is being considered and will hopefully pass this time around; North Carolinians can urge support of its passage here at Equality NC. All schools need to be safe places for all children to learn.

Will St. James

Will St. James


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