Stop Bullying Now

By Lawrence Hardy

The harassment that led an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman to jump from a bridge to his death in late September might seem unique in its intrusiveness and cruelty. Tyler Clementi was apparently distraught after being recorded having a sexual encounter with another man in a secret video that was streamed on the Internet.

The culprits, authorities say, were his roommate and another student. The university community -- and soon, much of the nation -- was outraged.

Clementi’s death garnered a lot of publicity, but it was just one of six deaths of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students that occurred in September. Four were high school and middle school students. More suicides were reported in October.

“Six suicides in the first 30 days of school -- it got people’s attention,” says Jean-Marie Navette, a spokeswoman for PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

Among those paying attention is the U.S. Department of Education, which announced that schools could lose federal money if they don’t address the bullying of gay students. Russlyn Ali, the assistant education secretary for civil rights, said during a conference call with reporters that civil-rights protections will be extended to gay, lesbian, and transgender students who face harassment for “failing to conform to sex stereotypes.”

“A school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring,” the department said in a letter sent to schools in late October.

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