GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. New data from the GLSEN National School Climate Survey of LGBT students shows that although homophobic remarks and verbal harassment in schools has leveled off for the first time in a decade, nevertheless victimization, based on gender expression, has increased.
Every child deserves a safe environment in which to learn. Yet according to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at their school. They are more apt to miss as much as a day of school per month, according to GLSEN, because they are bullied.
What constitutes bullying? It’s not the same as teasing. It’s defined as unwanted aggressive behavior among school-aged kids that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
The lazy days of summer are almost over. The new backpacks, sharpened pencils, notebooks come shuffling into school soon. So do the bullies who can make your child’s school year a living Hell unless you help your child prepare NOW!
What Parents Can Do: Devise A Plan Now
- Although you want the school to be an ally in combating bullying, keep in mind that often teachers and other school professionals do not witness bullying because it happens out of their sight (e.g. playgrounds, locker rooms, bathrooms, and buses.)
- Role play with your child. Pretend you’re the bully and have your child develop pat answers.
- Reverse roles.
- Brainstorm about alternating their route home so that an adult is always present.
Psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know (Sterling: 2016), “assure your child that being a bullying victim is not his fault. Many children will feel humiliated and ashamed and think they have brought it on themselves. Do not BLAME the child for being bullied. Tell your child to come to you immediately if anyone is making disparaging remarks or threats.”
How Do You Get Your Child to Open Up?
- Listen and focus on him.
- Emphasize that bullying should not be tolerated.
- Let him know that his home, school, community will want to protect him.
Says Dr. Tobkes, “ parents are the most effective deterrent to bullying. I have found that the most important prognostic indicator for a child being targeted for his sexuality is having a safe haven retreat at home.”
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.