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Iowa Schools Criticized For Not Protecting Gay Students


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Iowa Schools Criticized For Not Protecting Gay Students

by The Associated Press

Posted: November 14, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(Des Moines, Iowa) A survey conducted by an association representing gay high school students shows a majority of the students say their school offers no protection against harassment based on sexual orientation, leaders of the group said today.

The Iowa Pride Network surveyed 175 students in 48 school districts and found that 58 percent of the students reported their school has no policy to protect gay students, while nearly 75 percent said faculty members rarely or never intervened when homophobic remarks were made in their presence.

‘‘These numbers clearly indicate that a majority of Iowa schools are failing when it comes to providing safe learning environments,’’ said Ryan Roemerman, head of the Iowa Pride Network. ‘‘Violence and harassment continues to be the rule, not the exception.’’

Roemerman said his group would use the results of the survey to again lobby for an anti-bullying law in the Legislature, and would press the Iowa School Board Association on the issue at that group’s convention later this week.

The Legislature last session rejected a bullying measure that would have forced local schools to adopt policies aimed at protecting students from harassment based on sexual orientation. Critics said schools have a responsibility to protect all students and said the law wasn’t needed.

Roemerman and other gay students said the numbers they found in their survey show that protection simply isn’t happening.

He said the survey showed that more than 90 percent of the students surveyed reported hearing homophobic comments, and more than 83 percent said they had been verbally abused because of their sexual orientation.

‘‘Fighting for my own security and safety at my high school has been so difficult that I would never wish it upon any students,’’ said Emily Frerichs, a senior at MOC-Floyd Valley High School in Orange City. ‘‘I’m not asking for special rights. I’m asking to be protected and safe like everyone else.’’

‘‘It’s tough going through life knowing you’re different and afraid to say you are for fear of harassment,’’ said Tyler Moors, a junior at Carlisle High School. ‘‘I know that’s why I waited so long to come out.’’

Amber Johnson, a senior at Council Bluffs Lewis Central, said she was asked to leave a private high school after her first year because of her sexual orientation.

‘‘I don’t want to pretend to be somebody that I’m not, just to get the basic rights and treatment that my peers do,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘I don’t want to feel isolated.’’

Advocates said they never before had statistics to prove their argument that gay students aren’t being protected and will use the survey to pressure lawmakers when they convene in January. They face a decidedly uphill battle in a Legislature where the Senate is tied at 25-25, and Republicans hold a 51-49 edge in the House.

‘‘I think the issue becomes in what form’’ protections are offered, said Senate Republican President Jeff Lamberti, of Ankeny. ‘‘School districts and school boards protect all students and we don’t need a law to do that. It already is the law.’’

Conservative groups said that building in protection for gay students gives them special status and endorses a lifestyle of which they disapprove.

‘‘This is a politically motivated study that has more to do with legitimizing the homosexual lifestyle than stopping bullying in our schools and it’s a shame,’’ said Mike Hartwig, of the Iowa Family Policy Council.

©365Gay.com 2005


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