Thursday, February 24, 2011

It Gets Better

The program they're referring to, "It Gets Better"  - I watched a video of one of them a while back, but didn't realize it was a Dept. of Justice program!  Two men who had adopted a boy talked about their married life together.  They were laughing, recounting how they met.  One of them said to the other:


"You have a nice mouth."


The other one replied:


"The better to eat you with."


And then the two men giggled at the memory.


AAG Perez Meets with Students to Talk Bullying and Harassment

January 4th, 2011 Posted by Tracy Russo

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez today joined students at James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, Md., to talk about bullying and harassment in schools. He focused on the Department’s work to address harassment and protect the civil rights of all students.

Blake High School has 1,800 students, and today’s event was presented with the support of Blake High School’s administration and the Blake Alliance for Equality, which is the school’s gay-straight alliance.

The event featured remarks from Assistant Attorney General Perez in which he discussed how bullying takes all shapes and forms and encouraged students to take an active role in combating bullying. He noted that in addition to bringing cases, we also need to address the attitudes and behavior that lead to bullying. AAG Perez also took questions from students and showed a video recently produced by Civil Rights Division staff as a submission to the “It Gets Better” Project. The project, started in the wake of a string of suicides of LGBT students who had been targeted with severe harassment, is an effort to let all students who are subjected to bullying and harassment, and particularly LGBT students, know that life will get better.

At the conclusion of the event, students had the opportunity to sign the “It Gets Better” pledge, which focuses on speaking up against hate and intolerance wherever it occurs and providing hope for all bullied teens by letting them know it gets better.

For its part, the Justice Department is committed to using its authority to combat harassment in schools, and has worked over the last year to do so.

In December, for example, the Division announced a settlement agreement with the Philadelphia School District addressing complaints of race, color and national origin-based harassment of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School, and allegations that the District was deliberately indifferent to the severe and pervasive harassment endured by these students. The complaints alleged persistent harassment, including an incident in December 2009, in which approximately 30 Asian students were attacked and approximately 13 were sent to the hospital emergency room. Under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, school districts are required to protect students from harassment based on race, color, sex, national origin or religion.

The settlement requires the District to take systemic action to reform its policies to address harassment and to curb future harassment of students. The agreement should serve as a model for other districts as they work to address and combat harassment in their schools.

In another recent case, the Civil Rights Division last year intervened in the case of an openly gay teenager from Mohawk County, New York. For two and a half years, the student was a victim of severe and pervasive student-on-student harassment because he failed to conform to gender stereotypes. From 2007 until 2009, the harassment escalated from derogatory name-calling to physical threats and violence. The student’s grades suffered. He had multiple absences because he did not feel safe at school, and he dropped one of his favorite courses to avoid one of his harassers. The complaint alleged that the district was deliberately indifferent in its failure to take action – neither fully investigating the allegations, nor following its anti-harassment policies and procedures. The failure to address and prevent this kind of bullying not only violated the student’s right to be free of harassment in school, but also reinforced intolerant and hateful behavior by allowing it to go unpunished. A settlement reached in the case requires the school district to, among other things, retain an expert consultant to review policies related to harassment, and train faculty and staff annually on discrimination and harassment.


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