[box type=”note”]Josh Gunderson sent me a note correcting the date of the attack. His program at the school was two days after the attack, not before. I have corrected the headline accordingly. Thanks, Josh, for the correction.[/box]
By now, you’ve probably seen the news report from Chillicothe, Ohio (about 75 miles from me) that rocketed across the internet yesterday (hat tip to Equality Ohio) about a 15-year-old student who was brutally attacked in school this week because he’s gay. (Trigger warning, just to be safe.)
See Dan Savage’s column for my reaction to this story. Cosigned, 100%.
Coincidentally, the school had a big assembly (screencap) about online and offline peer abuse just last Wednesday. Speaker Josh Gunderson addressed the students, ending his presentation by directly addressing suicides caused by peer abuse. Here is Gunderson’s It Gets Better video:
See Gunderson’s Youtube channel to get an idea what he does. It looks like a good program, and we need more of that kind of thing to reach students, but the abuse won’t stop until the adults in charge recognize that this is a real and urgent problem, not one you can just talk about for an hour and then forget for another year.
It’s important that adults treat peer abuse and the accompanying physical attacks without kid gloves. These are serious life-and-death issues. Zach has a concussion and is in a danger zone for self-harm and suicidal ideation right now because of this attack by a peer.
In fact, his attacker is probably back in school today, potentially sitting in the same classroom as his victim. Obviously, this will only exacerbate the attack’s long-term effects.
Union-Scioto School officials must act swiftly, both to make Zach whole and to make it known throughout the community that peer abuse, specifically peer abuse against LGBT people, are not accepted in their schools. Local officials in the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s office must treat this attack seriously and seek real penalties in order to rehabilitate the attacker.
Failing to do that will send the opposite message that attacking and abusing LGBTs is okay, and that’s a message we can’t afford for them to send.