This is an article from the beginning of the year, but it is one of many examples of gay kids not allowing bullies to win without using force.

I thought it was important to balance the news on this topic.

Phoenix-area teen takes aim at gay bullying
January 11, 2011 at 1:56 PM
by Administrator TrevorSpace

A teenage activist has notified officials at every school in Arizona that they need to put a stop to bullying of gay and lesbian students or face a lawsuit.

Caleb Laieski, 15, e-mailed a letter to more than 5,000 school administrators, city-council members and state lawmakers demanding improved measures to fight discrimination.

The letters, sent to school and government officials in early December, state that gay and lesbian youths face more bullying than their heterosexual peers and offer to refer officials to organizations and experts.

Read Caleb's letter here.

The letters warn school officials that they must institute policies specifically prohibiting gay harassment by students, teachers and administrators. Schools that fail to stop bullying will encounter "legal ramifications."

"This is more not to threaten a lawsuit but to put resources out there," said Laieski, founder of Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination. "But if they don't want to cooperate, there's going to be consequences."

Laieski has influence as a gay activist.

The Surprise teen founded his organization two years ago, when he was 13 years old. He was successful in spurring a policy change at his school district and drawing national media attention to the group.

Laieski, formerly a student at Willow Canyon High School, said he endured harassment at school and felt district officials should have done more to stop it.

Laieski said he was shoved into lockers and received text messages with anti-gay slurs.

In March, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona offered to represent him in a potential lawsuit against Dysart Unified School District. The district later revised its student handbook to include language prohibiting bullying of gays, lesbians, and bisexual and transgender students.

"Overall, I think they did a great job in adding the protections and a better job enforcing," said Laieski, who is pursuing his high-school-equivalency diploma and plans to attend community college. "Obviously, there's always room for improvement."

After talking to friends in other districts, Laieski said it was important to reach out to every school in Arizona.

His organization is essentially a two-person operation, run by Laieski and a friend, Casey Cameron, 35, of Chicago. In addition to policy changes, the two hope the group can provide more services for gay and lesbian youths, such as counselors and a homeless shelter.

Laieski said his organization is "absolutely" ready to initiate a lawsuit in specific situations: a suicide or attempted suicide because of bullying, expressions of hate from teachers or administrators, and inadequate punishment for bullying.

Laieski said that, in his experience, administrators often fail to dole out punishment for bullying recommended by school handbooks.

"They say, 'Oh, we talked to him. It shouldn't happen again,' " he said. "It's obviously going to become adequate if they at least follow the rule book, and depending on the degree, we can go from there."

The ACLU of Arizona would not comment on whether it would become involved in lawsuits if Laieski's group initiated them.

Bullying is "a very serious problem," said legal director Dan Pochoda, who said he was not aware of the letter campaign.

The letter campaign has netted responses from only a handful of officials, including two districts in the Phoenix area.

Most acknowledged receipt of the letter but did not outline plans to take further steps.

Janis Merrill, an attorney for the Tempe Elementary School District, said in an e-mail to Laieski and Cameron that anti-gay bullying is "simply not tolerated and is appropriately addressed when it is reported to the appropriate district administrator."

One priority is to have school districts specifically address sexual orientation in their anti-bullying policies.

Many school districts adopt their handbook policies and language based on recommendations from the Arizona School Boards Association.

The group's model policies do not specifically address bullying based on sexual orientation, spokeswoman Juliet Martin said.

"Principals are using the language that's in there, which certainly is inclusive of anti-gay (behavior) just as it is of race or religion or anything else," Martin said. "Bullying is bullying, and they're dealing with it in all shapes and forms."

Martin said the association plans to release about a dozen new policy advisories to districts this month.

She said the recommendations would include revised language on bullying, but she would not say whether the changes would specifically address bullying of gays