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Utah school defends ‘outing’ student to parents, citing potential for bullying

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

LEHI, Utah — A Utah school district is on the defensive after outing a 14-year middle school student to his parents, claiming administrators were being “proactive” in preventing possible bullying.

Willowcreek Middle School, Lehi, UT.

The incident began last week when students in a Willowcreek Middle School class were assigned to create an advertisement about themselves to hang on the classroom wall.

One 14-year-old student’s ad was about him being gay.

The teacher asked the student if he wanted his ad put up on the wall, and he responded yes.

But school officials later worried that the student might be a potential target for bullying because of negative comments overheard in the hallway, according to Alpine School District spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley.

“If there is the potential for a bullying or a harassment situation, it’s the responsibility of the school to step in and to make sure the student is safe,” she said.

The assistant principal decided it was important to let the boy’s parents know about their concerns over bullying, and after the student “reluctantly” agreed to let school officials contact his parents, they informed the boy’s parents that their son is gay. At the boy’s request, he was not present when his parents were told.

Valerie Larabee, director of the Utah Pride Center, said she was “disturbed” by the incident.

“It’s important to me that school officials deal with bullying issues and don’t cause another problem for the child by outing him to his parents,” she said. “That conversation can be really devastating to young people when their family rejects them. Once you’ve uttered the words, ‘I’m gay,’ your home life can change forever.”

“The administrator did exactly the right thing,” said Bromley, defending the school’s action. “We are not going to back down. We take bullying very, very seriously.”

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network urged caution in these situations.

“Schools should not out LGBT students without their consent,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Outing a student not only violates their right to privacy, but also could compromise their safety. Parents can be notified of their child being bullied at school, but without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A Facebook page was launched in support of the student, but Bromley said some of the information on the page was inaccurate, including the claim that the district suspended the student. She said his parents chose to keep him home from school this week.

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Filed under: Utah

42 more reader comments:

  1. Oh geez, here goes Utah again!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:07pm
  2. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:07pm
  3. BOGUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:08pm
  4. Wht haoppen to the Good ld Day’s when we would fight back?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:08pm
  5. Woah! Not cool!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:09pm
  6. Outing someone doesn not prevent bullying! Education of your students prevents bullying! OMGAY get a clue str8 people….the ignorance is killing MY people! YOUR KIDS! :(

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:10pm
  7. Now how is outing a student to his/her parents going to help stop the bullying?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:10pm
  8. Not cool, especially with how twisted and backstabbing some families are.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:10pm
  9. NOT NOT COOL

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:10pm
  10. Outing is not cool! What if the Parents decide to kick him out because of him being Gay?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:11pm
  11. And some people wonder why the “It Gets Better” thing is a crock of shit…

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:11pm
  12. that is messed up! completely not right of the school to disclose that information to the student’s parents…ridiculous!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:11pm
  13. .
    U.T.A.H. – Undermining Transsexuals And Homosexuals

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:12pm
  14. lol. i’d sue

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:13pm
  15. Ok breeders… You shouldn’t out people. We shouldn’t even do it to our own people. These things take time. Encouraging him to tell his family through counseling would have been the better option.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:13pm
  16. look, this isn’t cool mostly because 14 year olds aren’t really sure about their sexuality yet. Hell, most college students aren’t all that sure about their sexuality. It’s screwed up. But, hey wasn’t utah the place where they wouldn’t let the lesbian couple go to prom? Seems like a fucked up place to me

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:15pm
  17. what do you expect form the mormon church.. arent hey the ones bankrolling nom?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:17pm
  18. I wouldn’t condemn the school to the fullest extent because it did seem like they had the best intentions, that they really wanted to help the student. However, they did not go about it in an appropriate manner at all. The school shouldn’t be intervening with his home life at all, unless of course he was in danger which wasn’t the case.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:22pm
  19. I don’t understand this…how does this PREVENT bullying? Many gay kids are bullied not only in school, but by their religious families, and for those who are not overly religious, many make it a point to voice disapproval about being gay. I keep saying: Teachers aren’t the only ones who need sensitivity training. They need to have these discussions and the atmosphere needs to be one of: Anti-LGBT bullying won’t be tolerated here! THAT’S how you prevent bullying!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:23pm
  20. How many of you actually read the article? The boy outted himself at school. If I were his parent I would want to know too.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:37pm
  21. The only thing the school system there is doing is making sure those kids have as hard a time at home as in school if their parents happen to be homophobic/religiously opposed to their identity and end up kicking them out of their homes. Idiots

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:52pm
  22. Lehi is a small Mormon town. Not right of them to do it but sure is no surprise that they did. I hope the outed person has used this misfortune to help with communication. If anything??

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 9:59pm
  23. It was done maliciously, without the boy consent, so his parents can “fix” him to become “normal” and to serve a mission, married and pretend that all is fine…Full crap!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 10:12pm
  24. Ironic. They claim they were trying to prevent him from possibly being bullied, when all they’ve done was painted a bull’s eye on this kid’s head.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 10:46pm
  25. Seems like the kid outed himself when he was willing to put up a poster of his orientation. He felt safe enough to do it at school. Just from the information in the article, seems the kid needed a little help in telling his parents. Appears the school had the best intentions, not a whole lot of precedence for this. IMHO, I think it would have ben best if that parents and the child were all together and the child was supported in telling his parents himself. Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:03pm
  26. ….and because they are in Utah, how does it make them bad malicious people? We have to be better then the narrow minded bigoted haters you’re condemning. You’re no better then the people you condemn.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:12pm
  27. the world is ful of jerkheads sometimes

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:18pm
  28. I wonder if that was their real reason….Maybe they wanted the parents to “fix” him.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 11:59pm
  29. POTENTIAL for Bullying?!?!? Outing the student is a form of Bullying! (IMO anyway)

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 1:30am
  30. only thing to say to this is ”W.T.F.???”

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 4:08am
  31. They should be ashamed of themselves they have no idea of the ramifications that their actions could cause. Not every parent is supportive of their child, they had no idea of how the parents feel about homosexuality, and in fact were way off base in saying that their actions would be a preventive action against bullying. What if his parents are keeping him home to punish him for being gay? They were way off base with this. What a shame that we live in a society when a child can get an abortion without parental consent but can’t live proudly in who they are without the school feeling like the child should first have parental consent. How utterly ridiculous.

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 4:20am
  32. wow, i must be the only gay on here who thinks what the school did was correct and pro-active….this kid outed himself to his whole school without telling his family??? what the hell was this kid thinking????

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 4:59am
  33. In USA, just as much as in Canada, a school employee is restricted by confidentiality as soon as the student reaches 14 years old. This kid is in his right to sue the school.

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 6:10am
  34. And no,as soon as the kid is 14 years old, the school has no right to violate his privacy, even for telling parents that the kid is bullied without his consent. That’s the Law.

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 6:14am
  35. @Bill, you seem to have no understanding of the law protecting citizens’ confidentiality as soon as this citizen has reached 14 years old. Check the Law.

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 6:16am
  36. To be fair, I point out the school did ask the child whether he agreed to let them tell his parents he was gay in their explanation of concern over bullying. Had they told the parents they were concerned about the bullying of their child without stating why, the parents would have asked anyway. At least the kid could choose not to be there when someone else outed him.

    I do wonder why he felt safe enough to hang his ad at his school admitting himself as gay to his peers, but had not come out to his parents. There may have been a reason he had not come out to them yet, same as I have not done for my aunts, uncles and grandparents. I know some of them are homophobic, bullying doesn’t just occur in school.

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 8:22am
  37. Honestly, what else could they have done? Told the kid he couldn’t post it? Had him post it and maybe get bullied without the paret’s understanding why? At least in this case if the child suffers for it the school system already knows what’s going on at home and can look out for danger signs.

    If they had told him he couldn’t post the asignment then they could have gotten into trouble for discrimination. If they hadn’t informed the parents they could have been sued for allowing him to be put in harms way without informing them as has happened in other states. This is as much a fault of us as a community. Where were we when the teacher was presented with this moral dilema?

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 3:25pm
  38. get with it people

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 5:39pm
  39. utterly and totally unacceptable!

    Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 7:50pm
  40. My reading of the article is that the young man ‘outed’ himself with his poster that included his sexual orientation, that he chose to make the poster ‘public’, at least in school, when given that choice, and that the school had reason to believe that he would be subjected to bullying. The student gave consent for the reason for possible bullying, his being gay, to be told to his parents, though reluctantly. What is missing in the article is what happened to the potential bully(s) who were overheard making negative remarks in the local public commons, the school hallways? Were they outed as homophobic or mean or dangerous to their parents as part of a proactive school policy? I would like more info, seems that sort of parent/ student / school collaberation to proactively discourage bullying would be a given, but no info in this article.

    Posted on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 6:33am
  41. I am a straight married woman and I support gay rights. I feel this was handled poorly. Bullies should be deadly with not the person being bullied. I would love it if this kid said hey i’m 14, 14 yr old say and do crazy things, now you’ve ruined my life and sue them.I don’t care if he’s gay or not. I just think it would teach those ignorant people a lesson. They’re supposed to ensure children’s well-being not potentially harm them. I don’t understand why people care who other people love. How exactly does it harm or affect them? Quit trying to force your beliefs on oher people. I support your right to believe what you want, you must also support my beliefs, whetherer you agree with them our not

    Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 8:55am
  42. Above I meant bullies should be dealt with (Swype changed it to deadly). If everyone followed the golden rule the world would be a much safer and happier place. I wish the best for everyone.

    Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 9:00am