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El Paso school district targets bullying following suicide of gay teen

Saturday, July 28, 2012

EL PASO, Texas — An El Paso, Texas school district has strengthened its anti-discrimination policies to prevent bullying of LGBT students and employees after an El Paso teen committed suicide last month after enduring two years of anti-gay bullying.

The El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) voted earlier this week to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and perceived sexuality. Before the policy update, the district had prohibited discrimination, including harassment, against any student because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability or any other basis prohibited by law.

Brandon Elizares

The move came in response to the death of Brandon Elizares, 16, who took his own life on June 2, after being bullied at school for two years because he did not want to hide the fact that he was gay.

Brandon’s mother, Zachalyn Elizares, said the step taken by the school board is a “baby step” in the right direction.

Elizares said that she is coping with her son’s death as well as she can, but that it’s been especially hard preparing her other children, a daughter and son, for the coming school year.

Daniel Rollings, president of PFLAG El Paso, said it’s going to take more than policy updates to end bullying at schools.

“The school board “is doing this after the fact, and it’s unfortunate because they should have been proactive and preventative,” he said. “This is the kind of thing that should have been in place before Brandon was bullied and ultimately took his life.”

Rollings, who is also the community liaison for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Anti-Bullying Coalition, said three-quarters of bullying cases in El Paso have targeted the LGBT community.

“Schools need to have in-services and talk about issues that surround bullying of all kinds,” Rollings said. “Nothing can be done unless it’s reported. That’s why safe zones are important so reporting can be made. Kids need to feel like they can report these instances.”

The El Paso Times reported that EPISD is launching an anti-bullying campaign this fall.

“Teachers and staff will be provided with staff development aimed at identifying and addressing bullying at the campuses,” schools spokeswoman Renee de Santos wrote the paper in an email. “Students in all grade levels will take part in activities aimed at bullying prevention.”

For the coming school year, PFLAG and the University of Texas of El Paso’s Social Work Department will offer “safe zone” training for teachers throughout West Texas and Southern New Mexico, aimed at educating teachers on how to foster a classroom environment in which students can come to them with concerns about discrimination, abuse and bullying and pose questions about drugs, alcohol and sexually transmitted diseases.

Teachers who undergo the training will receive a poster for their classroom that says “This is a safe zone,” and encourages students to talk with someone they trust.

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17 more reader comments:

  1. so what are they going to about the teenagers that were doing the bulling

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:11am
  2. They should hav been doing tht since the beginning of schools.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:14am
  3. So sad.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:15am
  4. These types of policies need to be federally mandated, period! This has gotten way out of control, and enough is enough!! The schools need to send a stronger signal to the “bullies”, and yet have policies in place to back it up!! This is beyond tragic…..

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:17am
  5. Will this ever fucking end!!!

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:17am
  6. to bad it takes an an extreme event like this to happen before they decide to take action about serious situations like so..

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:20am
  7. Why does it always take a tragic event to move the school district to do what they should have been doing?

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:25am
  8. So sad and tragic; hateful place.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:25am
  9. the only way to stop bullying is through our children teaching them the right from wrong. it is damn shame for a parent to loose there child period especially to this foolishness.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:29am
  10. The world we live in is shit. I don’t think this will end, people will just wait until someone kills themselves to do anything about bullying. They are just really stupid.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 9:34am
  11. I am ENDLESSLY bullied for being Bi sexual And let me tell you there is nothing worse than what people do to someone who likes the same sex.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 10:09am
  12. Why do they wait until a death!!

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 11:08am
  13. El paso isn’t too bad for us as a whole, honestly.

    Why a person gives this kind of power to anyone, and ends up taking their own life, I’ll never understand.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 11:23am
  14. I was bullied in middle school and it was hell . Im so sorry for him but suicide not the answer. But i do understand he lived in hell

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 11:53am
  15. It’s still painful to look at this. This is inappropriate but I really wish that the people who continue to preach how we’re devils would see this. Kids get this from the closest thing and that’s home

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 12:02pm
  16. As a lesbian who lived in El Paso, that’s the best place I’ve ever lived. Not once did I witness any form of hate towards me or any other homosexual, but there’s always the few who have to voice their opinions and ruin it all…my condolences.

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 12:52pm
  17. As usual, AFTER the suicide and not before!

    Posted on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 1:04pm