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LGBT rights advocates say Utah bullying law may backfire

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
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OGDEN, Utah — Gay rights leaders in Utah say a new law requiring schools to notify parents when their child is a victim of bullying could potentially do more harm than good.

Advocates say the rule could inadvertently reveal a student’s sexual orientation to their family, which could expose them to more rejection.

bullying“Bullying is a huge problem, and we know from the youth we work with that schools struggle to respond appropriately to keep students safe in our local schools, said Rev. Marian Edmonds, Executive Director of OUTreach Resource Center, a center for at-risk LGBT youth based in Ogden.

“The results of anti-gay bullying include poor school performance, skipping school or dropping out, and even tragic loss of life to suicide,” said Edmonds.

The OUTreach center and Ogden PFLAG facilitated a forum Tuesday with community members to brain-storm ideas on how schools should handle gay students being bullied who aren’t ready to come out to their parents.

“While well intended, this new law will add to the risks for LGBT students and could result in the “outing” of a student and may very well be a tragedy waiting to happen,” said Edmonds.

In Utah, there are more than 1,300 homeless youth, roughly half identifying as LGBT. Half of the LGBT youth report being kicked out of the family home because of their orientation or gender identity.

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Edmonds noted that other states, such as Massachusetts, have developed specialized guidelines for parental notification for a gender identity or anti-gay bullying incidents, and said similar guidelines in Utah are essential and must be developed and implemented without delay.

“Last night’s forum showed that people in Utah care about the high rate of LGBT youth suicide and homelessness, and will speak up to make sure this law protects and serves all youth,” Edmonds told LGBTQ Nation. “The new law is a positive step forward, and with such a public outpouring, we hope it may be made even better, with appropriate guidelines in place to keep LGBT youth safe.”

The notification law took effect on Sept. 1.

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