Ė GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is appalled by the alleged use of a gay slur by the Ambridge Area School Boardís vice president last week at a school board meeting.
GLSEN Pittsburgh is calling for a sincere apology from Vice President William Scherfel as well as a workshop on the impact of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in schools attended by the entire school board. If Scherfel is unwilling to recognize his error, apologize and attend a workshop, GLSEN Pittsburgh is calling for him to resign.
"The Pennsylvania code of conduct for teachers includes language specifying that teachers may not discriminate based on sexual orientation," said GLSEN Pittsburgh Co-Chair Tom Wyse. "At the very least, if a teacher can be fired for behavior such as this, we would hope someone setting the tone for the actions of an entire school district would have to meet the same standards."
The incident allegedly took place last week when Scherfel reportedly referred to students in Ambridge Area High School's Gay-Straight Alliance as "faggots."
According the Beaver County Times, Scherfel said he grew up in a different generation when certain terms were acceptable in referring to gays and other groups. Two other members of the board, including the president, downplayed the severity of Scherfelís actions.
"People need to understand that this kind of language means something and it hurts people," said GLSEN Deputy Executive Director Eliza Byard. "In fact, it has a very negative impact on school climate for all students. There is no place for this sort of language anywhere, let alone by an education official at a public meeting."
GLSEN National and GLSEN Pittsburgh hope Scherfel and the Ambridge Area School Board will use this as an opportunity to educate themselves and bring light to the issue of anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) bias and behavior in schools.
Bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression, including the use of anti-LGBT language, makes LGBT students feel less safe at school, causes them to perform worse in class, increases the frequency and number of students who skip school and decreases LGBT studentsí sense of belonging.
Students across the country recognize that addressing this problem would improve school climate for all. Nearly two out of three students (63 percent) Ė gay and straight - who have heard homophobic remarks say their schoolís atmosphere would be better if they heard them less often, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a Harris Interactive report conducted on behalf of GLSEN.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania students report hearing anti-LGBT remarks at an alarming rate. According to From Teasing to Torment: A Report on School Climate in Pennsylvania, a vast majority of Pennsylvania students reported hearing homophobic remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" (82%), or the expressions "thatís so gay" or "youíre so gay" (93%) from other students in school.
Sexual orientation and gender expression are among the top three reasons Pennsylvania students say students are bullied and harassed at their school along with physical appearance.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSENís educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.