The following may be attributed to GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings.
NEW YORK--As America searches for answers in the wake of another school shooting, a sad but clear trend emerges. The gunmen in at least five of the major school shootings -- those from Moses Lake, WA; Pearl, MS; West Paducah, KY; Littleton, CO and now Santee, CA -- were reported to have been targets of anti-gay harassment.
We are troubled, but not surprised by news reports that Andy Williams was targeted with anti-gay epithets. After all, these are the insults of choice on school campuses from coast to coast. While we do not know whether anti-gay teasing was a motivating factor here, studies do show that among boys no other type of harassment, including actual physical abuse, provokes as strong a reaction as being called "gay" at school. The alienating and well-documented effects of anti-gay harassment take a toll -- regardless of the target's sexual orientation.
We are deeply disturbed that media and schools have not examined this variable. If all of these gunmen had been fans of, say, the same violent video game or of a certain music group, we know that administrators, lawmakers and reporters would be asking questions. But here, there is only silence. We challenge media and education officials to question what if any role anti-gay harassment has played in the cycle of school shootings, and to address the prevalence of anti-gay harassment as part of our ongoing national discussion on student safety and school violence.
For the most recent statistics on the prevalence of anti-gay harassment and epithets in America's schools, contact GLSEN's communications department at (212) 727-0135 x136.