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Column: Progress made; more progress needed on LGBTQIA+ student safety

By Zaine Eback, Panther Paw editor

One day last January, I wore a skirt and heels to school for the first time. During the school day, I received compliments from various people, and it was awesome. However, when I got on the bus to go home, two other students started making inappropriate remarks toward me. They were threatening to beat me up on the last days of school, even going as far as to say that they were going to shoot up the gays. This behavior is appalling and no one should have to experience this.

 According to stopbullying.gov, 58.9% of queer students are bullied on school grounds. On top of that, 13.5% of LGBTQIA+ students have not shown up to school because they have felt unsafe. This is opposed to the 7.5% of straight students who don’t go to school for the same issue. That’s 6% more than straight students that feel unsafe.

 This kind of behavior is here, as well! As of writing this editorial, fifty complaints have been submitted since the beginning of the SPA’s (Saegertown Pride Alliance) complaint form. Students in our building have endured everything from others purposely using the wrong pronouns to deadnaming to physical and verbal harassment and threats. 

Guidance counselor Christy Mogel said, “I think this is completely unacceptable. PENNCREST School District has policies in place so that students are not discriminated against in regards to sexual orientation, so it is very upsetting to me that students continue to endure the hateful actions of other students.” This only further reinforces my point on the safety concerns.

 Admittedly, some argue that being queer is against their religion; therefore, members of the queer community shouldn’t expect to feel safe at school. People have also said you can choose your sexuality. If you think this way, you are part of the problem! The only thing you are doing by thinking like this is dehumanizing and alienating LGBTQIA+ students. Being gay isn’t against their religion. People often cherry-pick the Bible only to justify personal opinions. Also, you can’t choose your sexuality. You are born with the sexuality you have.

There’s already a student support group in place and a gender-neutral bathroom, and administrators have been supportive, yet it’s not enough. Some things that we should do to prevent future problems include learning more inclusive language and using and respecting people’s preferred names and pronouns, along with establishing safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ students. That way, they know of somewhere to go if they need a place to feel safe to be themselves.

LGBTQIA+ students should feel safer in all schools, including the schools of the PENNCREST School District. The work continues.

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NewsMedia Program of Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School

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