Back in the fall when Tyler Clementi was being harassed and tormented by his anti-gay roommate, he reported the problem to the resident advisor of his dorm. The surveillance and harassment continued and increased. Ultimately Tyler committed suicide temporarily waking the nation to the pervasive homophobia children and young adults must endure in order to attend school.
A year earlier during the 2009-10 school year Seth Walsh came out as gay and was continuously tormented by his homophobic classmates. Seth’s mother went to the administration expecting them to address the homophobic violence in their school. She was told to remind someone to do something about it in the fall. The harassment continued and increased. Seth’s suicide note was a testament to the harassment and violence he endured while in middle school.
Now the Clementi family is suing Rutgers for supervising and managing a violently homophobic educational institution. A move it appears the Rutgers admin was anticipating with stonewalling antics early on. And federal education officials are investigating Tehachapi Unified School District where employees utterly failed to adequately address the years of bullying that preceded Seth Walsh’s death.
Apparently the Department of Education may be planning to use Tehachapi Unified School District to show that they are feeling a little more serious about pursuing the civil rights of LGBTQ youth. And there is a clear precedent for the courts to hold Rutgers accountable for hosting and supervising homophobic games and antics as well.
Any school where specific school employees are resigned OR are quite content to supervise communities in which virulent homophobia is the norm, they should be fired. Any school where administrators lack the clarity to establish and enforce safe and inclusive learning environments, these educational leaders should be immediately be put on a growth plan or removed from supervisory roles.
What sort of organization condones management claims of ignorance and incompetence as reasonable excuses for not doing your job? To say, “don’t blame us, we did our best” in either of these cases is utter nonsense. To me it is absurd for Rutgers or the Tehachapi District to rely upon this indefensible position and I expect they will both attempt to quietly pay for their callous indifference.
I hope both schools pay dearly. Attending these schools cost Tyler and Seth their lives. I can only hope the legal cost to the schools is dramatic enough to shock other schools into proactive education and management around issues of homophobia and gender bias and harassment in schools.