Gay + Lesbian Youth – Making History

REBECCA SPENSE: One month later governor weld and education commissioner Antonucci announced the creation of a statewide safe schools program. In the coming school year, the program would train teams of students and teachers from 150 high schools.

Robert Antonucci
Commissioner of Education
June 30, 1993

ROBERT ANTONUCCI: This is the beginning of training. This is the beginning of understanding. And it really has to be seen as a grassroots approach, so that within the next year, the next two years, the next three years, is that we have teachers in this commonwealth and all public schools – When I say teachers, I also mean administrators — who have an understanding of the issues that are so complex today that face students who come to our doors. And if we can begin that effort here tonight in a very positive way, a very enthusiastic way, in a way that really says to schools that we’re here for all children. And I realize it becomes a sensitive issue for some people. It becomes an issue some people do not want to address. But I need to stand before you and tell you that we have to do this and focus whats really important, the students that we serve. So tonight we come together for the alliance, we come together for the Department of Education, we come together with students, community people, and the teachers to begin an initiative that’s so important.

Governor William Weld

GOVERNOR WELD: 30 percent of all completed teen suicides are committed by homosexual youth. This  is not about a so-called “different” way of life… It’s about life itself. I know that every teacher and every parent in this commonwealth fundamentally agrees that no young person, gay or straight, should driven to take her own life because of isolation and abuse.  This is a tragedy we all have to work together to prevent. We can take the first step towards ending gay youth suicide by creating an atmosphere of dignity and respect for these young people in our schools. Those who are here are teachers, guidance counselors, school principals here tonight have an essential role to play in supporting young people suffering from isolation, and low self esteem. By making our schools safe and by providing school-based support for gay and lesbian students, you’ll both help them to learn and you’ll save lives.

Kevin Jennings, Teacher
Concord Academy

KEVIN JENNINGS: Gay and lesbian students are uniquely alone and isolated in a way that their counterparts facing discrimination are not. Put yourself in the shoes of a student who at the median age of 13 realizes his sexual orientation. Where would your turn for support? Your family?

Our commission found that 26 percent of gay and lesbian youth are forced to leave their homes by their parents once it is discovered that they are gay.

Your friends?

Our commission found that 97 percent of the students at Lincoln-Sudbury High School, for example, had their peers use homophobic epithets while at school

Your Teachers?

Our commission survey found that 53 percent students we surveyed from 15 gay youth groups statewide had heard their teachers use homophobic language while at class.

Quite simply, these gay and lesbian students have nowhere to turn