In the last month, the national media has reported on the suicides of five young people — Raymond Chase (19 years old); Tyler Clementi (19); Seth Walsh (13); Asher Brown (13); and Billy Lucas (15) — who faced relentless and cruel bullying and harassment because they were gay or perceived to be gay.  

These are the stories that we know about because they made news, but we know that there are others as well. It is a sad reality that schools are not a safe place for all young people. Youth that face this type of bullying too often do poorly in school, develop substance abuse problems, drop out and sometimes they hurt or kill themselves. 

Over the last few months, the Helena community has been involved in a public discussion about the Helena School District’s health enhancement curriculum. We have witnessed spirited debate on a variety of topics. We have also experienced nasty, hurtful and dehumanizing statements about people who are lesbian, gay, bi or transgender. These public statements have come from adults in our community with children of their own.

One of the topics that the proposed health enhancement curriculum aims to teach is dignity and respect for differences in our community. It would prominently feature the district’s anti-bullying policy. In addition, it would address the reality that we have a diverse community. It acknowledges that individuals and families in our community can look different from one another, practice different faiths, come from different ethnic or racial backgrounds, have different sexual orientations, have one parent or have multiple generations living together. The proposed curriculum reinforces that just because families come in different forms, it doesn’t mean that one family is less than another family. Teaching respect, fairness and dignity in our schools is an important step toward reducing bullying and harassment and building understanding. 

The health enhancement curriculum won’t solve all of our problems, but these types of programs are an important step toward keeping the youth in our community safe and strengthening the way we relate to each other. Thousands of communities in 21 states have implemented a curriculum that is similar and have seen great results. Helena should do the same.

Kim Abbott is program director for the Montana Human Rights Network.

(23) comments


someone sure led ms. abbott down the wrong path. yeah kids get bullied because they're gay. they also get bullied because they're dumb. and because they're smart. and because they look funny or different. and because they're rich. and because they're little. and because they aren't from around here. and because they're nerds. and because they're poor. there's probably literally thousands of reasons why kids get bullied. but apparently the helena school district is only worried about bullying if being gay is the reason. what about all the other kids that are bullied? do they not matter?



Rehtorical question? Because the rest of the bullied people don't count and are not part or their (MHRN) agenda.

After all rich, smart, dumb etc. may not be members of a group that you can discriminate against. Race, sex, age, political affiliation are some of the government approved groups that are protected. Sexual orientation is the group de jour for today.

If you are not a member of a government approved discrimination group you are out of luck.


Agreed just me, and no metion of all of the terrible hatefull things said by the proponents of this curriculum which is way more than I have seen or heard from the opponents. I find it hard to believe that they are against bullying when that is the tactic that they use in their fight for their agenda.


Exactly right justme. Interestingly enough, bullying years ago or even today seem to be by kids that are varsity in sports and/or 3.5-4.0 grade average verses kids one might "think" would bully. Not much has changed in 30 years except "focus" on preventing bullying more toward gays.

Gays are not the only target out there for bullying nor are they the only ones that commit suicide (or even contemplate it) as a result. Look at Phoebe Prince who committed suicide in May. And how many others being bullied to the point of either thinking about suicide or actually commiting it that are not gay that don't make national news? In short, gays are continually fighting for fair and equal treatment. Ok, that's fair enough, but that shouldn't mean preferential treatment either. How is that fair or equal to everyone else?

Its also interesting how things changed. I was brought up not to take words so sensitively i.e. the old "sticks and stones" saying. Common bullying terms used against me were "you're gay", and I'd respond by saying "yep, I'm a happy guy" (gay also meaning happy) or called a faggot where I would respond "do I look like a bundle of sticks" (which is an older definition of faggot). Dumbo ears, I'd say yea, means I can hear better. 4 eyes, I'd say yea, I can see better. Now a days I have to laugh that such terms bothered me but back then, I can remember some tearful days especially when a gang of kids are doing the badgering. Eventually I just tuned the remarks out and strangely enough folks left me alone.

We're in the politicially correct sensitive society. Ever notice now a days just about any "verbiage" sets someone off one way or another? Now I don't condone bullying by anyone for any reason particularily physical bullying but also wonder if we weren't so sensitized perhaps those doing the verbal bullying might stop simply because they'd get tired of trying to provoke a response and not getting one.


justme, I think you (and several others) have missed the point. The proposed curriculum does in fact line-out that kids should not be bullied because of their sexual orientation. This does not mean that the cirriculum or the district's anti-bully policy turns a blind eye toward bullying for other reasons. This is a simple recognition that this type of bullying needs to be included in a general discussion about bullying. See the difference??? Furthermore, for those of you so concerned about the math/reading scores and drop-out rate, please consider that children do not live in a vaccuum. While there are a multitude of reasons that kids may be failing and dropping out of school, as Ms. Abbott points out in her letter, some of these kids may be doing so because they do not feel safe in their learning environment. I know I'm going to hear it for this one but this is what teaching "the whole child" means. It is a very simple and practical recognition of Maslow's heirarchy of needs. If one does not have food, shelter and safety other needs such as learning and achieving potential cannot be attended to. Practically applied, when children don't have food to eat, aren't clothed properly and don't feel safe either at home or in their learning environment, they are not able to learn. The schools cannot be responsible for providing every need for every child but I think it is commendable of the district as well as a responsibility of the community that we do the best we can to help each CHILD reach their full potential. Anti-bullying policies that pretend some types of bullying just don't happen fall short. The specific recognition of bullying based on sexual orientation is especially important in this community given the anti-gay rhetoric some parents seem to be teaching their children.


no jo-griz i don't see the difference. and actually you missed the point. if the school district is simply as you say trying to "recognize" that gays among others are being bullied, then why don't they mention the fat kids, or the stupid kids, or the ugly kids, or the weird kids. the bullied gay kids are the only ones that fit into the liberal agenda HSD has. so apparently the message is if you're weird and are being bullied, don't seek help from the school.


I think we are all missing the point. But that was the writers intent.

This was about sex education in schools. This was the final word.

Yet the author chose to hide behind the shirttails of a minority group to obfuscate the real agenda.

Now we are discussing bullies and not sex education being rammed down the publics throat by a minority liberal group.


isn't this much to do about nothing? Justme, they took the bullying specifically against gays out and are sticking with their original policy which doesn't specify any group. The only good that can come of all these senseless suicides is an awareness of gay bashing. It seems that in this political cycle and with our lovely new tea party which has chosen to stray from their objectives of Taxed Enough Already and are focusing on social issues we have a new round of prominent people dehumanizing homosexuals. Bullying of any kind is bad, I think that at this particluar time we are seeing more attention on gay bullying as it is getting worse and kids are dying as a result and with a 24/7 news cycle new stories are unfortunately coming each day. The school has done the right thing in sticking with their original policy, IMO. I hope that we all as parents can use these tragic deaths as a teaching moment for our kids!!


They DO mention all of these kids. I copied the following excerpt directly from the HHS student handbook. It is on page 50 and is the bullying policy for the entire district. This particular excerpt defines "bullying":

"Intimidation, bullying and harassment include:
(1) any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that is reasonably perceived as
being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race,
color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, sexual
identity, culture, social origin or condition, political affiliation or a mental,
physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic; and ..."

As you can see, sexual orientation and sexual identity is protected but so are other conditions. "Fat" would be covered by either "physical handicap" or "other distinguishing characteristic"; "stupid" by "mental handicap" and "weird" would likely fit into "culture". As I said, the district is simply ensuring that talking about sexual orientation and bullying is only part of the conversation of bullying as a whole issue. That is clear from the policy that is already implemented and posted clearly on the website and in every school's student handbook.


Maybe the people being bullied should pony up kick the bully?
This is typical results from being babied all your life, gay or not it does not matter.
I have never, EVER seen a bully who went from a bully to a bigger bully when confronted. I still remember watching a bully get popped in the face and the whole cafeteria watched him stare in disbelief. That "nerd" went on to be a positive figure in his school and still is today, all because he stood up for himself. He did not have mommy and daddy coddling him.
I have told my 12 yr old to pop anyone bulling her in the mouth without hesitation, we will deal with the consequences later.
Some of you are also, confusing bullying, with a hate crime, totally different. If is is not, than there are a lot of lawsuits coming.
Get involved with your kids more, you will be amazed at how tough any kid can be.


if the curriculum was about bullying nerds, someone would complain and be against it because it didn't include gay people. can't people just be happy that they are teaching tolerance AT ALL? people will argue and be unhappy about anything and everything. bottom line is that we as parents should be teaching tolerance and compassion and providing our kids with love, shelter, food etc. we need to do everything we can to help our kids survive in this confusing and cruel world and if you guys are unhappy with it i suggest you start volunteering to teach kids about these other topics you are concerned about. you obviously care about kids so why not get out and become a CASA volunteer or a Big bro or sis? that is where you can make the difference, not by arguing endlessly. the only way this world can be better is through the children who will be in our shoes in a few years so we all better start doing a better job caring for them in every way possible. this curriculum is just one aspect and i really would love to see all of you out there helping in some way rather than arguing from your computer. i volunteer for a few kids organizations and i still feel im not doing enough. we need more good people like you out there fighting for the health, well being and ability to care for themselves once they are shoved out into the world as "adults" at the age of 18. let this be what it is, a good thing for kids to learn about, and then get busy taking care of the rest if you are that concerned. jo_griz is right-there is a need in all areas of child welfare for more good work to be done. so lets get busy!! look around you, the religions and governments have obviously not done what they say they will and can do because not much has changed as a whole in the world. we can all do better at how we treat eachother and what tools we give the kids to do the same and to excel at life in all areas- emotional, physical, educational, etc. if not us then who will do this for them???? peace to all....


Jogriz, if it is already in the hand book then why did it need to be added to the sex curriculum??? push an agenda


The anti bullying policy was added to the sex ed curriculum?? HUH?? I thought that the opposition wanted the specification of anti gay bullying removed...I think it was and they deferred to their original anti bullying policy. And what is the "agenda" dolphin...I forget!


dolphin, I guess that is one possible answer. Of course, I'm not sure which agenda you are referring to? My alternative assessment, however, is that this is a place to reinforce and discuss a piece of paper most kids signed in the first week of school and forgot about. And again, given the anti-gay rhetoric spewing from adults on these chat boards, for the schools to make that PUBLIC place safe for all students they must pro-actively and defensively address what some kids are learning at home.


I agree with Dolphin. Anyone who doesn't think there is a agenda behind this curriculum can ask yourself why GLAD and GLSEN are bragging on their websites that they coached Messenger on how to propose this "curriculum". Since when did a school curriculum become a homosexual agenda? Anyone (gun) can deny it...look for yourself. Also, the board did NOT vote according to the majority of Helena. Anyone keeping track of polls and comments knows that. I also find it interesting that 2 other board members stated publicly that they would vote against the draft, making it five against, but were bullied to vote for it. Why the hard push Messenger? Just what is in it for you? I would be very amazed if the IR even printed this seems that all along they have refused to publish or print any proof of what is really going on. So sad for our children. Messenger used them as pawns.


I think the basic thing is for every parent to do when they have a child being bullied is to tell their child to run to the monitor and yell he is bullying me because I am gay!! The parents can explain to the child why they are to say this, because it is the only way that problem will be adressed in a meaningful way.


The new health curriculum addresses bullying, including bullying for sexual orientation and identification. And I honestly do not think the opponents are in the majority. They are quite loud, of course, and full of righteous indignation, but there are many of us who quietly supported the curriculum and avoided the mob scenes at the meetings.

The Porter

Opponnents of the curriclum NEVER wanted anti bullying removed from any curriculum. We DIDNT want to be BULLIED into to a SEX ED curriclulm that teaches too much too soon. Our major argument is that we think too much of it is not AGE APPROPRIATE!

Nor do opponents need to continue to be bullied by a HYPROCRITE and since the hypocrite doesn't want anyone speaking for her, here are her own words:

gun961960 wrote: "all this fuss about gay sex....very wierd. Mind your own darn business I is plain and simple....if you are not interested in gay sex than do not read it. I'll tell you that I have small children and while I would not want them to read this book it is only because it is not age appropriate. If they want to read it when they turn 18, fine with me

It seems that once again the only people here confused about what they think or what they want is the proponents.


for some bizarre reason Porter keeps plucking a sentence here and a sentence there from blogs that I wrote years ago on a TOTALLY different subject. Apparantly he doesn't have time to waste on me, but he has time to research all of my past blogs?? Since he is too much of a coward to put it into context for you, I will. There was a book that was about homosexuality and had actual photographs of two men having sex in it that the PUBLIC library was being challanged to ban. I felt like the book should not be banned from the public, but agreed that I wouldn't want my children reading the book until or unless they were adults. I stand by my comments on THAT SUBJECT which has NOTHING to do with this curriculum. I don't want my children reading anything pornographic so I am just fine and happy the board passed this curriculum. I guess Porter is trying to say this curriculum is pornography??? I don't know...he speaks in riddles and keeps on crying about being bullied by me. In reality he can't answer any of my questions so he chooses to play these stupid word games....grow up buddy!!


I read an article earlier about a teacher in Nashville TN (Brian Wood) who had a violent breakdown in class. The incident was (of course) recorded by a student on their cell phone. What WASN'T recorded, were the events leading up to the teacher's meltdown. I have read and reread this article on the bullying of kids by other kids for various reasons. Brian's breakdown (which he is receiving treatment for) started me thinking about the bullying of teachers by students. Ok...once ya's quit laughing, you may find I have a point.
This man has been a teacher for years. He is a father of 5 children and still married to their mother. By all standards, seemingly a normal, healthy man active in the community. I started wondering what could have driven him to such an explosive burst of emotion.
SO...imagine yourself in front of a class of 30 or so high school kids, trying to teach them whatever subject. The kids are yelling, talking to each other, texting on cell phones, throwing things back and forth, generally ignoring you, and when the you try to gain control of the classroom, you are ridiculed, disrespected and laughed at. Teachers today have NO recourse. They can excuse the disruptive students but what happens when it is the entire class, with the exception of 3 or 4 kids? I understand, he is the adult in the room and I don't condone his reaction. However, I just wanted people to think about the term "bullying" and how it applies to teachers, as well as the kids. The absolute lack of respect or even courtesy by many kids today has to be an extremely trying situation for teachers. Just think how angry you get when one teen cuts you off in traffic or isn't polite when you are ordering your multiply that by 30. I think teacher's need a way to protect themselves from the disrespectful, loud, mean, filthy-mouthed kids that they are paid so little to attempt to educate.
We may not have as severe a problem here in Montana, but I know our teachers go through a lot as well. Perhaps bullying isn't the proper term, but I think it is. It's the pack mentality, when all the students are confronted by only 1 adult. It's scary that the only way this man felt he could get their attention was to "flip out".
One student said she/he was going to start a 'save Brian Wood' facebook page, as she didn't think this man's career should be ended by an edited video on youtube. At least one was paying attention. Here is a link to one article about the incident.

The Porter

The biggest objections to the curriculum have to do with AGE APROPRIATENESS. For proponents to claim it is about a gay lifestyle is just rubbish. Its the same spin to win an argument as the way Pro-abortionists call themselves Pro-choice. The terminology sounds better but its just a "spin". If they want to be completely honest they would called themselves pro-abortionists. Though she contradicts herself repeatedly about it, even Gun own post (regardless of 'where' she posted), agrees its necessary for things to be 'age appropriate'. Some here want everyone to teach kids to call their bodyparts by the proper names. Fine then don't be outright hypocites about it. Pro-Choice means pro-abortion. "I" believe I have the right to choose but I don't agree with abortion. That doesn't make me an abortinist. But how often do we ever here pro-abortionists call themsleves by the 'proper' name?
That's not to say I have anything against someone who chooses abortion. That's their own choice & one they have to live with not me. Nor do I have any ill will towards the majority of people who needs jobs, and wind up working in those places. But I do have aught with 'deceptions' and the people who openly provide the service but 'hide' under a deceptive title. Afterall, they wouldn't get much business if ads and billboards read "Planned Abortionists. Come see us and we can get rid of it for you!" That would be just about as popular as a known & convicted pedophile walking down the street in a t-shirt that read: "I love children".
So it's EZ for some to hide under a misleading title, but when you get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, what people are willing to say to the public and what people do in their home are rarely the same.
Do I have gay friends in Helena? Just one, I am aware of. I have several where I moved here from. Are we friends because they are gay? No. I also have friends and acquaintences from all over the world of many other religous faiths. I have friends on both sides of the political party lines. But none of us are friends because, I am their "token" or they are mine. We find we have many other common beliefs and interests.
Do my gay friends or freinds of other faiths try to persuade me or my children into their alternative lifestyle? No. Why? Because we both know that is where we have our differences in family. Did the satan worshippers try to persuade? Yes! Were we freinds? No. Why? Because they tried to interfere and undermine my family's belief systems. They tried to push their own agenda, which was not friendship and they had no respect whatsoever for my family's belief systems. When a persons claims to be a friend, they actually 'care' about how you feel and think about things and they do their best not to interfere and push their own ideas or beliefs on you.

It is the same argument for 'age appropriateness'.
The district is failing this community when they get involved in a curriculum that undermines a family's right to choose 'when' a child should know things as intimate as sexuallity. Biology is one thing. Sexuallity is an entirely different subject. If the district gave a darn about how the parents felt, they would not be teaching this at all. They certianly could have 'appropiate' web links made available to "the parents". But they are out of order teaching 'this' kind of curriculum and indoctrinating it into every area of learning at every age group.


Pro-choice is NOT pro-abortion. No one wants people to have abortions willy-nilly. In a perfect world, every baby would be wanted and healthy and no one would need an abortion. I personally am fervently pro-chouce. I have never had an abortion, nor will I have one, but I think the decision must lie with the woman, her doctor(s), and perhaps her partner. Choosing means you can choose to abort or not to abort.


No wonder kids here bully each other so much. Look at how much their parents feel a need to be all up in everyone's business! Making empty stupid threats. Why don't you just teach yourselves to mind your own business and then maybe your children will do the same. That is what anti-bullying really is, not worrying what the other person is doing with their own lives. Like it has been said, if you don't like the curriculum; there are other options. Home school or private school. Whatever. Just make your choice like a grown up and shut up.

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