As October — National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month — draws to an end, so too does a myriad of other annual celebrations of LGBT visibility. LGBT History Month, Spirit Day, National Coming Out Day andAlly Week have all come and gone and the stories of many LGBT people have been told in print, online and on television. This year the celebrations and remembrances have coincided with a flurry of media attention around anti-gay bullying in the nation’s schools. From media outlets raising visibility around changes to state anti-bullying legislationto feature-length articles on individual schools’ struggles with bullying, the mainstream media has largely succeeded this month in using this opportunity to provide the public with fair and representative coverage of anti-LGBT bullying.
On a national level, the Associated Press wrote an article surveying the growing movement against anti-LGBT bullying in schools across the United States. The piece, which was picked up by a number of major print outlets including the Washington Post, told the stories of a number of high school students who are working to change the cultures in their schools to be more inclusive. The article also detailed changes that schools around the country are making to ensure the safety of their students, which include increased training for teachers and stricter rules for students.
In California, this month saw the passage of “Seth’s Law,” a piece of legislation named after a boy who died last year to suicide that sets up anti-bullying standards for all California public schools. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about this new law that examines why the standardized complaint and intervention systems it puts in place are necessary. The law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
CNN and anchor Anderson Cooper have also raised awareness of anti-LGBT bullying through their extensive coverage of the issue. The network hosted a “town hall” meeting on bullying at Rutgers University, where a student died last year to suicide. CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360also commissioned a study on schoolyard bullying, the results of which were featured in a week-long series of episodes devoted to the topic. See some of the coverage below. The network also launched a landing page on their website devoted to anti-bullying.
Unfortunately, not all mainstream media coverage of anti-bullying efforts has been so fair and representative. According to a study conducted by the gay equality media and communications group Equality Matters, Fox News almost completely failed to cover the September story of Jamey Rodemeyer, a gay teen from New York who took his own life due to anti-gay bullying. The network also routinely criticizes anti-bullying efforts, the report said, noting that Fox ran numerous segments attacking New Jersey’s anti-bullying law and California’s FAIR Education Act, which requires public schools to include representations of LGBT people in history lessons.
Despite some networks reluctance to inform their audiences about the issue, GLAAD continues to work with media outlets and thanks them for their inclusive and extensive reporting on the nationwide problem of bullying in schools. As October events like Spirit Day encouraged public figures (even the White House!) to come out against anti-LGBT bullying, many media outlets rose to the challenge, with some networks like The Weather Channel showing their support by going purple themselves. GLAAD encourages journalists to continue covering this important topic.