UPDATE (10/30): The Chillicothe Gazette is now reporting that the student who attacked the 15-year-old at Union-Scioto High School for being gay may face a harsher punishment. Principal Jim Osborne told the paper, “the discipline has been revisited based on the ongoing investigation and in light of the new evidence.” The evidence, no doubt, is the video of the attack that has gone viral. The paper also reports that the female student who took the video may also face disciplinary action. I hope there will actually be some real consequences for the attacker, and this isn’t just some way to pacify the media and the general public.
As for the criminal chargers pressed by the victims mother, the case is currently under investigation. According to the Gazette, “the extent of the injury and the medical records are needed for [Ross County Prosecutor Matt Schmidt] to help determine if the assault meets the criteria to be considered a felony. His office is waiting on charging the juvenile until the additional investigation is completed.” I don’t quite understand why this is necessary. A full classroom of witnesses and video of someone beating you up isn’t enough proof to charge someone a felony???
And this tidbit in the last part of the story was interesting: “Since the story went viral, Schmidt, [Sheriff George Lavender] and Osborne reported they have been inundated with phone calls and emails….Osborne said Friday he came into the office to 40 voice mail messages and 500 emails.” Looks like the call-to-action is working.
Thursday morning the Columbus ABC News affiliate posted video of their story about of a 15-year-old at Union-Scioto High School in Chillicothe, Ohio, who was brutally beaten in the classroom because he was gay. The horrific incident was captured on a bystander’s cell phone and posted on Facebook. (You can watch the video below.)
The unidentified gay student suffered a possible concussion and a chipped tooth, but the shocking, and very unfortunate twist, came at the end of the report when it was revealed that the bully was only suspended for three days. The teenager’s mother called what happened to her son and hate crime and has vowed to press charges.
Less than 24 hours after ABC6 On Your Side ran their feature, nearly every gay or gay-friendly journalist/blogger in the country, and beyond, had picked up the story, including Perez Hilton, Queerty, Towleroad, The Huffington Post, The New Civil Rights Movement, Dan Savage’s SLOG and even The Daily Mail in the U.K. Many of them have featured contact information from the school, referencing a call to action, started by Equality Ohio and GetEQUAL Ohio, for people for contact the school and call for the student to be expelled.
Equality Ohio Executive Director Ed Mullen (a man I’ve met and consider one of my local heroes) posted this on his Facebook page: “Disheartening that it takes a video of a 15-year old gay youth being beaten at school for people to stand up and take notice of bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 9% of youth reported to GLSEN being physically assaulted in school. Unconscionable.”
Equality Ohio is also calling for supporters to contact members of Ohio’s House Education Committee to lobby for the passage of Ohio House Bill 208, a bill that would add “sexual orientation” to the state’s anti-bullying law, which is currently going through Ohio’s Congress. Here’s more from Equality Ohio:
Union-Scioto has no policy in place that specifically protects students from being bullied or attacked based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Union-Scioto Local School District does have a policy that prohibits harassment based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, among others, but it does not specifically protect against harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ohio House Bill 208 would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and other enumerated protections to Ohio’s anti-bullying law without changing the general prohibition against any bullying or harassment. Research demonstrates that students feel safer and actually are safer in schools that have enumerated anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Proponents of the bill are seeking testimony in the House Education Committee, but the bill has not been a priority of the committee.
CLICK HERE for contact information to each of the legislatures on the House Education Committee. And below is contact information for the school and local authorities:
Union-Scioto Local Schools District Administration:
Superintendent: Dwight Garrett firstname.lastname@example.org
High School Principal: James Osborne email@example.com
Unioto High School Asst. Principal: Wilma Gillott firstname.lastname@example.org
1565 Egypt Pike
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Unioto High School
14193 Pleasant Valley Road
Chillicothe, Ohio 45601
Sheriffs Department: 740-773-1185
Prosecutors Office: 740-702-3115
Let’s hope that the outcry and the flooding of the school’s phones will lead to some positive change in Chillicothe. As someone who’s from Ohio and has been to Chillicothe on several occasions, I can say that, unfortunately, this kind of behavior is not unexpected from the that town. It’s a very conservative area that’s known for its institutionalized bigotry.
It’s hostile environments in school’s like this that lead to the suicides of students like Jamey Rodemyer and Jamie Hubley. This is exactly the reason why I’ve started the Make It Better Foundation. This happened in a classroom. The school can’t even give the typically used excuse of “it’s not our responsibility because it happened off school grounds.” If this bully had beat up a kid because he was black or Latino or disabled he would have been expelled. No question.