Just a week after a Chillicothe, Ohio, student’s gay bashing made national news, a freshman boy at Westerville South High School in Westerville, Ohio, was brutally beaten because his sister came out the closet. His attackers assumed because his sister was gay that he must be too. According to reports they yelled gay slurs at him while attacking him at school.
The boy’s mother went to Equality Ohio with her story seeking help and told them her son suffered a concussion and has been taken out of school to recover.
EO’s Kim Welter (another local hero I admire that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) was interviewed by 10tv, the local CBS News affiliate, about the incident, calling for Ohio’s legislatures to make some real changes before it’s too late. The mother of the attacker took her son’s side of the story to Columbus’ NBC4, saying that the issue wasn’t homophobic and gave the typical “boys-being-boys” excuse, an excuse that has been used for generations to ignore the real issue of anti-gay bullying.
Equality Ohio is currently at the forefront of lobbying Congress, calling for the passage of laws that protect LGBT students. There are three anti-bullying bills currently making their way through Congress, the most well-known of which is the Safe Schools Act (House Bill 208), which would add sexual-orientation to Ohio’s existing anti-bullying statute.
As for last week’s incident in Chillicothe, it was recently reported that the attacker has been charged by the prosecutor’s office. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Levi Sever has been charged with assault and will appear in juvenile court. This same Dispatch story also reports that no charges will be filed in the Westville case, saying “Westerville police said this afternoon that their investigation has found no evidence the fight involved ‘gay bashing.'”
EO and others are also calling for the community to get involved. Ed Mullen, EO’s director, recently appeared on NBC4 to help cast a mainstream light on the issue, and the organization is also asking people to send them their personal stories of struggling with bullying so they can put a face on the epidemic, which is what will be the key factor to changing minds. Change.org has also started a petition in support of the Safe Schools Act that’s well passed 50,000 signatures.
This is no longer an isolated incident. Ohio is at the bottom of the list when its comes to states with LGBT friendly legislation in this country, and it’s becoming clear that our state’s youth are modeling this message that gay means second class. It’s time that the Ohio Department of Education get involved. Every child deserves to be safe at school. And our legislatures standing idly by and watching this situation escalate is only making the problem worse.