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Editorial: 'Outing' kids to their parents better than silence

Published November 4, 2013 8:48 am

'Outing' kids better than silence
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As children grow up, some struggle with their sexual identity. For many of them, it is a struggle made harder by their parents. 

That fact is behind a backlash against Utah's anti-bullying law. State legislators passed the law earlier this year requiring schools to notify parents if their children are involved in a bullying incident or have acknowledged contemplating suicide.

The law sprang from a high-profile case last year in which a 14-year-old gay student shot and killed himself at Bennion Junior High School in Taylorsville. The boy's parents said he had been a victim of bullying at the school, but they were never told about it.

The concern with the law is that the school's reporting of a bullying incident may be the first time the parents hear their child may be gay. In an ideal world, it should be the children themselves who deliver that news – in their own way and on their own timetable.

But it's not an ideal world. Even if some parents don't deal with it well, they deserve to know if their children are being bullied or have told others they are considering killing themselves.

The drawbacks of parents finding out their children may be gay or lesbian from schools do not outweigh the drawbacks of schools not keeping parents informed about their children's school life.

Sexual identity is not always obvious to growing children, particularly in a society that can overvalue conformity. And not every kid who is bullied for being gay is actually gay. It's not like bullies do a lot of careful research before they act. And, of course, not all bullying is aimed at gay kids.

So schools need to handle these situations with the utmost care. Lives are literally at stake, and teachers and administrators need to report just the facts as they know them in a straightforward and understanding way.

And parents have the right to know those facts, but they also have a responsibility to react with respect to educators who deliver the news.

More important, those parents have to respect their children, which the overwhelming majority of parents do, including most of those who think same-sex attraction is something to be suppressed.

The Utah law received broad, bipartisan support from legislators. It was crafted so parents can act from a position of knowledge.

So many situations are helped by constructive dialogue, and silence is a win for the bullies.






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