End Anti-Gay Bullying in Schools

The odds that San Francisco Giants would become World Champions were about as good as those of Jerry Brown being once again elected Governor, Gavin Newsom as Lieutenant Governor, and Larry Aceves as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I proudly advocated through money and mouth in all four of these potentially historic events.

Now I want to turn my attention to building support for an anti-gay bullying policy, while strengthening all anti-bullying efforts in Santa Clara County. As a small-time elected leader on the County School Board perhaps I might have a role to play.

The US Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, in a new advisory released Oct. 26, warns that schools can lose federal dollars if they do not comply with the civil rights laws to protect gay students. It has been a traditional Office of Civil Rights policy to protect US students against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin and disability, however this is the first time a government advisory mentions LGBT discrimination. LGBT students should be protected from harassment due to “failing to conform to sex stereotypes” according to the new advisory.

There is a fascinating local connection to all these aforementioned policy makers and elected leaders. Both Brown and Newsom attended Santa Clara University. Russlyn Ali was Executive Director of the Education Trust in Oakland before being appointed by the President to her current position. Larry Aceves was Superintendent of Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose.

Perhaps at the state level Brown, Newsome and Aceves can begin to discuss ways California can lead the nation in promoting school environments free from bullying and discrimination. I hope California can raise its grade from the Bully Police USA from a B to the A+++ Florida earned last year.

This can be done while consulting with Russlyin Ali and the US

Department of Education. But that might take a long time to get started as it involves the largest and one of the more polarized states in our union. Santa Clara County is much less polarized and has elected leaders that think out of the box. Therefore, I strongly believe Santa Clara County should lead the way to advocate for policies, procedures, and practices that help eliminate anti-gay bullying from any of our educational environments elementary through university.

Interestingly, San Jose State President Don W. Kassing sent out an Oct. 30 e-mail to all university faculty, staff and students titled, “Standing up to bullying and cyber-bullying.” Kassing writes: “Five recent suicides of young people across the country put the potentially tragic consequences of bullying in sharp relief…No one among our community has the right to harass, intimidate, humiliate, or propagate hate toward any individual or group.” He encouraged all to speak up if they witness an incidence of bullying.

I think all SCC superintendents and principals should follow Kassing’s lead and communicate a similar message to all faculty, administrators, staff, and students. I agree with Pres. Obama. At an MTV town hall on Oct. 14, Obama, referring to whether being gay or transsexual is a choice, said, “I don’t profess to be an expert…I don’t think it is a choice. I think people are born with certain make-up, and we’re all children of God … we don’t make determinations about who we love. That’s why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.”

Most high schools in SCC have Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs that advocate tolerance. These clubs assuage the pain inflicted by anti-LGBT harassment and advocate for respect. I think it is high time middle schools develop Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs, since bullying and anti-LGBT harassment is endemic to the culture of most. Some parents would protest, but the law is on the side of those school

leaders who desire to be bold and courageous on behalf of voiceless children.

Perhaps the Board of Supervisors, my colleagues on the SCCOE Board of Education and the respective staffs could pave the way for us to lead the nation in advocating tolerance, especially in academic environments. I have placed a call to President Ken Yaeger of the Board of Supervisors to find out whom to meet with to continue discussing the possibilities.

If you have any thoughts on how to achieve bullying-free school environments please let me know.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. >  Jerry Brown being once again elected Governor, Gavin Newsom as Lieutenant Governor, and Larry Aceves as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I proudly advocated through money and mouth in all four of these potentially historic events.

    Bad news, Joe:  your rehabilitation isn’t working.

    You’re still stuck on “progressive”.

  2. Ken Yeager is too busy enforcing the new Happy Meal Toy law here in SCC.  Moving parental responsibility under the auspices of the government is a tough and thankless job.

  3. “The US Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, in a new advisory released Oct. 26, warns that schools can lose federal dollars if they do not comply with the civil rights laws to protect gay students.”

    Apparently under federal standards it will remain OK to bully straight students.

    • Actually, no Mr. O’Connor. You are dead wrong. Under Federal law all the rights of all students are protected, whether straight, gay, or on racial, gender etc. basis. Local school districts are tasked with enforcing those civil rights laws, or else they lose Federal funding.

      The PROBLEM has been with local district FAILING to enforce the law as applied to gay students. Apparently, SOME districts feel that gay people are only second class citizens.

      But, if it makes you feel better at night to think this is all some sort of massive “homosexualist” agenda conspiracy against straight people, then by all means be my guest.

      • Glen—Thanks for trying to educate the ignorant on this site. Many here spew their mindless venom without a shred of fact—as Mr. O’Connor and others have done regarding this topic.
        For the few of us still here who believe in fact-based discussion, thanks.

      • According to the esteemed Mr. DiSalvo, “…It has been a traditional Office of Civil Rights policy to protect US students against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin and disability…”.

        I see nothing there protecting straight students, and the new rules appear to protect only gay students.

        The problem I have is not with gay people.  The problem I have is that when you single out one group for extra protection, that automatically makes all those not in that group second class citizens.

        Is it more wrong to bully a gay student than to bully a straight student?  Of course not.  It’s equally bad.  But under the new rule, only gay students get the extra protection, and straight strudents have yet to get under this particular set of rules, or guidelines, or whatever they are.

    • Joseph DiSalvo helpfully brings to our attention the “US Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali.”  A video by Ali is making the rounds that shows her profound embrace of racial profiling.  She makes Larry Aceves’ public purge of “old white Anglo teachers” in the Alum Rock school district in the early nineties seem mild. Even DiSalvo’s casual use of “white culture/values” to describe and condemn a public school system [where the diverse Asian American students are setting the curve for all the other students] was mild by comparison to Ali’s commitment to racial profiling.

      The number one way to end racial profiling in education would be for people like Ali, DiSalvo, and Aceves, along with radical reporters like Sharon Noguchi, to give recognition and support to the federal mandate that says all students are to be at grade-level proficiency by 2014.  In Noguchi’s case her silence may be explained by her undergrad years (1971-1973) at UC-Santa Cruz followed by her one-year study in journalism at UC-Berkeley.  Those were heady years for teaching disrespect for American institutions and laws of all sorts.

      But the Ali’s, DiSalvo’s, Aceves’s, and Noguchi’s fail to understand that public education is under siege from competing efforts like charter schools, online schools, home schooling, church schools, and private schools.  If the public education system cannot bring students into grade-level proficiency with our tax dollars, then public education will dwindle away and disappear for all practical purposes.  It’s a shame that radical policy prescriptions by racial profilers over-ride the need to focus on making public education successful.

  4. Dear Ken Yeager,
    Are you gonna just sit there and let SF supervisors take over as the caped crusaders for “Food Justice”?

    SF supe’s are advocating the marketing carrots – what say you?

    ..er what’s that?  “Food Justice” will have to wait?  You’re currently too busy devising new draconian CARB regulations to drive even more business out of Cali? 


  5. LAUSD spends $30K per student


    “The $29,780 per student figure means a class of 25 students would spend $744,500 a year.”

    Doing a little math (probably beyond the capability of public education bureaucrats):

    If a classroom teacher were paid a typical private school salary of $60,000, what happens to the other $684,500?

    Why can’t some of this $684,500 be used to buy pencils and paper for the classroom which public school teachers always claim they have to buy out of their own pocket.

    • > “The $29,780 per student figure means a class of 25 students would spend $744,500 a year.”

      Very likely, this $29,780 does NOT include the money spent on the mammoth educrat bureaucracy in Sacramento or the mammoth Federal Department of Education bureaucracy in Washington.

      If these costs were allocated to the classroom, the shameless waste would be even more horrific.

  6. > If you have any thoughts on how to achieve bullying-free school environments please let me know.

    Step 1:

    Reduce the number of “gay” students in public schools by cracking down on “progressive” teachers, counselors, and administrators who proselytize students and pressure them into thinking they might be gay.

    Step 2:

    For that tiny number of students who might actually be “clinically gay” and not just attention seeking activists, give them a tuition voucher and let them attend a “gay friendly” private school.

    Oh, and by the way, give “non-gay” students identical tuition vouchers and let them attend schools that are appropriately friendly to their diverse and individual religious, cultural, gender, ethnic, or other predilictions.

    Problem solved.

  7. For the last few decades, there has been an unfortunately undue emphasis on the rights and concerns of members of the various so-called “protected classes.”  In our society, the idea that we’re supposed to be more concerned about the misfortune and/or injustice that befalls, say, Blacks as opposes to Whites, women as opposed to men, gays as opposed to straights, etc., has become somewhat prevalent.  I’ve never adhered to that mentality, and I’ve always just considered it a weird and annoying sort of guilt-derived personality quirk that people on the left seem oddly prone to.

    But to take that mentality to the public school system, and to thus in effect say that anti-gay bullying is something that must be stopped (thus implying that the other varieties really aren’t that important), is monstrous.  A lot of children go through Hell in our public schools, and I find the idea that I should be more concerned about when this happens to some kid who’s gay, and I should apparently care less about the misery that many (more!) other kids are needlessly subjected to based on their lack of association with a “protected class,” to be frankly disgusting.  We need to protect all the children in our public school system from the sadistic psychological & physical torture that is often their lot, not just the gay ones.

    When I was in Middle School, I was constantly subjected to what was, in effect, anti-gay bullying (since I was into books, and had no interest in sports), and thus was constantly called a “faggot,” and was subjected to graphic speculation about my sexual proclivities, while being beat up, spit on, and such.  But since deep down, I actually liked girls, I guess none of that really mattered.

    I strongly suspect that in today’s world, if I were to complain about this sort of thing happening to me, I’d get some counselor who’d just assume that my tormentors were correct about me, and that I was sadly “in denial,” and that I should “embrace and explore my sexuality.” This while my protestations that I was actually straight fell on ears as deaf as those on the playground, due to my not fitting into any of the compelling victimological narratives our society wishes, for reasons that remain vague, to constantly promote and inculcate.

    End bullying, period.  Don’t turn anti-bullying policy into yet another in a seemingly endless series of showcases for more-diverse-than-thou self-righteousness.

    • I wrote this post to be published Tuesday before SPI results were known. My post was published Thursday by SJI. I congratulate Larry Aceves for a tremendous year long campaign and Tom Torlakson for his win.

  8. Joe. Poor Mixed Up Joe,

    Over the past few weeks you have lamented the state of our education system in California. Yet now you proudly claim to have supported the successful candidacies of Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, and Larry Aceves, thus prolonging the regime and policies of the ruling party that has for the past 2 decades presided over the very failures of the education system that you claim to regret.
    Mr. DiSalvo, you’re obviously a very conflicted soul. Have you ever considered seeking counseling?

  9. Bullying of any form for any reason is unacceptable.  As a teacher, parent and school board member, I’ve witnessed and experienced bullying first hand.  Growing-up in Oakland, I remember one knucklehead who terrorized somebody each day at King Jr. High to include me. My usual strategy was to avoid and ignore him. One day, I was his target once again. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know I finally had enough of his bullying and I knocked the crap out of him in front of our entire PE class who were all sitting on the gym floor (it was wrestling season).  He never bothered me again and the other kids were less afraid of him as a result. I’ve also had bosses who were bullies and believe it or not I’ve had the unfortunate experience to serve with a couple of bullying school board members.

    So, bullying is not a new phenomenon and not limited to our youth, but the consequences of abhorrent behavior in our society have lessened from the “greatest generation” to this generation. 

    There are pedagogical approaches such as those launched by Operation Respect which “is a non-profit organization working to assure each child and youth a respectful, safe and compassionate climate of learning where their academic, social and emotional development can take place free of bullying, ridicule and violence.” Learn more at http://www.operationrespect.org/about/mission.php and please watch and listen to Peter Yarrow singing “Don’t Laugh at Me”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZkdTLOv97A

    In sum, students need to immediately tell their teachers, other school site personnel, parents or anyone else they can trust about being bullied or otherwise abused.  And parents please don’t fail to teach your children how to use diplomacy, run like the wind and if necessary to put up their dukes.

  10. Sadly-
    There should be no bullying at any school , regardless of gender or otherwise . It’s up to the school districts to enforce a NO BULLYING BOARD POLICY . I remember a case years ago about Hazing in the locker rooms . It took the government to step in to regulate something that is always under the nose of the school administrators who turn their eyes “like see no evil” attitude .
    Mr. Mann glad he had his own encounters to bullying, maybe he can make the case to local school boards. Bullying is a crime .