'Apology' for high school assault on gay classmate completely inadequate
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) calls on Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to clarify his position on efforts to prevent bullying, harassment and assault in schools after revelations regarding his own behavior as a student led to a dismissive "apology" for his participation in an assault on a gay student.
The Washington Post today reported that while a senior at Cranbrook Schools in Michigan Romney led a group of classmates who tackled and pinned a gay classmate and forcibly cut his hair while the student screamed for help and tears filled his eyes. Romney, who while Governor of Massachusetts cut funding for and threatened to eliminate a commission established to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, responded on Fox News by saying he didn't remember the incident and, "I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks in high school and some of them might have gone too far, and I apologize."
"This is deeply troubling behavior on the part of an individual in Governor Mitt Romney's position. Romney's so-called apology for his past actions sheds new light on his disturbing track record on bullying and suicide prevention while Governor of Massachusetts," GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said. "Far from being 'hijinks' or a 'prank,' Romney's behavior toward his high school classmate amounted to harassment and assault. And GLSEN remembers all too well Romney's troubling record while he was Governor of Massachusetts on programs designed to protect LGBT youth and prevent youth suicide. Nearly one in five lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students will be assaulted at school this year. What would Mr. Romney propose to do as President to address this horrifying reality?
"It is critical that Mr. Romney make clear how he would approach these issues as President. Would he again seek to end important measures initiated by a previous administration, as he did in MA? Would he support the efforts of Congress to address these issues through endorsement of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act?"
While Governor of Massachusetts, Romney threatened to eliminate the state's LGBT Youth Commission, which was established through an executive order by Republican Governor William Weld. The Legislature had to scramble to pass a law to keep it alive.
GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey found that 84.6% of LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year, 18.8% were assaulted and 61.1 felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
The bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act would require all public schools to enact anti-bullying policies that include protections based on the characteristics of students most often targeted for bullying, including bullying based on race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bipartisan Student Non-Discrimination Act would make discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity against the law.