IOWA PRIDE: Conference To Confront Bullying

Nearly two weeks after a northwest Iowa teen took his own life, other homosexual teens come together to take a stand against bullying. On April 15th, 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn committed suicide after coming out to his classmates.

Iowa teens talked about how to stop that from happening to other LGBT students in a conference on Saturday. Channel 13’s Emily Carlson followed the conversation.

According to the gay, lesbian, and straight education network, more than 85 percent of LGBT students have been verbally harassed, and more than 20 percent have been physically assaulted. Iowa LGBT teens say the solution is education.

“The first couple of years in high school were pretty harsh and having no one to talk to not knowing anyone in the community.” said Brandi Collins.

Like any teenager, Brandi Collins just wanted to be accepted. But Brandi says she was bullied because she didn’t act like the other girls at Newton high school.

“Lots of homophobia comments, people not liking my appearance,” Brandi said.

Almost all of the 150 teens gathered for the Iowa Pride Conference have similar stories of harassment and isolation.

“I’d have trash thrown on my car in high school, people put pop on there and stuff, say things in the hallways, push me into lockers.” Dana Stuehling said.

Much of the talk centers around 14 year old Kenneth Weishuhn, who committed suicide after he was bullied for coming out to his classmates at South O’Brien high school.

“Really harsh to see people so ignorant.”

Workshops over the weekend focused on preventing other homosexual and transgender teens from taking their own lives. Forums like this one centered on suicide prevention. The Iowa Pride Network is urging teens to set up GSA – or gay straight alliances in high schools across the state.

“Students are more comfortable and less likely to skip class, less likely to hear homophobic language because they have GSA in school.” said Brandi.

The point is education. GSA teaches other students what it means to be homosexual or transgendered. Have them walk a day in their shoes.

“If they can at least know what they’re talking about they can judge from there that’s fine.”

The goal is for every student to be accepted for who they are, or at the very least, have the right to go to school without fear.

“We want to prevent bad things from happening as much as possible we believe everyone should have a safe experience at school and enjoy their childhood.” Dana said.

The gay lesbian and straight education network says students with GSA’s in their schools are 25 percent less like to be verbally harassed and 23 percent less likely to be physically assaulted. Currently, there are about 200 GSA’s in Iowa. South O’Brien high school, where Kenneth Weishuhn attended, did not have a GSA.

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