Caleb Laieski knows all too well about the dealing with bullies and suicidehe's personally dealt with both, even though he's only 15.
Laieski, a high school sophomore in Surprise, Ariz., first endured bullies about four years ago, while in middle school.
"I have been called 'faggot' more times than I can count," Laieski said. "I've been followed home, shoved into lockers. I have even received death threats in person, as well as via email, texts and through phone calls."
Laieski said things hit rock bottom for him this past Mayand that's when he decided to take a stand, to not let the bullies triumph.
"I decided to take this to the public and went on [ the ] NBC-TV [ affiliate in ] Phoenix to bring attention to this issue and to also put the Dysart School District and every other district on notice that anti-gay bullying does happen in their schools [ and ] will not be tolerated."
Laieski sued his school district.
"The school district did update their anti-bully policy to include sexual orientation, as well as ban usage of slang on campus; gay in a negative context," he said. "The lawsuit may still be proceeded with, if the district fails to enforce the new policy; I will be sure to pursue prompt legal action."
And what about the bullies?
Well, some have transformed and now are "friends" with Laieski, he said.
"Many folks who are hateful and intolerant are [ that way ] simply due to a lack of education," Laieski said. "If you show respect to all, even haters, as I do, it also shows that you are the one with wisdom and tolerance."
Laieski said he is "saddened" by the five recent suicides and "over 1,000 attempts within the month of September."
Laieski is now the founder and executive director for Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination ( GLUAD ) , a group dedicated to equal rights for LGBT families and individuals through various means.
"I have lost close friends to suicide and countless have attempted," he said. "I still get random hateful stares and a few derogatory comments, but I'd say this activism has made a major difference in this city and been a wake-up call for all.
"It's very important for all members of the LGBT community, especially our youth, to acknowledge that they are normal and unique in their own forms; that's what makes them, who they are.
"The Dysart School District [ in Arizona ] has changed its policy to specifically prohibit bullying on the basis of sexual orientation. Numerous teens have contacted me and other staffers, when they have felt lonely or suicidal, and I offered them help. Further, we have contacted every teacher and principal in the Anoka, Minnesota and Greensburg, Indiana school districts to inform them of LGBT issues after they experienced recent suicides and it's just the start."
Laieski said GLUAD has "countless" volunteers and about 10 non-paid staff.
"Although that sounds like little staff, we have made more accomplishments than organizations with a body for 30+ staff," he said.
Chicago-based Casey Cameron leads a lot of GLUAD's national and Illinois approaches.
"We are currently in the process of contacting candidates in all 50 states to educate them on the issues being faced by the LGBT community, including the alarming issue of bullying and suicide," Laieski said. "We will be making contact with every school, school district, teacher and principal in every city and state, to educate them on how serious LGBT issues are. In our contact, we will be recommending protections and threatening lawsuits if they fail to follow, intervene, or protect all students.
"We will also work closely with local and national media to inform the public of current events and local situations. We will also soon update our website to include resources for suicide hotlines, resources to report discrimination and hate crimes, coming out guides, how to handle bullying, accept suggestions for homeless shelters, provide contact information to lawmakers and including a quote of the month."
IN THIS ISSUE [ LINK HERE OR FROM THIS ISSUE'S MAIN INDEX ]
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Anti-suicide project reflects on cases
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php DePaul vigil remembers teen suicides
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kirk Williamson
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Tracy Baim
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Toni Weaver
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Amy Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Bobby Pirtle
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Eric Marcus
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Alexandra Billings
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Karlis Streips
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by John R. Cepek
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Judy Shepard
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Lee Lynch
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kristi Keorkunian
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Joshua Plant
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Chris Hill
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Trevor Project Chicago events
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Stopping Bullies in Illinois
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php Mother of Slain Teen Gwen Araujo Addresses LGBT Youth Suicide by Sylvia Guerrero
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Carl G. Streed Jr.
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Thom Bierdz
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Kit Duffy
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Vernita Gray
www.windycitymediagroup.com/gay/lesbian/news/ARTICLE.php by Wancy Young Cho