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  WINDY CITY TIMES

ABA launches anti-bullying campaign
by Joseph Erbentraut, Windy City Times
2011-04-27

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With the release of a new online video and website, the American Bar Association (ABA)'s Center on Children and the Law last week launched a fresh campaign addressing hate speech and discrimination directed toward LGBTQ youth, particularly those living in foster care.

The campaign—titled "The Kids Are Listening"—is part of the ABA's Opening Doors Project, an effort created in 2005 with the mission of providing the legal community, including judges, attorneys and social services professionals of many types, with the resources and education they need to better meet the needs of LGBTQ youth.

Mimi Laver, the ABA's director of the Opening Doors Project and legal education, described the new campaign—centered at www.thekidsarelistening.org—as "an important next step" for the project to take. With the heightened media attention to issues surrounding bullying and suicide risk of LGBTQ youth, she hoped the campaign would help more individuals connect the dots between anti-LGBT vitriol in media and culture and the harsh realities many youth are forced to endure.

"We hope to educate the community that bullying and being the target of bullying is an issue adults need to take on," Laver said.

The website features access to resources intended to address some of the unique concerns of LGBTQ youth in a social services setting. Studies have revealed LGBTQ youth are at a heightened risk for harassment in school, homelessness, substance abuse and suicide attempts when compared to their heterosexual peers. According to an ABA news release, LGBTQ youth in group homes face high levels of violence and harassment in group homes. An estimated 79 percent of LGBTQ youth reported being removed or running away from a home placement due to hostility to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lavers pointed to the dire statistics as a call to action. She is hopeful the campaign will encourage individuals to participate in local task forces to help conduct on-the-ground training sessions on the issue for legal professionals. Three such task forces are already operating across the country with more on the way soon.

"This issue isn't just about kids stopping bullying. It's about adults of all kinds and in all walks of life being part of helping kids stop bullying and helping boost up those who are the targets of bullying," she added. "We hope to draw more attention to the idea that everyone in the community can help bring about better outcomes for the LGBTQ kids in their community."

John Litchfield, president of the Lesbian & Gay Bar Association of Chicago, lauded the campaign as providing resources to legal professionals that are "certainly needed." While he described the Windy City as a "leader" on family law issues, including LGBT issues, he indicated the more resources available the better.

"Foster care is tough enough as it is, let alone being gay in a foster home," Litchfield said. "This campaign is certainly a step in the right direction to help give people the support they need."


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