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School of Hard Knocks

Hostile Hallways

Who's to Blame? continued...

"Never considering the possibility that homosexual behavior itself might be responsible for its documented risks, they cite the bogeyman of 'homophobia' and religious intolerance as root causes of the health difficulties of homosexuals, especially as 'repressive' social attitudes allegedly lower the self-esteem of those with homosexual tendencies," write Frank York and Robert H. Knight in an article posted on the web site of the Family Research Council, a conservative "pro-family" organization.

The FRC recently accused ABC News of bias when the program "20/20 Downtown" ran a segment on Corey Johnson from Topsfield, Mass. Corey, a co-captain of the football team at Masconomet Regional High School, came out as being gay to his teammates in his senior year, and was met with overwhelming support from friends, family, and community.

'You Should Want Your Kids to Have a Safe School'

The key to fostering tolerance and acceptance of students such as Corey Johnson, Dylan N., and others, say experts, is education and training -- and the sooner the better.

"In kindergarten, the No. 1 way to insult someone is to call him a fag. By the age of 6, they already get the message that gay is the worst thing you can be, the worst insult you can give to someone," says Pam Garramone, director of the Safe Schools Project for the greater Boston chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

PFLAG's Safe Schools Project is designed to allay fears engendered by a lack of understanding of what it means to be -- or to love someone --- who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, Garramone tells WebMD.

"Our program sends parents into the schools to tell their personal stories about what it's like to have a gay child. Kids get to see that gay teenagers -- especially the ones they're making fun of -- come from a family that loves them regardless of their sexual orientation," she says. "We think that the next time they go to make fun of that kid, they see those parents who love their child."

"Parents need to get involved -- and we can't say 'only if you're the parent of a gay kid,'" Brown says. "Parents need to get involved and understand that the impact of this is broader. You should want your kids to have a safe school, and we've got to make sure that they're mobilized against the minority of parents that are going to raise Cain [about protecting the rights of GLBT students]."

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