Illinois high schoolers survey if ‘queers’ should use the bathroom with ‘normal people’
A survey asking students if they think “queers” should be allowed to use the school restroom with “normal people” circulated at an Illinois high school this week, the latest of a recent slew of reported attacks on LGBTQ students across the country.
The survey was distributed at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School in Anna, Illinois, on Wednesday by an unidentified number of students who called themselves the “Anti-Queer Association,” according Rob Wright, the school’s superintendent.
It asks students to vote either “(YES) I WANT QUEERS TO GO IN THE BATHROOM” or “(NO) I DON’T WANT QUEER KIDS TO GO TO THE BATHROOM WITH US NORMAL PEOPLE.”
Wright told NBC News that only a few copies of the poll were handed out before the school discovered them Wednesday morning, but an image of the survey was posted on Facebook. He added that the number of students involved in the debacle was “very limited” and that disciplinary measures were taken against them.
“I really can’t give any specific information regarding any individual students or what those measures were taken, but I can tell you that this type of harassment is taken very seriously by the district,” Wright said. “We’re not going to tolerate it under any circumstances.”
The Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center in nearby Carbondale, Illinois, shared a post on Facebook letting local queer youth know they are supported and the center is “working with statewide agencies to determine the best course of action.”
Michael Coleman, a board member of the Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ Center, told WPSD-TV, an NBC affiliate that covers Southern Illinois and the surrounding area, that students had been reaching out to the center in response.
“They really feel very unsafe in that environment in Anna-Jonesboro and that they felt that nothing was going to get done,” Coleman said. “That by us taking that stand, that initiative, they really feel like it’s not going to happen anymore.”
In just the last several weeks, there have been a number of reported incidents of anti-LGBTQ harassment in schools.
At a high school near Jacksonville, Florida, several weeks ago, students were accused of harassing classmates in a gay-straight alliance club and stomping on Pride flags. In Georgia last month, a high schooler was charged with attacking another student draped in a Pride flag in a school cafeteria. And this month, students at a high school in Missouri held a peaceful protest following what a parent described as a bullying incident of a gay student that led to a physical altercation.
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These reports come as Thursday marked Spirit Day 2021, an annual celebration where people show their support against the bullying of LGBTQ youth by wearing the color purple.
Recent surveys also show that bullying of LGBTQ students remains a pervasive issue in the U.S.
A study this year by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that 52 percent of LGBTQ middle and high schoolers reported having been bullied in person or online in the past year. Transgender youths reported higher rates of bullying than cisgender gay, lesbian and bisexual youths — 61 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
And 29 percent of LGBTQ middle schoolers in the survey who were bullied attempted suicide in the previous year, compared to 12 percent of those who said they were not bullied, The Trevor Project found. Over 34,000 LGBTQ youths were surveyed for the study last year.
Wright said private bathrooms are available for students in the school’s principal and nurses offices. He added that counseling has always been and will remain available for students who inquire for it.
“We see this in the real world with adults having a hard time expressing their differences in an appropriate manner,” Wright said. “We have to start doing that with our students at this age, too, and know that everybody’s welcome and everybody deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.”