My heart is sad today for 16-year-old Taylor Alesana of Fallbrook, California. Taylor, a transgender high school student, committed suicide after being bullied and harassed at school.
“When you’re a kid, parents always tell you sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you,” Taylor said. “To me that’s not true. Words hurt, and words turn up to threats and threats turn up to physical violence.”
Popular for her YouTube make-up tutorials, Taylor encouraged other transgender teens to protect themselves by reporting bullying to school administrators and law enforcement. She had followed her own advice and was also seeking support at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.
The sadness in my heart shares space with anger. Taylor lived just one hour from my home; so, as a fellow Californian, I can tell you that the California Department of Education did nothing to help Taylor.
California’s safe school laws are comprehensive and advanced in comparison to other states. California leads the nation in establishing laws to protect perceived and confirmed LGBTQ kids and, then, the state fails these kids miserably by not enforcing the laws.
The California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity was created to investigate complaints of bullying and discrimination throughout California and enforce the state’s excellent safe school laws and education codes.
BUT, the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity has not investigated a single claim of discrimination filed by or on behalf of students across the state. The office’s failure to enforce anti-bullying laws has resulted in dangerous, system-wide ignorance and unaccountability in California’s schools. The Education Office of Equal Opportunity doesn’t even log or track appeals.
The on-going systemic failure is detailed in the scathing 2013 California State Auditor’s Office’s report summarized here: https://www.bsa.ca.gov/reports/summary/2012-108
If you want to do something to help LGBTQ kids and their families in California, please email and/or phone State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s office and let him know that ignoring the situation at California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity is dangerous and must stop. Please join me in demanding that California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity be restructured, appropriately resourced and that it become computerized now…before we lose one more young person. Torlakson can be reached at 916-319-0800 and EHughes@cde.ca.gov.
If you or a young LGBTQ person you know is thinking about suicide, please call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. For adults over the age of 24, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.