Kids get a bad rap these days. Everything from their hair, their music, their clothes, their language, gets knocked….Wait! That happened to me when I was a kid. But I digress.
There are kids today doing great things, the right thing, the just thing. And one such kid is Caleb Laieski, who at age fifteen is a teenage activist for LGBT rights. Caleb who wrote a letter to officials at every school in Arizona that they need to put a stop to bullying of gay and lesbian students or face a lawsuit.
Caleb Laieski e-mailed more than 5,000 school administrators, city-council members and state lawmakers demanding improved measures to fight discrimination. Caleb let these officials know that LGBTQ youth face more bullying than their heterosexual peers, and he offered to refer officials to organizations and experts that would help them combat the problem. He also warned officials that they must institute policies specifically prohibiting LGBTQ harassment by students, teachers and administrators, and that schools that fail to stop bullying will encounter “legal ramifications.”
Caleb, who founded Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination when he was just thirteen, says he isn’t threatening school officials, but is simply offering them solutions and resources to fight the problem. But he is insistent that any school that doesn’t cooperate will face legal consequences.
Caleb’s activism was successful at his own school, where policies were changed in his district as a result of his own experiences with bullying. At Willow Canyon High School, Caleb endured harassment almost daily–he was shoved into lockers and received text messages with anti-gay slurs–and believed district officials should have done more to stop it.
In March, 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona offered to represent Caleb in a potential lawsuit against Dysart Unified School District, but the district soon revised its student handbook to include language prohibiting bullying of LGBTQ students.
Now Caleb hopes to reach out to every school, and every student in Arizona. With the help of a friend, Casey Cameron, Caleb hopes his group can provide more services for LGBTQ youth, such as counselors and a homeless shelter. But he said he is “absolutely” ready to initiate a lawsuit in specific situations: a suicide or attempted suicide because of bullying, expressions of hate from teachers or administrators, and inadequate punishment for bullying.
Kids these days. Their clothe4s, their hair, their music, their language. The way they stand up and fight against bullying.
It gives me hope.