CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fairness West Virginia, a statewide advocacy group that promotes civil rights and fair treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents, has launched a new campaign with the goal of creating effective anti-bullying policies in West Virginia.
Too often across the state, anti-bullying policies are generic and don't do enough to protect children and teenagers on the basis of sexual orientation, said Fairness WV Program Director Bradley Milam.
Fairness WV has partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia for the campaign, dubbed "West Virginia Bully-Free."
Milam cited findings from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's 2009 National School Climate Survey.
The survey of more than 7,260 middle school and high school students found that nearly nine in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students had experienced harassment at school within the previous year, and about two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.
However, students who attend schools with an anti-bullying policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity protections heard fewer homophobic remarks. They also were victimized less often and reported that school employees were more likely to intervene during incidents of harassment.
"It is a campaign that will show the public as well as policymakers that we need to have a much more effective policy here," Milam said.
The Fairness website features videos and written stories of young West Virginians who experienced bullying, isolation and intimidation when they were growing up in school. Two former students from St. Albans, identified only as "Matthew" and "Michael," tell their stories.
Matthew, a 22-year-old gay man, said bullies really started to harass him once he started middle school.