About 300 braved the cold night air Nov. 16 on the steps of the Statehouse for a rally and candlelight vigil to draw attention to the increasing epidemic of youth suicide brought brought on by anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender bullying in schools in Idaho and across the nation.
Casey Dempsey said he witnesses bullying “almost every day” at Centennial High.
“One day I was in the hall minding my own business and someone spat on me. There is nothing worse in my mind than feeling worthless and being spat on,” said Dempsey. “One day you are straight and everyone thinks you’re the coolest person, the next you’re not straight and they stop talking to you and all of a sudden you’re getting bullied by people who you were friends with just days before."
Boise State student Justin Baxter described the years of bullying and taunting he endured in both middle and high school in Sandpoint, Idaho. Walking home one day after a bullying incident in his gym class locker-room, Baxter was struck in the head with a glass bottle. He fell unconscious to the grown breaking his nose as his attackers kicked him.
“People do no understand what it is like to be in that kind of darkness,” said Baxter.
But his message included some optimism. “I am happy that I am here today to tell you from the bottom of my heart to stick in there.”
“I think the two things go hand in hand and that is part of the discussion,” said LeFavour.
One local resource for LGBT youth is the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition whose mission is to help Idaho schools become safe places where children are safe to learn regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. They also speak, on request to groups and educators about how to make Schools a safer place for kids.
Co-Chair, Chris Cutler said ISSC’s strongest and most rewarding work has been in the area of youth leadership development. “We hold Youth Leadership workshops, facilitate a student-led Youth Night event. “This year we had 70 youths register and 115-120 actual attendees.”
When the rally was over hundreds marched quietly up Capital Boulevard to the Boise State quad where students lead a community candlelight vigil in memory of the many LGBT youth who have taken their lives from the trauma of being bullied.
Vigil participant Laura Doty said, “The names of youth who had committed suicide were read aloud as we held our candles in the darkness. Several Courageous individuals stood among the supporters and shared, heart-wrenching accounts, of their own experiences of bullying and discrimination.” Doty says that nearly every of the 10-15 stories were about overcoming thoughts or attempts of suicide.