The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Powerful Film About Anti-Gay Bullying

Anti-gay bullying, harassment, and hate crimes have been all over the news both in the United States and abroad. Story after story hits about an LGBT person that was tormented because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Jamie Nabozny, the subject of a new film called “Bullied,” can relate. As a gay teen, he was called names, beaten so badly he ended up in the hospital, ran away from home, and attempted suicide.

Officials at Nabozny’s middle school and high school in Ashland, Wisconsin refused to do anything to prevent the bullying. He sued the school district and won. The landmark court decision held that a public school can be held accountable for not preventing anti-gay abuse. In 1996, Nabozny won a $900,000 settlement from the school district.

Recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center created a film about Nabozny’s teenage years and the lawsuit against his school district. The 40-minute film premiered on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. and will be viewed by children in schools across the country. It’s become a part of the organization’s “Teaching Tolerance” program to be distributed to schools.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen, executive producer of the film, it isn’t intended to change peoples’ political position or religious beliefs about homosexuality. “We are just saying that gay and lesbian students have a right to be protected in our schools,” he said.

Nabozny is now 34-years-old and helps prevent bullying by speaking to school groups about his life as a gay teenager. Nabozny said, “Schools have a mission to educate and keep students safe and they are failing to do that across this country.”

As long as teenagers continue to be harassed in schools because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, schools have a responsibility to address the problem and teach students that anti-gay bullying is wrong. The film sends the important message that school administrators and teachers shouldn’t just step aside when a student makes a homophobic comment. Aside from preventing individual cases of bullying by disciplining bullies, awareness about LGBT people and why anti-gay bullying is a problem should be a part of every school’s curriculum.

Here’s hoping that’s the message that U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, takes away from the movie, too.

Photo credit: NIOSH