By Debra Chasnoff, President/Senior Producer | Latest News
I had planned to send out a blog post today announcing our new partnership with Google, but now I need to also let you know about another tragedy that has occurred in the midst of our gratitude.
Yesterday we learned of yet another young teenager who was being harassed daily with anti-gay slurs and who felt that the only solution was to end his life. Brandon Bitner was only 14. Last week, he apparently deliberately ran in front of a trailer truck and was killed. He left behind a note saying he was tired of being called “faggot” and “sissy.”
His classmates are planning on leaving class today and surrounding Mid-West High School in Middleburg, Pennsylvania, with a human chain to remember Brandon and call for an end to bullying.
And as I am writing this, I just learned of another harrowing story. A middle school girl, age 12, was beaten up by students after she attended her Christian fellowship group at Hernando Middle School in Tennessee last week just because her name is Randi. Apparently her schoolmates objected to the fact that she had a “man’s name.”
These incidents are another powerful reminder of how the pressure to conform to gender norms and the homophobia that underlies those pressures must be addressed if we are ever going to put a halt to the national bullying epidemic.
These events make it all the more poignant for us to gratefully announce that Google has made a $20,000 gift to GroundSpark to support our documentary-film based campaigns to address bias-based bullying in schools.
We also recently received an additional significant infusion of support from our longtime partner, the Gill Foundation, to enable us to reach out to more communities with advice, films, curricula, and access to professional development to address anti-gay and all other forms of bullying.
These two remarkable gifts make it possible for us to continue distributing our anti-bullying “Spark” through the end of the year, to continue to provide leadership in the National Safe Schools Roundtable, to respond to school district requests for support to address homophobic and gender-non-conformity issues, and to support schools trying to incorporate LGBT-inclusive curricula.
Tens of thousands of people have shared the Spark on Facebook, through email, Twitter, or by posting it on their blogs or websites.
The Spark allows anyone to stream four of our top documentary films for free, offers discounts on DVD and curriculum purchases, and easily connects users to downloadable resources.
So many people have clamored to tell LGBT youth that “It Gets Better” and have shared the stories of what they are doing to “Make It Better.” I’m so proud that GroundSpark can help put real concrete tools at the disposal of all youth, parents, educators, social workers and anyone else who is looking for ways to get the people they care about to start taking action to make sure that it really does get better.
Please put Google and the Gill Foundation’s generosity to work. Click on the SHARE button in the Spark and post it as widely as you can.
Finally, I found this video that Brandon Bitner posted on Facebook earlier this year of him playing a solo in a school concert. Apparently, he was quite a skilled violinist. I can only imagine what kind of harassment he must have endured that could silence this music.