By Nick BeJeaux
Baton Rouge is a town that loves to wear purple, but come October 16 that most royal of hues will mean more than just love and support for the LSU Tigers.
That day will mark Baton Rouge Spirit Day – a day for all of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and America to stand united against the common foe in bullying; specifically bullying that attacks the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. It was started in 2010 by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation following a disturbingly high trend of suicide among gay teens; it serves as a show of support for teens going through similar struggles from the community at large by showing and encouraging spirit in the face of bullying. Purple happens to represent spirit within the Rainbow Flag and October also happens to be National Bullying Prevention Month.
Capital City Alliance has been hard at work encouraging legislators, School Board members, law enforcement and everyday people to recognize spirit day by simply wearing purple to show that they will not tolerate the harassment of another because of who they are. According to CCA Board Chair David Samuels, Spirit Day in Baton Rouge is focused on the struggles of LGBT Students because they are at the highest risk of being bullied.
“Obviously we want all bullying to stop, but, as we’ve seen in the numbers, bullying based on sexual orientation and gender expression is much more prevalent than bullying based on religion or race,” said Samuels. “Statistics indicate that students are most often subjected to heightened levels bullying because of who they – their perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity. We want to work towards ending that so that all students feel safe in their schools and in productive educational environments, whether they are gay or straight or transgender or whatever.”
According to the 2011 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, verbal bullying based on sexual orientation happens to 84 percent of Louisiana’s students across the board. 46 percent are physically harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation while 24 percent are outright assaulted. Samuels said that straight students who are perceived as homosexual are part of these statistics, but the overwhelming majority of bullied students are, in fact, LGBT.
“Students who are bullied often perform poorly in school, drop out of school, and there are also incredibly rates of suicide from bullying victims who belong to the LGBT community,” said Samuels. “Also, LGBT students sometimes face bullying not only at school but also at home. That’s something that creates a very unique and dangerous atmosphere, when students are facing a hostile environment not only at school but also at home.”
This is the first Spirit Day that the CCA has organized, and is just as much about laying a foundation for future spirit days as it is for awareness.
“We’re trying to not rock the boat, we’re trying to get it out to sea,” said Samuels. “We want to raise public awareness and get people to understand that this is an issue here in Baton Rouge and we’re trying to identify people businesses and schools that are open to the idea that children should be safe in schools. This is sort of testing the waters. We have one school that will wear our shirts this year, but next year we would like to have at least two or three.”
For more information on Spirit Day, visit the CCA’s facebook page and its website at www.ccabatonrouge.org/geuax-purple. Don’t forget to show your support with #spiritday on Oct. 16.