LGBTQ students leave Sonoma County school over bullying

Parents, teachers and child advocates at Santa Rosa High School are raising alarm about a culture of bullying against LGBTQ students that has prompted at least three students to leave the school, The Press Democrat reports.

One student, identified only as H., told The Press Democrat that in less than two days he was misgendered or harassed because of his appearance by a substitute teacher and students in four separate incidents at Willowside Middle School in the Oak Grove Union School District. He never returned to school because of depression and suicidal thoughts, his mother said.

Advocates have heard there is a problem with bullying, which often includes racist and homophobic language, according to Drew Crawford, manager of education and training at Positive Images, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit that supports and advocates for the North Bay’s LGBTQIA+ community. For at least three years, the school district has rejected offers to provide free training and workshops for teachers and students on LGBTQIA+ competencies.

“We get a lot of calls from parents who don’t know where to turn because schools are dismissing their children’s experiences as typical developmental patterns, saying ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘young people are just curious about other people’s identities’ when in reality they are committing sexual assault and harassment,” Crawford said.

Andrea Loveday-Brown changed her daughter’s name to Juniper Loveday-Brown earlier this year after the district mishandled homophobic and racist bullying, including throwing apples at students during lunch. Juniper said they were also distraught that the school district refused to allow the pride flag to be flown.

Principal Amber Stringfellow said in a statement to The San Francisco Chronicle that the decision to ban the flag from school poles “should in no way be interpreted as a lack of commitment to integration,” adding that teachers and staff are encouraged to display it.

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