Teri Vancetvance@nevadaappeal.com

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January 20, 2013
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Community addresses gay bullying

Across the country, one in five students report being bullied in school, Chris Daniels told a group of about a dozen community members at a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays meeting last week.He was no exception. “I was an overweight, gay ginger with braces, glasses and asthma,” he told the group gathered at Carson City’s BRIC building. “I was bullied quite a bit.”He elaborated that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students are two to three times more likely to get bullied than their straight peers. “That’s a problem,” said Daniels, an educator through Planned Parenthood. “We can do better.”He said it is critical that schools become a safe zone. If children don’t feel safe, they won’t go. That’s a feeling Alexander Diesner, 18, who came out as gay about a year ago, can relate to. He said he always felt different from his peers, both sexually and intellectually, and was bullied incessantly in middle school. “I would skip a lot of school,” he said. “Weeks on end. I’d wait to go into the locker room. I didn’t feel safe to go in there.”He said things have gotten better in high school, where students seem to be focused on their own lives, rather than belittling others. It’s also helped, he said, that a Gay-Straight Alliance club was formed this year. Danielle Marrone, 18, who defines herself as “questioning,” agreed. “I think having that sort of club in the school makes it easier,” she said. “It’s easier to accept yourself and not hate yourself because of what your peers think.”Miranda Barraza-Lee, 17, said she’s “panamorous,” or open to falling in love with any gender or transgender.She said she hopes students learn to accept themselves and one another. “We are who we are,” she said. “And that’s OK.”Diesner said while high school students have become more accepting, he still sees the same biases from teachers that he saw in middle school.“I think they need to be more educated on modern issues,” he said. Richard Stokes, superintendent of the Carson City School District, attended Tuesday night’s meeting along with Carson High School dean Michele Lewis.Lewis said it was a good reminder to be vigilant against bullying, but also a call for new approaches to the bullies themselves. “I think we need to do a better job of teaching,” she said. “Putting our bullies into a coaching situation where they actually learn something and want to stop bullying.”Stokes said he takes the seriously the responsibility of making sure schools are safe.“As educators, it’s our job to teach people how to be tolerant with one another and to protect people from any kind of injustices and any kind of situation that could be damaging for them,” Stokes said.Allan Flynn attended the meeting after reading about it in the paper. He listened to the students who shared their stories. “Keep the faith,” he admonished. “Things will get better.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 20, 2013 03:21AM Published Jan 20, 2013 03:19AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.