Auditor Bump, Asst. AG Healey and others to testify on policy needs of LGBT youth
Boston, June 15, 2012—The Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth will hold hearings Wednesday, June 20 in Boston at the State House, and Thursday, June 21 at Holyoke Community College. The hearings will focus on the state of life today for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth in our schools. LGBT youth, anti-bullying experts, policy makers, parents, educators, and elected officials will testify.
Among those expected to testify are Governor Deval Patrick; Auditor Suzanne Bump; Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg; state Sen. Sal DiDomenico; state Rep. Carl Sciortino; state Rep. Byron Rushing; state Rep. Sarah Peake; and state Rep. Liz Malia. Secretary of Executive Office of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby and Commissioner of Early Education and Care Dr. Sherri Killins are also expected to attend.
These hearings come 20 years after the first statewide hearings were held in Massachusetts featuring testimony from gay and lesbian youth about what they experienced in schools. As a result of those hearings in 1992, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld created the first-in-the-nation Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and released a groundbreaking report making policy recommendations for how to make Massachusetts schools safer educational spaces for LGBT youth.
In 2006, former Gov. Mitt Romney disbanded the governor’s commission and lawmakers reformed it as a legislative commission. The Boston Globe recently reported that while he was governor, Romney suppressed publication of an anti-bullying guide with policy recommendations for making schools safer for LGBT youth because of the guide’s inclusion of bisexual and transgender youth in its recommendations.
In the 20 years since the first hearings on gay and lesbian youth were held, much has improved for LGBT youth. But disparities remain. According to the recently released 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of Massachusetts High School Students, students who described themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (the survey does not ask if students are transgender) are over seven times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year; over twice as likely to have skipped school in the past month because of feeling unsafe; and over twice as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school as the general population of students. These results track with data from studies published in dozens of peer-reviewed academic journals, which indicate that LGBT youth are at greater risk than their heterosexual peers of violence and victimization, self-harm and suicidality, substance use, sexual risk behavior, and skipping school because they feel unsafe.
The Public Hearings will be conducted on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 from 1-6 pm, Gardner Auditorium, State House, Boston, MA and Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 2-6 pm at the Performing Arts Center, Holyoke Community College.