Life hasn’t been easy for 14-year-old Kajmere Houchins.
“When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer,” she said.
Kajmere had stage four neuroblastoma. Then she developed leukemia, twice. Her classmates made things worse by bullying her.
“I was bullied because I was held back a grade, and I was bullied because my hair was falling out,” explained Kajmere.
And there was another reason kids picked on her.
“I was bullied because I have two moms,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s anything worse than seeing your kid being brought down to floor level because someone has made some derogatory comment,” said Kajmere’s mother, Teresa Barnes.
Statistics show one in four kids are bullied on a regular basis in the US. In 85 percent of cases there is no intervention made by teachers or school staff.
Gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgendered teens report being five times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied. About 28 percent of them feel forced to drop out of school altogether.
Kajmere decided she wanted to change that. First she created a web site as a resource for kids who are bullied.
“My web site is called The Power Cave. Where kids can get more involved and learn how to self-advocate and learn to love themselves,” she said.
Kajmere also drafted an online petition to change laws in her home state of Washington, so that students can be included in developing anti-bullying policies. In November, the board of education unanimously adopted it as law.
“People are literally killing themselves over their differences. I feel like there’s just no sense in it. There’s no point,” Kajmere said.
A teen who didn’t let others bring her down — and has a message for those who tried: “There is no reason to be a bully. Bullying is wrong.”
Students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or LGBT, and even students perceived to be LGBT face an increased risk of being bullied throughout school. According to a survey of LGBT students in 2012, nearly 82 percent of students reported being the target of verbal harassment and 38 percent reported being physically harassed because of their sexual orientation. Six in ten students reported feeling unsafe at school, and one-third of students reported skipping class at least once. More worryingly, 85 percent of students reported hearing the word “gay” used in a negative way. This statistic shows the real challenge LGBT students face; culturally speaking, homosexuality is still understood in a negative way and in negative terms. Also, there are no federal civil rights laws that currently protect an individual from harassment based on sexual orientation, like there are for those protecting race and gender. (Source: thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/09/05/797501/glsen-releases-new-school-climate-report-82-percent-of-lgbt-students-still-encounter-verbal-harassment/)
Combatting Bullying: The best way to stop bullying is creating an environment which not only condemns bullying, but one that is accepting of differences. Offering support to LGBT teens, or any teens that are being bullied, can help them feel part of a community. Creating gay-straight alliances at schools are a great way to show support for students who feel isolated and distant from their peers and community. Often those who bully may feel isolated as well, whether it be at home or at school, so offering support if needed can help them address their actions. (Source:stopbullying.gov/at-risk/groups/lgbt/#creating)