Why Are Kevin Jennings + GLSEN Completely Silent On September’s 5 Gay Bullying Suicides?


Somehow Dave Navarro, the guitarist of Jane’s Addiction, has managed to beat both Kevin Jennings (Obama’s safe school czar) and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (the group Jennings founded to help LGBT youth) in responding to the five suicides by tween and teen gay men. The folks with the most visibility, power, and reach to actually instruct the nation how to respond to these tragedies, and how to prevent more of them? Radio silence. (Update: I hear a crackle!)

“You can get through this,” writes Navarro on his website. “High school is full of plenty of bullies and fear based hate, as is the world. With any group of people comes a percentage of people who just don’t get it and probably will never get it. That’s OK.”

It’s a message aimed at the families, friends, and world who watched bullying by classmates claim the lives of Seth Walsh, Asher Brown (pictured), and Billy Lucas. And of course this week’s college student Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after his roommate broadcast an intimate moment on the web. (NB: Tyler Wilson, a male cheerleader in Ohio, had his arm broken this month in a similar fashion.)

With this nationwide tragedy — which is not, by any means, a new phenomenon — you’d think Jennings would at least have a statement ready to go, right? But he doesn’t. The all but invisible safe schools czar, who is kept hidden lest Fox News continue its attacks on his radical gay agenda for American schools, is nowhere to be found. And GLSEN, whose entire mission is to create a safe space for kids in school, says it doesn’t want to talk “out of fear of suicide contagion.” Yes, GLSEN won’t even mention the deaths because it doesn’t want to encourage other kids to kill themselves.

There is one word to describe this response: FAIL.

“I assure you,” GLSEN rep Daryl Presgraves tells Michael Petrelis, “we are working behind the scenes to address these specific incidences, but we are trying to tread carefully. We will have much to say in the coming weeks, including a new nationwide effort to make schools safer for LGBT youth. We want to make sure we do and say the right thing.” In ensuing remarks, Presgraves adds, “There hasn’t exactly been a dearth of gay orgs putting out statements. We are trying to be responsible. Please judge us by what we do the next two weeks not just the past few days. For what it’s worth, we will be releasing a statement tomorrow with our sister orgs that responsibly reflects our commitment to supporting young people.”

How about, I dunno, “This is awful.” Or maybe, “Our hearts go out to the families.” Or perhaps, “Here’s a link to some reading material to guide parents on what they can do to combat bullying.” But there is nothing of the sort. Instead, GLSEN’s position is that it should wait a few weeks to even acknowledge the losses of life we just suffered. And it’s like, dude, when the freakin’ Human Rights Campaign is acting faster than you, there’s a problem. Neither party, meanwhile, has taken the time to respond to Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell’s senseless campaign against a gay college student. Instead, on GLSEN’s homepage, is a link to a fundraising auction. Twitter? Useless.


We must assume Jennings and GLSEN are doing, well, something behind the scenes. But without any transparency or public acknowledgment, we’ll never know what their plan is. Instead, we’ve got five dead kids who didn’t need to die, and perhaps more on the way. Because the very parties who assumed responsibility for keeping our kids safe are not doing their jobs.

And if they continue to voluntarily remain silent, and not speak publicly about these tragedies, and not tell parents and kids there is something they can do, and not tell schools they must act to prevent this shit, there will be more blood on their hands.

UPDATE: Jennings will break his silence tomorrow in NYC “during his address to community leaders at the YMCA of Greater New York’s annual Legislative Breakfast.” And GLSEN also managed to eek out a tweet. Actually, a retweet of executive director Eliza Byard. Complete with spelling errors: “Amist [sic] tragic news, visible support is critical to LGBT student well-being. Thank you to school staff who are there for students every day.” Good one!