Los Angeles, national advocates join to stop anti-gay bullying in secondary schools

Country music singer Chely Wright visits Monroe High in North Hills to discuss a national anti-gay bullying campaign.
Country music singer Chely Wright visits Monroe High in North Hills to discuss a national anti-gay bullying campaign. Corey Moore/KPCC

Some L.A. education leaders are stepping up efforts to prevent anti-gay bullying in secondary schools. At Monroe High in North Hills, they met Thursday with national safety advocates. A popular music star is helping to shine a light on the issue.

Recording artist Chely Wright is a household name these days, not just for the popular country music she sings. She’s also the face of the national “Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network,” or “GLSEN.”

Wright, who recently revealed she’s a lesbian and once considered suicide, is helping to prevent bullying against gay students. And she’s doing that, in part, by sharing her personal story.

“I realized that I was gay when I was a young girl and I hid in my small town of Wellsville, Kansas," said Wright. "And it wasn’t until this year that I came out. I’m five months and two days out of the closet.”

While she visited students and advocates at Monroe High, Wright credited the school with leading the charge for tolerance. L.A. Unified school board member Tamar Galatzan, whose district includes Monroe, says the school is a microcosm of the district’s effort.

“LAUSD is also among the first in the country to adopt a textbook that addresses sexual orientation and gender identity," Galatzan said. "And we also have over 100 student gay, straight alliance clubs at middle schools and high schools throughout our school district.”

Monroe High School student leader Jose Navarrete says, bottom line, it’ll take more than talk to prevent bullying tragedies like the ones that have ruled the news headlines lately.

“I haven’t seen any bullying going on," he said. "But if I ever see anything that happens... near bullying, I will automatically find a way to help and stop it.”

Advocates are handing out “Safe Space Kits” to high schools in L.A. and other cities. The packet contains stickers, posters, tips and online downloads that promote safety and tolerance.

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