A new Utah law requires that administrators notify parents of bullied victims. Though intended do help those who are subjected to harsh maltreatment, some LGBT activists worry the law may actually be harmful as it could inadvertently “out” students to their parents.
Christine D’Arco, now 24, says she was constantly bullied in school for being a lesbian.
“I felt like I was going into a little prison,” D’Arco told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Suicide was in my mind every day. It was a vey real thing for me, very real.”
D’arco did not reveal her sexuality to her parents, nor the incessant bullying, until after she attempted suicide at the age of 21. She was hospitalized for nine days.
While D’arco has a positive relationship with her family now, not all LGBT youths are fortunate enough to have parents who will accept them unconditionally. The new law may not only put LGBT students at risk of being outed to their families, but may also deter them from seeking help when being ruthlessly bullied.
“I already felt like so much less,” said D’Arco. “I didn’t want [my parents]to see that in me… I just felt like my relationship with my dad would have been strained.”
Marian Edmonds, executive director of OUTreach in Ogden, Utah, agrees that outing students to their parents could be significantly damaging.
“It could really come as a shock if the parent’s already thinking, ‘I wonder if little Johnny is gay’… it could turn into a bad situation… especially for parents who aren’t comfortable with the idea of a gay child.”
In Utah, both youth suicide and youth homelessness are extraordinarily high. An estimated thirty to forty-two percent of homeless youth are LGBT, and suicide is the number two cause of death in those between the ages of ten and twenty-four.