Willowcreek Middle School in Lehi, Utah is facing scrutiny for disclosing a student’s sexual orientation to his parents. The 14-year-old student had disclosed he was gay in a class project, and when the project was displayed in the halls (with the student’s permission), bullies began to target him with negative comments. The student told the assistant principal that his parents did not know about his sexual orientation, but the assistant principal felt it was important to inform them for the sake of the student’s safety. False rumors have spread that the student was suspended, but his parents are keeping him at home for now. It is unclear how the student was bullied or what reaction his parents had, but it does seem that in the interest of his safety, he was deprived of the opportunity to come out to them on his own terms.
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard has responded to news of the outing with the following statement:
BYARD: Educators know that a safe and respectful learning environment is critical for ensuring the health and wellbeing of every student. It is important for school staff to first address the bullying behavior in any instance at school. Schools should not out LGBT students without their consent. Outing a student not only violates their right to privacy, but also could compromise their safety. Parents can be notified of their child being bullied at school, but without disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Taking away the choice for a LGBT student to come out on their own terms opens the door to significant risks including harassment at school and family rejection. Schools should be able to provide LGBT students with support and resources in order to make an informed decision if and when they decide to come out to their school community and family.