Minnesota Columnist Claims LGBT Students Don’t Need Bullying Protections

Prominent Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten regularly rants against LGBT equality in her columns, but in an article earlier this month promoted today by the National Organization for Marriage,  she set her targets on LGBT young people. Railing against proposed anti-bullying initiatives in Minnesota, Kersten claimed that anti-LGBT bullying is not a concern and that the new policies would discriminate against Christian students:

Why this new law? The task force appears to presuppose that bullying is a pervasive and growing problem. In fact, however, incidents of bullying and intimidation have dropped markedly in recent years, according to surveys by the Department of Justice.

And while the task force gives the impression that LGBT students are a primary focus of bullying, evidence suggests that the vast majority of bullying is directed at other students. The DOJ surveys indicate that the percentage of 12- to 18-year-old students who reported being targets of hate-related words based on their sexual orientation fell from 1.0 percent in 2007 to 0.6 percent in 2009.

Though there is a Department of Justice survey showing those results, it’s quite disingenuous for Kersten to derive such conclusions from it. GLSEN’s studies, which actually survey LGBT youth, found that 82 percent of LGBT students reported verbal harassment because of their sexual orientation. So Kersten highlights that among all students, anti-LGBT bullying isn’t a big problem, neglecting to admit that among LGBT students, anti-LGBT bullying is a rather significant concern.

Following the trite anti-equality talking point with precision — no doubt why NOM saw fit to highlight her column despite it not even being about marriage — Kersten goes on to paint religious conservative students as potential victims:

Under the task force’s vague and overbroad definitions of bullying and harassment, students could be punished for “direct or indirect interactions” that other students –especially those in protected groups — claim to find “humiliating” or “offensive,” that have a “detrimental effect” on their “social or emotional health,” or even that promote a “perceived imbalance of power.” 

By this standard, a student who voices reservations about same-sex marriage could be accused of bullying LGT [sic] students. […]

The activists gathering at the State Capitol march under the banner of tolerance. Yet many seek to use state power to impose their own beliefs on others — including parents who exercise their rights of conscience by choosing private schools that teach Christian, Jewish or Muslim beliefs on sexuality.

Yesterday’s champions of tolerance, it seems, are becoming the bullies of today.

Kersten doesn’t bother to weigh the consequences of anti-LGBT harassment, such as high school dropout rates, suicidal ideation, negative health symptoms, and decreased academic performance. Instead, she wants to make sure that the students who might parrot their parents’ talking points condemning homosexuality or transgender identities as morally inferior can continue to do so uninterrupted. This is not a pundit nor a position that has students’ best interests in mind.