Everyone hears the stories of homosexual or transsexual high school students who are bullied, are not allowed to go to prom together or are discriminated from their communities in some way. But do these situations occur at RHS?
According to pflagphoenix.org, 28 percent of gay and lesbian students drop out of high school because of discomfort; this includes verbal and physical abuse in their school environment. While RHS has not had any publicized cases of brutality towards homosexuals, many students still report a homophobic atmosphere among the students.
Despite anti-bullying campaigns by the Gay-Straight Alliance, the word ‘gay’ is still often used as an insult. During the school year, the Gay-Straight Alliance, known as GSA, organizes events to minimize students’ and staff’s use of words that can offend those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual (LGBT) community.
“GSA has had a bigger role in the school over the past years…as a whole I think that most people respect [the LGBT community] but they don’t show it. People don’t realize how many straight allies there are for the LGBT community,” said GSA president, senior Niki Murphy.
In spite of these slips in the sensitivity of some students, MCPS, along with RHS administration and GSA, works to educate students about the different sexual orientations that exist within the school system.
Health education is a required course for high-schoolers in MCPS, and it includes a Family Life unit in the curriculum. This unit contains a lesson specifically on educating students about vocabulary and different possibilities of homosexuals or trans-genders.
This is the only scripted lesson in the semester-long course, emphasizing MCPS’ desire to provide objective information to its students regarding sexual orientation. “The purpose of the sexual orientation lesson is to help students understand the differences around them so that anti-gay statements aren’t made,” said health education teacher Carrie Roberts.
School staff, administration and students are aware of some students who are openly gay or lesbian. RHS is known for its diversity and hospitality for students and staff of all nationalities, backgrounds and sexual orientation. “We have a pretty tolerant school…because we have so many differences here,” said Principal Dr. Debra Munk.
Although RHS is said to be ‘tolerant’ of all differences in students, school staff are concerned about the students who do not feel comfortable enough at school to reveal their differences. “It’s the [students] I don’t know about that worry me… kids who are fighting some deep inner wars,” said Dr. Munk. Staff encourages any students who feel unaccepted by their teachers or peers to meet with a counselor or adult to discuss their feelings.