LGBT anti-bullying group aims to set up support networks in schools

03/29/13 Janelle Irwin
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According to the CDC, more than 4,000 kids commit suicide each year and some of them do it as a result of bullying. A national anti-bullying group threw a fancy fundraiser last night in Tampa to raise money for outreach programs in schools.

At the swank Aqua lounge in the Westin hotel on the Courtney Campbell Causeway, members of the group GLSEN – Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network – sold raffle tickets for prizes for everything from signed hockey sticks to baskets full of booze. Greg Coldiron is the organizer.

“Right now there’s a major study going on that really, kind of studying the side effects of bullying. Meaning, we’re right now seeing people getting bullied have a low self esteem, they turn to drugs, they turn to unsafe sex, they turn to suicide.”

While most members of the group are part of the LBGT community, they work on stamping out bullying issues for everyone.

“It’s important to stress that we do have an ‘S’ in our name for straight. So, any bullying that goes on in a school, we think that it’s important to have a student that’s getting bullied to have a safe place to go.”

The group is based out of New York, but sets up shop in cities across the U.S. Vincent Caprigno heads a youth outreach branch of GLSEN in Tampa.

“We recently just went through administrators for Armwood High School. So, I’m really proud of the fact that they’re actually adapting to our bullying policy. So, now students – they don’t have a fear of, no one’s going to help them anymore.”

Paid guests were able to mingle with some Tampa Bay Lightning players. In a Tampa Bay Times survey last month, all but one player on the team said he would support an openly gay teammate. Among those was left winger, Ryan Malone.

“I mean, everyone - I think now-a-days you look at the world and everyone’s equal and I think we all realize that and you just want to treat everyone the way that you should be treated, worldwide. I think that’s a pretty easy game plan.”

And Lightning forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie said bullying can affect anyone.

“Believe it or not, I got bullied at school when I was young. A lot of people got bullied at school and I think it’s just a good time to come and get some money for the foundation.”

GLSEN provides resources to schools so that they can create a network of adults who are trained to deal with bullying in schools. They also hand out materials like signs and stickers that can point students in the right direction if they are being bullied.

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