We recently received an anonymous letter to the editor here at the Emery County Progress office. As a rule we cannot print unsigned letters but I can address some of the issues raised in this letter.
The letter was from a former Emery County resident with family still residing in the county. It was on a recent visit to the county where the letter writer was very disturbed by the treatment of her younger brother. This brother had confessed to the family at the age of 14 that he was homosexual. This was two years ago. Since that time she reports the brother has been constantly judged, stared at, called names and had things thrown at him. Simply because he is different. Things have steadily grown worse for this brother who has mean things happen to him at school as well as in public. He has been taunted and called names even while shopping.
The letter stated, "It is reported that 30 percent of teenage suicides are committed by homosexuals. They were either too afraid to come out for fear of being mistreated or they did come out and have to live flooded by people's ignorance and hatred. This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. I think we all need to remember the things we learned as children, to treat others the way you wish to be treated."
I believe the issues this letter raises need to be addressed. This world is filled with enough hate and sorrow and fighting. It would seem to me that children in Emery County ought to be able to go to school without being harassed and labeled. I know this world is an imperfect place, but each one of us in our own little sphere can make things better. If we see injustice we can stick up for the underdog. If someone is calling someone unkind names then we need to speak-up and help out the one in need.
It seems the norm these days not to get involved and the motivating factor for not becoming involved is fear of reprisal and retribution. It is probably idealistic to think we can all get along together and live in peace and harmony, but we can try and it is a worthwhile goal. Especially as we embark on the year 2007, we can all do our part to make it a better year for those in our communities who might be a little different than we are.
In speaking with Emery High School Principal Gwen Callahan she said "We take harassment very seriously here at Emery High. If we ever have a problem we will call in an officer. Hate crimes are against the law."
Callahan said that students' complaints are taken very seriously at the school. If students are name calling they are instructed to stop. If the behavior doesn't stop then Callahan said an officer is called in and steps are taken to press charges. "We take this type of behavior very seriously. We do not ignore the complaints of a student. We have often had officers come in and talk to students. We had an open assembly with last year's sophomores where an officer told them that certain behaviors were against the law and would not be tolerated. We never have to be present to take a complaint seriously. There has never been a time where a student was ignored.
"I always make sure the student knows if a behavior doesn't stop then they need to talk to me again and more serious steps will be taken. I believe our students feel safe in school. We can stop most harassment in-house and if not we get an officer. We are not perfect, but we would never ignore a complaint from a student. I believe we have taken some good steps to stop this type of thing. We have done some positive things," said Callahan.
Callahan also expressed the wish that the person who wrote this anonymous letter would have contacted her personally about their concerns.
Vice-principal Kelly Alton said he has talked to several students at various times on harassment issues.
He explains the laws to the students and let's them know if any harassment continues the sheriff's office will be called in to investigate.
Alton is in close contact with the students to make sure problems are addressed. Alton said such problems at the school happen infrequently.
In any case parents and teachers need to be on the alert for harassment and bullying situations and rectify these situations before they get out of hand.