Students stage walk-out in support of openly gay senior who says bullying has turned violent

Students stage walk-out in support of openly gay senior who says bullying has turned violent

Being a teenager is hard for everyone, at one point or another (or many points), no matter what. Even today, however, it’s still difficult for LGBTQ+ (or questioning) youth in a way that is unique from their cisgender, heterosexual peers. These difficulties can be even worse, of course, for LGBTQ+ youth who live with multiple marginalized identities; a bisexual teen of color, for example, or an openly trans high schooler who uses a wheelchair, and so on. Studies show that LGBTQ+ youth face disproportionate levels of harassment and abuse and that teachers are all too often ill-equipped to deal with it. Luckily, some LGBTQ+ students have the support of their peers.

One example? More than one hundred high schoolers in Kansas City, Missouri, walked out in a protest to support an openly gay student who has reportedly faced relentless bullying and harassment this school year. The senior, Danny Lillis, told the Kansas City Star that students have shouted slurs and thrown food at him, and that despite reporting the abuse to administrators, “nothing changed.”

Recently, things came to a head at the school. According to Melanie Davies, the parent of a friend of Lillis, the same group of peers continued bullying the openly gay high schooler. Her daughter confronted one of the bullies by yelling at him. According to Davies, the bullies shoved her daughter, who shoved them back, and the bully in question then punched her in the face. Davies says she wasn’t notified about the fight even though her daughter later had to go to the emergency room because of a broken nose resulting from the hit. 

According to Davies, the school responded to the incident by giving all students involved a five-day suspension that, according to the students, includes missing homecoming. Yes, that includes both Lillis and Davies’s daughter. “The school dropped the ball,” Davies told the outlet. 

With that in mind, students at Lee’s Summer High School protested on Monday by holding a walk-out. Lillis told local outlet KSHB that students decided to walk out to “show movement towards our school an[d] administration for the lack of action toward these repeated and multiple events that have been happening to me and my friends.” Lillis added that he’s “terrified” to even enter the school given the recent assault on his friend. 

In speaking to local outlet KSN, Lillis said he’s been going to the administration about the bullying since August. “This could’ve been stopped within the first three days of me coming to them,” Lillis stated, adding that he feels the bullying could have been stopped “each and every time.”

So, how did the protest go? According to both news reports and videos shared on social media, it was successful and included folks waving Pride flags and holding up anti-bullying signs outside of the school. The protest lasted for about half an hour and administrators monitored it. 

Had a walkout at school,Gay kid was bullied for months and assaulted last week. All parties got suspended even though the victim had a broken nose. Half the school was out there. Lee’s Summit High School administration: do better. Lee’s Summit High School students: good job pic.twitter.com/EZbMGfN7AZ

— Gamerboy: Natty Season #BLM 🏳️‍🌈 (@GamerboyHourz) October 4, 2021

I better see LSHS on the news. pic.twitter.com/Q9bXk2fm8y

— Gamerboy: Natty Season #BLM 🏳️‍🌈 (@GamerboyHourz) October 4, 2021

The school district has released a statement promising that they are investigating the bullying incident, though they cite privacy laws in terms of not sharing specific details. “We can share that school and district administrators are conducting an investigation and taking action to ensure the safety of all students and staff,” the statement reads, adding that it is a “top priority” to have an “inclusive culture” for students, staff, and family.

Interestingly, this is not the only time the high school has made national headlines. When else? You might remember that in 2020, the school gained attention when Dennis Carpenter, the district’s first Black superintendent, resigned. Why? Carpenter wanted to make the district more equitable for students of color, including holding diversity training for staff members and teachers, and, somehow, this caused a disturbing amount of tension and issues. 

You can check out some brief footage of the protest, as well as an interview with Lillis, below.

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