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Many attacks on LGBTQ students like the one in Deerfield aren’t reported

Advocates call for more protection and acceptance at schools

The continued calls for action come after a Deerfield Beach Middle School student was assaulted in an incident caught on camera.
The continued calls for action come after a Deerfield Beach Middle School student was assaulted in an incident caught on camera.

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Broward County Public Schools and the Broward Sheriff’s Office are investigating the attack on a Deerfield Beach Middle School student that was caught on camera.

Chad Sanford, 13, told Local 10 News that being gay has led to ongoing harassment at the school — in this case, slammed to the floor, kicked, punched, spat on and berated with homophobic slurs.

The silver lining in this incident, advocates say, is that it was caught on camera.

“We know that over a quarter of LGBTQ students are experiencing physical harassment. We know that most LGBTQ students who experience harassment are not reporting. And most students who do report don’t feel anything is being done,” said Walter Rucker, who heads Brothers Changing our Culture, a Black LGBTQ advocacy group.

Rucker also works with Pridelines, an LGBTQ community and outreach center.

As for what he saw in this video?

“I absolutely consider it a hate crime,” Rucker said. “It just points to the fact that we need more education and there’s a lot more work to be done.”

One parent says she'll be pulling her son out of Deerfield Beach Middle School before next year because of the incident.
One parent says she'll be pulling her son out of Deerfield Beach Middle School before next year because of the incident.

Parents of other students at the school said they were “horrified” to see the video first aired on Local 10 News on Tuesday.

Rucker said schools need to do more to create safer spaces for youth.

“Asking what pronouns students prefer — and making that a norm,” he said. “It starts with things that are as simple as gender-neutral bathrooms, which has been such an uphill battle.”

Equality Florida launched a statewide program called “Our Safe And Healthy Schools Program” to push for such measures.

“Until we can achieve equality for LGBTQ people and true acceptance, we know we’re going to see folks who have animus,” said Joe Saunders of Equality Florida. “The challenge when it comes to our schools is to make sure that the systems and processes and policies are in place to ensure every child is safe. And every child can learn.”

Saunders says Broward was one of the first districts to create an LGBTQ support guide for its campuses and students...

“Now it’s time for school districts, administrators, teachers and faculty at this particular school to follow the policies that they’ve been given by the county,” he said.

Broward County Public Schools responded to the incident in a statement that reads in part:

“School safety is our highest priority. The school’s leadership is taking this incident seriously and is working with law enforcement in its investigation. Any students involved will also face appropriate school disciplinary consequences in accordance with the code book for school conduct.”

At this point, it’s still unclear what disciplinary actions might be taken against the students involved in the attack.

Disturbing video shows a middle school student attacked and slammed to the ground by a group of older kids as others just watched.
Disturbing video shows a middle school student attacked and slammed to the ground by a group of older kids as others just watched.

About the Author:

Layron Livingston made the move from Ohio's Miami Valley to Miami, Florida, to join the Local 10 News team.