Protest demanding more action after homophobic bullying
NILES, Mich.--Last Friday, reports of homophobic bullying to two students at Niles New Tech surfaced. A group of students from the school created a snapchat group chat, where videos and messages of two LGBTQ+ students were shared, making fun of their clothing and even saying gay people should “respectfully kill themselves.”
Maleena Vanderburg was one of the targeted students.
“It just hurt a lot to know that somebody would go as far as telling other people to go kill themself,” Nile New Tech student Maleena Vanderburg said.
Vanderburg said only one student in the group chat was suspended, but she and many others want more students to face consequences.
“I just think it’s messed up what they’re doing to the kids,” supporter Claire Moore said.
“After the whole situation happened, I just felt kind of scared to be myself because I have a lot of clothing that represents my sexuality and what I identify as and I’m scared that something could happen to me,” student Jayden Chamberlain said.
“I was disgusted, I was honestly baffled that only one student out of the 10, I think there were 10 are getting punished for this,” alumna Faye Rowe said.
So, to try and bring attention to what protesters say is a lack of action, a peaceful walk-out protest was organized,
“We are protesting against the lack of punishment for hate crimes, basically they are hate crimes,” Niles New Tech parents and protest organizer Mindy Wade said.
In a statement regarding the protest and claims the school isn’t properly handing things, Niles Superintendent Dr. Dan Applegate said:
“Niles Community Schools strives to be a safe and inclusive place for all children to learn, grow and play. We are committed to ensuring our schools are a bully-free zone, as we take our students’ well-being very seriously. In light of a recent incident where insensitive comments were posted in a private chat, members of our school community held a demonstration earlier today in front of one of our buildings in support of our LGBTQ+ community. Our administration has scheduled a meeting with these students to hear their concerns and discuss our ongoing efforts to reinforce respect, tolerance and inclusion within our school community. We will continue to encourage students to use their voices to bring awareness to issues that they are passionate about in a respectful, civil and productive manner.”
One student protester said homophobia and bullying in schools has lasted for far too long and something must be done to stop it.
“Ever since I moved to Niles I’ve always, I’ve been called Slurs in the hallways, when I had a girlfriend, I would get yelled at in the hallway,” student Spencer Montgomery said. “I think they need to be punished for what they did more as well as taught why they shouldn’t do that.”
Protesters say depending on this outcome, they may meet outside of the high school again tomorrow to have their voices heard.