light of the recent suicides reportedly brought about by persistent
bullying, CNN has taken upon itself to address not only a national
bullying crisis, but any homophobia or anti-gay behavior seen as
contributing to such bullying. The network apparently believes that
socially conservative groups contribute to the problem of putting kids
down who have homosexual tendencies.
CNN senior legal analyst
Jeffrey Toobin and author Rosalind Wiseman agreed that conservative
groups who oppose protective measures for gay students simply treat them
as outcasts. Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabees," called
their efforts "anti-child."
"These groups don't think
homosexuality is normal," Toobin remarked of conservative groups. "They
think it's wrong. They think it is a menace to society. So they are the
ones who are making it harder for kids, who feel isolated enough as it
is, to come forward."
mean, this is not some sort of value-neutral approach by these
conservative groups. They are trying to make homosexuality an outcast
condition, and that's part of the problem," Toobin insisted.
agreed, adding "And really, what that really comes down to is being
anti-child and anti-against the dignity of every single child who walks
in through the doors of that school."
The discussion followed a
segment detailing a recent suicide case at Rutgers University, where a
gay student was videotaped by his roommate having an intimate encounter
with another man. The student subsequently committed suicide after the
video hit the internet. The incident follows upon multiple cases of teen
suicides induced by bullying, sometimes because of real or suspected
At first, the discussion was focused on bullying. But then Anderson Cooper brought the gay-rights issue into the debate.
been reading a lot, particularly right now, a case in Minnesota where
there are a lot of conservative groups, anti-gay groups who say, you
know, this is an attempt to promote some sort of gay agenda in schools,"
Cooper remarked of efforts to encourage young students with gay
tendencies to be themselves.
Wiseman complained that
sex-ed programs are difficult to introduce to schools' curricula,
tacitly suggesting social conservatives were also to blame for that
situation. "If you work in schools, what you know is that it is hard to
get all different kinds of programs into schools that have - and for
young kids, especially, it's what we're dealing with is good-touch,
bad-touch. And that's hard to get into schools."
A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on October 4 at 10:37 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
COOPER: It's interesting, though, Rosalind. You know, I've been reading
a lot; particularly, right now, a case in Minnesota, where there are a
lot of conservative groups, anti-gay groups who say, you know, this is
an attempt to promote some sort of gay agenda in schools, if you talk
about, you know, trying to make the school a safe place or a place
that's accepting of students who, at a younger and younger age, are
saying that they're gay.
ROSALIND WISEMAN: Well, what I want to
see from those organizations is exactly what is they are saying is
taking place in the classroom. What exactly is the teacher saying, what
exactly are the parents reporting.
Because I'm actually - I need
to see exactly and I think we all need to see exactly what are behind
these accusations. Because so far, it's just this amorphous kind of
commentary on this, you know, pro-homosexual agenda. And if you work in
schools, what you know is that it is hard to get all different kinds of
programs into schools that have - and for young kids, especially, it's
what we're dealing with is good-touch, bad-touch. And that's hard to get
So we really have to know exactly what these
people are accusing when they're talking about these issues, and then we
can address it on a factual basis.
COOPER: But in order to
address it in the schools do you have to make - I mean, you believe you
have to be very specific in the language you use and you have to
address things like homophobia?
WISEMAN: Of course you do. Of
course you do. Because otherwise, what happens is - and really, we
ought to call it what this is. If we do not address this in terms of
racism and homophobia and classism, then what you're doing is enabling
people to get away with degrading behavior, and really, that is an
anti-child agenda. That is an anti-educational agenda.
common sense, you know, parents who have common sense and educators who
have common sense know that that's what this is about.
TOOBIN: But let's be clear, too. These groups don't think homosexuality
is normal. They think it's wrong. They think it is a menace to society.
So they are the ones who are making it harder for kids, who feel
isolated enough as it is, to come forward. I mean, this is not some sort
of value-neutral approach by these conservative groups. They are trying
to make homosexuality an outcast condition, and that's part of the
WISEMAN: Absolutely. And really, what that really comes
down to is being anti-child and anti-against the dignity of every single
child who walks in through the doors of that school.
COOPER: Are teachers accountable, legally, if they see bullying going on and don't intervene?
In extreme, extreme cases. If teachers are derelict in a very obvious
situation where they don't warn a student or they don't come to a
student's aid, there is the possibility that you could sue the school
district. But you are talking about a tiny fraction of cases. Most
bullying takes place, I think, in an environment where the law doesn't
really apply. You are never going to - so it's much more going to be
involving school discipline, parental discipline, not, you know, the
COOPER: Rosalind, you work in a lot of schools. Why is it
that, you know, if the "N" word is used a teacher would intervene, but
if the "F" sword is used against a use student who's perceived to be
gay, or who may be gay - why is that still a word which is allowed to be
used liberally in schools wherever you go?
WISEMAN: Because it is so normal, meaning so common that people say, "Well, what's the big deal? It's just what we say."
just like - and when I talk about this, that we talked about racism
generations ago, and we - and it became unacceptable. It has to happen
in the same way.
Because otherwise, what happens is, you have to
keep saying to people just because it's common doesn't make it right.
Racism is not right. So is not - so isn't homophobia and going against
people of different ethnicities. Just because you are degrading
somebody, and people have done it for a long time, does not make it
-Matt Hadro is News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.