Most everyone in America agrees with the Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are created equal...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a given. There are some who are unwilling to extend those same rights to the GLBT community, sadly, is a reality. There are educators who refuse to address the rise in school bullying targeting GLBT students is an epic tragedy.

Within the last several months in Tennessee, there have been incidents of gay students ending their lives after years of bullying. School boards have refused to allow the creation of Gay-Straight Alliances. Students attempting to start GSAs have faced harassment from their principals. In Madisonville, a student wearing a pro-GSA shirt was allegedly assaulted by the principal. A yearbook faculty adviser who allowed a “pro gay” tribute to a graduating senior faces not only the ire of a school board member, but the threat of an “investigation by school administration and law enforcement.” This is Tennessee after all.

Some legislators don’t want you to say “gay,” others threaten to “stomp a mudhole” in anyone using a dressing room that they suspect to be transgendered or transexual, and Senator Stacey Campfield calls bullying “the biggest lark out there.”

It seems that some in Tennessee believe the pursuit of an education in a safe environment is not a priority for gay kids and that the life, liberty, and happiness of an GLBT student is not unalienable.

To address the growing bullying epidemic and GLBT discrimination, the Tennessee Equality Project announced that September will be Advancing Equality Month at the School Board.

When local school boards meet, most offer time in their agenda for citizens to speak for up to three minutes on a topic. TEP is asking citizens statewide to find out when their School Board meets in September and speak during the open forum time on the need for inclusive anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies, the importance of GSAs and the problem of bullying.

"Advancing Equality Month at the School Board gives citizens in every part of the state an opportunity to volunteer and raise their voices for equality and safe schools,” said Chris Sanders, President of TEP. “Given the sad developments in Cheatham and Smith Counties in which students took their lives after being bullied, incidents of principals discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, and School Boards refusing to let students start GSAs, we think it's time for us to initiate these important conversations rather than wait to respond after something bad has happened."

To learn more about the upcoming Advancing Equality Month at the School Board including how to determine your school board’s meeting time, visit the TEP website: or check out their Facebook page.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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