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Message to Maine's Bullied Youth: "It Gets Better"

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December 13, 2010

PORTLAND, Maine - Bullying continues to be a problem in Maine schools, and some teens are taking matters into their own hands with an effort intended to shine a spotlight on anti-gay harassment and offer hope to kids who feel hopeless and alone.

Betsy Parsons is a public high school teacher in Portland, co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Southern Maine, and coordinator for GSA, the Gay-Straight Alliance, a group led by students at over 50 high schools around the state.

"These are student clubs whose purpose is to lower the incidence of hate language and harassment in their schools, and to make that school climate a safer place for everyone to live and learn."

Parsons says that nine out of ten Maine kids who identify as being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) are bullied at school.

"Sixty percent of them are afraid to go to school because of the level of harassment that they experience there, and there's both verbal harassment, and physical harassment. We know that 75 percent of them hear hateful language about themselves all day long."

Parsons says the Gay-Straight Alliances in Maine schools have been a great way for students to raise awareness about bullying for students, faculty and community members all over Maine.

GSA members will be on hand today at an event titled "It Gets Better" at the Portland Public Library at 5 Monument Square from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Participants will be able to make their own videos to encourage bullied youth not to give up, and a documentary about bullying will be screened, followed by a brief panel discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - ME