A 14-year-old Bennion Junior High teen who took his life in front of classmates on Nov. 29 was bullied, according to students who attended a candlelight vigil. Police and school officials have identified the student as David Q. Phan.
The young student reported bullying two years ago, but had not indicated any recent problems to school officials, according to a Granite School District spokesperson.
No information about David’s sexual orientation is being released. However, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children are more than twice as likely to be bullied than their straight peers, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign. In Utah, more than 70 percent of LGBT teens reported being verbally or physically harassed for their sexual orientation. Approximately 30 percent of LGBT youth described themselves as happy and that indicator jumped to 70 percent for straight teens.
Bullying is a large concern for Utah’s LGBT community, said Valerie Larabee, the executive director of the Utah Pride Center. The Center recently launched an anti-bullying hotline, 801-580-7680, which is staffed by mental health professionals and ready to assist young Utahns who are being bullied.
“We have a crisis in Utah that is fueled by a lack of education and acceptance of difference. Through our work we know that Utah’s teens, whether gay, perceived gay or straight are having a tough time dealing with the variety of forces pulling at them to behave or think one way or another. Education is absolutely vital to addressing myriad factors that contribute to suicidal behavior in Utah’s youth population,” Larabee said. “Increased community pressure could and should push schools, faith based institutions, media and elected officials to do more recognize and address the issues that underlie our higher than national suicide rates. Each loss of life is a severe reflection on the erosion of a civil and inclusive society.”
For more information about the anti-bullying efforts being headed by the Center, go to utahpridecenter.org.