A message from the Executive Director: We must work to better support our LGBTQ youth

Dear friends,

We are heartbroken and disturbed by the tragic and fatal stabbing that occurred on the morning of Wednesday, September 27 at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in the Bronx. We mourn the death of Matthew McCree and hope for the recovery of Ariane LaBoy. Our hearts go out to Abel Cedeno, the families of all three of the youth involved, and the entire school and neighboring community in which the lives of so many have been irrevocably altered by this tragedy.

We call on the mayor and school officials to respond swiftly to this tragedy: not only to the fatal stabbing, but to address the bullying that appears was an integral part of this fatal incident, and work to create a safer and healing environment for the future. According to recent news reports, Cedeno’s family and friends have said he was the victim of anti-gay bullying since the start of the school year, and in fact had been bullied since middle school. We know all too well that bullying, harassment and other anti-LGBT violence in schools causes serious harm to the students targeted.  According to GLSEN, 57.6% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 43.3% because of their gender expression, resulting in 42.5% of LGBTQ students who reported that they did not plan to finish high school, or were not sure if they would finish, or indicated that they were considering dropping out because of the harassment they faced at school.

We do not believe that the addition of metal detectors is the real solution to this tragedy, and caution against responding to this incident of violence by increasing the policing and potential criminalization of our youth, especially youth of color. We strongly believe that all three youth involved are victims who needed the support and action of the adults around them to intervene, and we hope we can move forward without further demonizing them in this moment.

This stabbing has come on the heels of the news of the horrific murder of 17-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld, in Missouri, which occurred in early September as a result of transphobia and dating violence. And we just learned of the vicious attack on Kylie Perez, a young transgender student at East Side High in Newark, which also occurred on school grounds. This news comes at a time when we are seeing a significant increase in hate violence towards LGBTQ people and others both locally and nationally. Last month we released a report, Crisis of Hate, to bring attention to the fact that at this point in the year, we have already recorded the highest number of hate violence-related homicides of LGBTQ people in our 20-year history of tracking this information.

It’s clear that as a country, and in community, we must work to better support our youth during some of the most vulnerable and important times of their lives, and to address the climate of hate against LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants and others that is growing at an alarming rate. We need to work to ensure that our schools—as well as other public spaces—are affirming and safe environments for young people of all identities, and that school officials and teachers are well equipped to address and prevent bullying and other forms of anti-LGBTQ violence. We call upon our communities to address not only the symptoms of violence as it plays out in our homes, schools, and workplaces, but to address the underlying root causes that fuel this violence, like racism, transphobia, homophobia, and more. And we call upon our communities to seek restorative and healing responses to violence that offer support, not punitive measures, to all in need.

AVP offers our support to students, family members and school officials in addressing and healing from this tragedy. Our hotline and counseling services are available any time to LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing anti-LGBTQ violence, and to those who are trying to support those youth.

Until we are all safe and free,

Beverly Tillery