I am Marcel Neergaard, and I am 11 years old. This year I was homeschooled for sixth grade because of severe bullying. If I had gone back to public school, there is a great possibility that I would have taken my own life. That possibility would have grown if a certain bill introduced in my home state of Tennessee had passed into law. This bill was known as the "don't say gay" bill. Though that bill never became a law, Oak Ridge's own representative, John Ragan, introduced a new version of the Classroom Protection Act. It is the "don't say gay" bill, just more homophobic. While he crafted this horrifying bill, he received an award. I wrote a petition to take a stand against this.
During my first year in middle school, I experienced severe bullying. I was called terrible names that were quite hurtful. At that time, I had just realized that I'm gay, and the bullies used the word "gay" as an insult. This made me feel like being gay was horrible, but my parents told me otherwise. Their support was tremendous. But as powerful as their love was, it couldn't fight off all the bullying. I don't want anyone else to feel the way I did. No one deserves that much pain, no matter who they are. This was my reason for writing the petition.
John Ragan's Classroom Protection Act will do harm to LGBT students across the state. It promotes a system that does not educate students about gays, because no one but counselors, nurses and principals can talk about being gay. This also means that if a student were to talk to a teacher about being bullied because he or she is gay or possibly gay, the teacher would be required to say something like, "That subject is inappropriate for your age group." If the student managed to find an "appropriate" person, that counselor, nurse or principal would have to tell the student's parents that their child may be gay. What happens if the family is homophobic? Even if the family is supportive, every student deserves the right to come out to family members when he or she wants.
I am against a man receiving an award for trying to destroy all safe places for LGBT students. John Ragan is receiving his honor from StudentsFirst, whose actions are contrary to their name. My petition asks StudentsFirst to rescind the award to John Ragan as educational "Reformer of the Year" and to start supporting Tennessee's Dignity for All Students Act. They could also support federal anti-bullying legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimanation Act. I know that Chris Sanders at the Tennessee Equality Project would be happy to work with StudentsFirst in creating effective anti-bullying laws.
Below, view a slideshow of 18 other amazing LGBT kids or allies who, like Marcel, are much braver than we were when we were their ages.