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The Dangers of Individuality

Two teen stories show how being yourself can be dangerous or even deadly
The Dangers of Individuality

Being yourself could be a dangerous choice in this world, even in school.

Every day, people hear about horror stories of student experiences with bullying. Unfortunately, this is especially common with minority groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community and racial groups. This is all due to our increasingly harmful world and country. As new laws and ideas, and even old ones, become popular, discriminatory ideas are planted into the heads of the youth, which has led to them hurting those who surround those ideas.

LGBTQ+ students have been at the center of attack lately from those who hold hatred against them.

Nex Benedict, a nonbinary student at Owasso High School in Oklahoma, was a victim of the attacks. After months of being bullied for their gender identity, he was jumped by three girls in the restroom. He was quoted telling an officer, “They came at me. They grabbed on my hair. I grabbed onto them. I threw one of them into a paper towel dispenser and then they got my legs out from under me and got me on the ground.” Benedict was knocked unconscious and had to go to the ER.

Benedict was 16 when he died from suicide the day after his attack, February 8, 2024, with no charges filed despite outrage. This was an attack on him because of his identity. In Oklahoma, many laws are against the freedom of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender. In this case, laws against trans individuals using the bathroom that they identify with which was why Nex was in the women’s restroom and in that situation Not allowing transgender students to do something as simple as using the correct restroom causes students to not feel safe enough to be themselves, limiting individuality in schools.

It is not just the LGBTQ community that is hurt and unable to show individuality; other marginalized groups experience similar discrimination. In Texas, a black student was punished over his hair.

Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School, was faced with multiple punishments over wearing his hair in locs. Locs is a popular hairstyle among the black community. So why was George punished over this? The school’s policy against their male students having certain hairstyles such as long or pulled back.
Why would a student’s hair be an issue at school? Especially to the point that they denied George a hot lunch and constantly separated from his classmates. He could not be himself in school and it was fine to punish him, according to a judge in Texas.

The rule about hair was made back in the 1960s, 60 years ago. It is clearly out of date and George should not be punished just because of how he wears his hair. Texas has tried to pass the CROWN Act, a law that would prevent discrimination based on hair, but failed. West Virginia also attempted to pass this law as well last year but failed. This causes an unsafe environment for black students when they are already constantly targeted.

These two cases are not unheard of in our world unfortunately. The infamous case of Matthew Shepard created a wave of fear in the LGBTQ+ community. In 1998, Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming. He was brutally tortured and killed by two men in what can only be described as a hate crime. They beat Shepard because he was gay and left him for dead. His mother, Judy Shepard, became an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and helped change how the world reacts to homophobia and homophobic hate crimes.

She was recently interviewed by Teen Vouge where she was quoted saying she “can’t say I’m surprised” that it occurred in Oklahoma, showing that it just is common for these disgusting acts of hate to occur even in schools.

That same year, a racial hate crime received big attention as well. James Bryd Jr. was a black man who was the target of a white supremist hate crime. The three men who killed him, two well-known white supremist, had offered him ride only to torture him as well. This resulted in his death, and they left his corpse in front of a black church, creating fear in that community. While this is not a student specific case, actions like these create fear in the marginalized communities and that causes people, or students, to live in fear of showing their identity.

Unfortunately, Weir is no stranger to these. The school is full of diverse groups of students and many differing personalities. Because of this, students may become afraid to be themselves.

A senior at Weir identifies as a trans, gay man. He says that so many kids at Weir tend to just throw around derogatory words without thinking of how it may impact the students that those words refer to. These experiences and seeing how other students are treated have made him afraid to express his identity to others.

Students deserve to be themselves. They grow up and develop their personality and what is unique about them is just to be hurt for being themself. These are just two groups that face harassment every day for simply existing and the last thing students should be facing while in school is the inability to be different. None of these victims deserved what happened and they are just two out of many more cases around the world. In school, students should not have to be scared to be themselves. They should be safe and protected.

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About the Contributor
Ky Bartoli
Ky Bartoli, Staff member
Hi, I’m Ky Bartoli! I am a senior at Weir High and a second time member of the Weir Student Media staff. I am a part of the marching band, orchestra, choir, and spring musicals. I am a 2-time letterman in marching band. I have also received most improved percussionist in the 2021-22 season. I am passionate about music, crafts, and writing.
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