A lesson plan based on “I couldn’t take it anymore” by Trayvione Travis from the November-December 2007 issue of L.A. Youth. In this story, Trayvione describes the harassment he and other gay students faced at school and how he was able to make it stop.

By Amanda Riddle, Editor

Grades: 6-12

Subjects: Language arts, life skills

Suggested time allowance: 45 min.-1 hr.

In this lesson students will discuss how to recognize and combat
homophobia and discrimination in their own lives, schools and communities.  

Students will discuss ways to combat homophobia and discrimination.

Resources and material:
— pens, paper
— copies of L.A. Youth article “I couldn’t take it anymore” (one per student)
— white board or chalkboard

1. Write “discrimination” on the board. Have each student write a list of forms of discrimination, then ask them to share what they wrote and write their ideas on the board. They may say people are discriminated against based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, their interests, sexual orientation, disability, etc. As them what ways people are discriminated against. They may say name calling, teasing, being treated unfairly, being ignored, being excluded from activities, or physical and verbal attacks. Ask them how they feel about the way people are treated because of their differences. Is it fair?

2. Reading and discussion. Have students read Trayvione’s story, “I couldn’t take it anymore,” about being harassed at his school because he is gay on pages 24-25 of the November-December issue of L.A. Youth.

Discussion questions.
How were Trayvione and the other gay students at his school treated because of their sexuality?
–They were called names, such as “gay boy” and “faggot” almost every day.
–The other students didn’t try to get to know them.

How did Trayvione and the other students respond to the harassment?
–Trayvione usually fought back and got in-school suspension.
–The other gay students wouldn’t say anything and ignored the teasing.
–Trayvione talked to an adult at school he could trust, his teacher’s aide Michelle. She listened to him and said the teachers were doing all they could to make the name-calling stop.
–Trayvione didn’t tell other adults, like the staff at his group home, because he didn’t think they could help since it was a school issue.

How did teachers and administrators respond? Was it enough?
–A teacher who heard a student saying gay slurs to Trayvione told the student to stop, but it didn’t work.
–The teachers told the students to stop the name-calling and sometimes sent them to the dean’s office or gave them in-school suspension, but didn’t suspend them.

What events eventually led to a change at the school?
–Trayvione watched a video about the Stonewall Riots, in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people in New York fought for their rights. He felt like he should stand up for his rights, too.
–He told one of the staff members at his group home, and she told him that what was happening to him at school was sexual harassment and against the law.
–He shared the information about sexual harassment with people at his school, which led them to take more serious action.

3. Discussion: homophobia at school
What is homophobia? What are some examples of actions, language or attitudes that discriminate against LGBTQ people? What do you think about such discrimination? Is it OK for people to be discriminated against or suffer harassment or violence because of their sexual orientation? Why or why not? What actions can be taken to combat homophobia and discrimination at school?

4. Writing assignment: After reading “I couldn’t take it anymore,” and reflecting on the subsequent discussion in class, write a personal essay about how you feel about homophobia and discrimination against gay people. How did you feel about Trayvione’s experience and the opinions and comments from other students in class? How can people’s discriminatory attitudes about gay and lesbian people be changed, if at all? What can be done at your school to make it a more positive place for gay students?

Extension activity:
Ask students to research ways to create a more positive school environment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, using these resources.
— More than 90 percent of teens nationally hear other kids at school or in their neighborhood use words like “fag,” “homo,” “dyke,” queer” or “gay” at least once in a while, with half hearing them every day, according to the Safe Schools Coalition. Encourage your school to participate in No Name-Calling Week, Jan. 21-25, 2008, which aims to end name-calling of all kinds. Info at www.nonamecallingweek.org/
— The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has information on how to start a gay-straight alliance at your school to promote tolerance. www.glsenla.org