The latest in a series of Iowa forums will be held tonight in Fort Dodge to discuss the harassment of gay students in the classroom. Brad Clark is coordinator of the G-L-B-T Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force — those initials are for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered. Clark explains what they’re trying to accomplish in the forums. Clark says the main goal is to create more awareness and to give local community members, teachers, parents and religious leaders more information on how to make schools safer for G-L-B-T students. He says he’d hoped state lawmakers would address the issue. An anti-harassment, anti-bullying bill was discussed but is not expected to make it into law this session. Clark says individual Iowa communities can still enact local ordinances on the issue. Five Iowa cities — Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines, and Iowa City — have adopted employment policies that ban discrimination against gays and lesbians, while Woodbury County has added that language to its employment policy as well. Clark says the harassment of G-L-B-T students is severe. He says studies find students hear words like “faggot” and “dyke” up to 26 times a day in the classroom. Many students don’t feel safe in school while 80-percent of G-L-B-T students are verbally harassed in their schools. Clark says it’s not just G-L-B-T students being harassed — a study finds 70-percent of the gay-bashing is directed at straight students. Tonight’s forum is to run from 6 to 8 o’clock at the Fort Dodge Public Library. Forums have been held recently in Davenport, Des Moines and Iowa City. Another is scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) night in Dubuque and April 12th in Cedar Falls/Waterloo.
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