The Pennsylvania State University 1997

Penn State Conference Addresses Counseling For Gay, Lesbian Youths

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State will host the conference, "Interventions with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youths: From Practice to Policy" Oct. 3-5 at the Penn State Conference Center Hotel.

The keynote speaker will be David Buckel, an attorney who successfully sued three administrators at a Wisconsin high school for failing to protect a gay student from years of abuse. The student, Jamie Nabozny, won a $900,000 settlement in a precedent-setting federal case.

Nabozny, who "came out" at age 11, suffered verbal and physical abuse daily at his Ashland high school. Students urinated on him, mock-raped him and kicked him so viciously that he underwent surgery for internal bleeding. Administrators dismissed his complaints with "Boys will be boys" and said Nabozny must expect such abuse if he was openly gay. He repeatedly attempted suicide, then left home and dropped out of school.

Nabozny was represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has worked since 1973 to win full civil rights for homosexuals. Jurors in the Nabozny case decided that a public school, and individual school officials, may be liable for monetary penalties, under the federal equal protection law, for failing to address anti-gay abuse.

The conference focuses on helping counselors, educators and others guide families and youths through complex issues of sexual identity. Nationally renowned researchers, scholars and practitioners will discuss how to work with and support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in school, community, family and health-related settings.

Conference highlights include:

-- "Protecting Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youths in Schools: The Nabozny Case," David Buckel, Lambda Legal Defense Fund;

-- "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youths in Residential Care," presented by Gerald Mallon, D.S.W., Columbia University;

-- "The Politics and the Promise of Helping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youths," Teresa DeCrescenzo, M.S.W., Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services Inc., Los Angeles;

-- "Grassroots Programs for LGBT Youths," Robin Passariello, M.S.W., Children from the Shadows, Middletown, Conn.;

-- "Strategies for Putting Sexual Orientation into the School Agenda," Margaret Schneider, Ph.D., University of Toronto;

-- "HIV Risk and Prevention for Young Men Who Have Sex with Men," Gary Remafedi, M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota;

-- "Sex, Suicide and Identity: Working Together to Better the Lives of Sexual Minority Youths," Ritch Savin-Williams, Ph.D., and Kenneth Cohen, M.A., Cornell University.

Karen Harbeck, director of the Massachusetts-based National Institute for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns in Education will address the legislative and policy advances involving educational institutions.

Harbeck notes that gay youths have "very high substance-abuse rates, a high risk of HIV and low self-esteem. You name a social problem, and these kids face it." Harbeck says an estimated one-third of youth suicides may be sexuality related.

"By seventh grade, it's too late; they're in crisis and wish they were dead, And they have no one to turn to. These kids have no adult support system and no peer support system. It's about equal educational opportunity. Every child has a right to be physically safe in our schools," she says.

Registration for this conference has passed.