Gary recently got into serious trouble: He brought a gun to school. He’d been relentlessly bullied, jumped, even had his life threatened. The irony wasn’t lost on him that he was the one who ended up in Clark County Juvenile Detention Center. He hadn’t planned on using a weapon, he said, but inaction from authority figures made an increasingly desperate Gary think he wasn’t being heard.
Everyone inside the City Hall Council Chambers, including more than 300 high schoolers, certainly took Gary seriously when he told his story during Tuesday’s Teen Town Hall organized by Las Vegas Ward 5 Councilman Ricki Barlow. “This is a real conversation,” a wide-eyed Barlow said before reminding students that the right course of action is talking to multiple adults, not going to school strapped.
The forum was almost exclusively about bullying, established early on when Barlow introduced a panel of three young actors whose recent movie projects delve into harassment (one of them, Misguided Behavior, was shot in Las Vegas). Students from nine central and northwestern high schools chiefly shared their testimonials and frustrations. One didn’t know how to separate from his bully friends. Another was teased on Facebook for keeping a traditional Afro hair style. Social media factored into multiple accounts, as did admissions by some students that they’d been tormented throughout their entire school lives. One such girl was inspired to conduct a survey for a school project; she reported that 80 percent of nearly 400 participating students admitted to being bullied.
Other audience members spoke out about suicide, violence against black males, family-member abuse and the omission of LGBTQ specifics in Clark County School District’s sex education curriculum, the latter garnering particularly loud cheers—as did one bullied girl’s declaration that “this school system sucks.” A lack of administrator response and intervention was also a dominant theme, which raises the question: Wouldn’t the participating students have been better served by speaking not to well-meaning but unpedigreed young actors, but CCSD brass tasked with keeping them safe? I bet they would have heard Gary out then.