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Major ad campaign starting on MTV to counter harassment of gays in school

Asserting that more than 80 percent of gay students are harassed at their schools, an advocacy group joined Wednesday with MTV to release a series of public service ads aimed at countering anti-gay sentiment among teens.

The New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said the ad campaign is the largest of its kind on any television network, and will run at least four weeks, possibly longer.

The first spot was timed to coincide with Wednesday night's airing of "Hate in the Hallways," an episode about anti-gay bullying on MTV's new weekly documentary series, "Criminal."

"MTV is playing a heroic role in helping us speak to young people who are likely to either experience or perpetrate hate crimes," said Jim Anderson, a spokesman for GLSEN.

GLSEN also released findings of a nationwide survey it conducted earlier this year of 904 gay, lesbian and bisexual students in middle and high schools.

About 83 percent of the students reported being verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 21 percent reported being physically assaulted.

More than 84 percent of the students reported hearing anti-gay remarks often at school, and most said that faculty and staff rarely intervened when overhearing such remarks. More than 23 percent said they sometimes heard anti-gay comments from teachers and staff.

Nearly 70 percent of the students said they felt unsafe in their schools because of their sexual orientation, and more than 30 percent said they had missed at least one day of classes in the past month because of their fears.

"We hope these statistics and public service announcements will push young people to continue examining their own prejudices," said Brian Graden, MTV's president of programming.

The 10-second public service ads give graphic depictions of harassment. In one, a male student finds a slur about his sexual orientation carved into his desk; another shows a lesbian student with a bruised and bloody face.

MTV has tackled harassment of homosexuals before, notably with broadcasts and a public service ad prompted by the 1998 beating death of gay university student Matthew Shepard.

"These new spots are much broader, and get at the terrifying normality of this abuse," said MTV vice president Stephen Friedman. '"It's so gay' has become an all-purpose insult at schools."


David Crary, The Associated Press. October 10, 2001

Copyright © 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.