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CNN: Conservative 'Anti-Gay' Groups Are Part of the Bullying Problem

In light of the recent suicides reportedly brought about by persistent bullying, CNN has taken upon itself to address not only a national bullying crisis, but any homophobia or anti-gay behavior seen as contributing to such bullying. The network apparently believes that socially conservative groups contribute to the problem of putting kids down who have homosexual tendencies.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and author Rosalind Wiseman agreed that conservative groups who oppose protective measures for gay students simply treat them as outcasts. Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabees," called their efforts "anti-child."

"These groups don't think homosexuality is normal," Toobin remarked of conservative groups. "They think it's wrong. They think it is a menace to society. So they are the ones who are making it harder for kids, who feel isolated enough as it is, to come forward."

"I mean, this is not some sort of value-neutral approach by these conservative groups. They are trying to make homosexuality an outcast condition, and that's part of the problem," Toobin insisted.

Wiseman agreed, adding "And really, what that really comes down to is being anti-child and anti-against the dignity of every single child who walks in through the doors of that school."

The discussion followed a segment detailing a recent suicide case at Rutgers University, where a gay student was videotaped by his roommate having an intimate encounter with another man. The student subsequently committed suicide after the video hit the internet. The incident follows upon multiple cases of teen suicides induced by bullying, sometimes because of real or suspected homosexual orientation.

At first, the discussion was focused on bullying. But then Anderson Cooper brought the gay-rights issue into the debate.

"I've been reading a lot, particularly right now, a case in Minnesota where there are a lot of conservative groups, anti-gay groups who say, you know, this is an attempt to promote some sort of gay agenda in schools," Cooper remarked of efforts to encourage young students with gay tendencies to be themselves.

Wiseman complained that sex-ed programs are difficult to introduce to schools' curricula, tacitly suggesting social conservatives were also to blame for that situation. "If you work in schools, what you know is that it is hard to get all different kinds of programs into schools that have - and for young kids, especially, it's what we're dealing with is good-touch, bad-touch. And that's hard to get into schools."

A partial transcript of the segment, which aired on October 4 at 10:37 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ANDERSON COOPER: It's interesting, though, Rosalind. You know, I've been reading a lot; particularly, right now, a case in Minnesota, where there are a lot of conservative groups, anti-gay groups who say, you know, this is an attempt to promote some sort of gay agenda in schools, if you talk about, you know, trying to make the school a safe place or a place that's accepting of students who, at a younger and younger age, are saying that they're gay.

ROSALIND WISEMAN: Well, what I want to see from those organizations is exactly what is they are saying is taking place in the classroom. What exactly is the teacher saying, what exactly are the parents reporting.

Because I'm actually - I need to see exactly and I think we all need to see exactly what are behind these accusations. Because so far, it's just this amorphous kind of commentary on this, you know, pro-homosexual agenda. And if you work in schools, what you know is that it is hard to get all different kinds of programs into schools that have - and for young kids, especially, it's what we're dealing with is good-touch, bad-touch. And that's hard to get into schools.

So we really have to know exactly what these people are accusing when they're talking about these issues, and then we can address it on a factual basis.

COOPER: But in order to address it in the schools do you have to make - I mean, you believe you have to be very specific in the language you use and you have to address things like homophobia?

WISEMAN: Of course you do. Of course you do. Because otherwise, what happens is - and really, we ought to call it what this is. If we do not address this in terms of racism and homophobia and classism, then what you're doing is enabling people to get away with degrading behavior, and really, that is an anti-child agenda. That is an anti-educational agenda.

And so common sense, you know, parents who have common sense and educators who have common sense know that that's what this is about.

JEFFREY TOOBIN: But let's be clear, too. These groups don't think homosexuality is normal. They think it's wrong. They think it is a menace to society. So they are the ones who are making it harder for kids, who feel isolated enough as it is, to come forward. I mean, this is not some sort of value-neutral approach by these conservative groups. They are trying to make homosexuality an outcast condition, and that's part of the problem.

WISEMAN: Absolutely. And really, what that really comes down to is being anti-child and anti-against the dignity of every single child who walks in through the doors of that school.

COOPER: Are teachers accountable, legally, if they see bullying going on and don't intervene?

TOOBIN: In extreme, extreme cases. If teachers are derelict in a very obvious situation where they don't warn a student or they don't come to a student's aid, there is the possibility that you could sue the school district. But you are talking about a tiny fraction of cases. Most bullying takes place, I think, in an environment where the law doesn't really apply. You are never going to - so it's much more going to be involving school discipline, parental discipline, not, you know, the courts.

COOPER: Rosalind, you work in a lot of schools. Why is it that, you know, if the "N" word is used a teacher would intervene, but if the "F" sword is used against a use student who's perceived to be gay, or who may be gay - why is that still a word which is allowed to be used liberally in schools wherever you go?

WISEMAN: Because it is so normal, meaning so common that people say, "Well, what's the big deal? It's just what we say."

And just like - and when I talk about this, that we talked about racism generations ago, and we - and it became unacceptable. It has to happen in the same way.

Because otherwise, what happens is, you have to keep saying to people just because it's common doesn't make it right. Racism is not right. So is not - so isn't homophobia and going against people of different ethnicities. Just because you are degrading somebody, and people have done it for a long time, does not make it right.

-Matt Hadro is News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.