“He just wants it to be done.”

An openly gay athlete continues to be bullied by a teammate

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN)-Garrison came out a few years ago.  In middle school, he was bullied by someone who now goes to the same high school as him.  This year he is a freshman at Lincoln Southeast High, and played on the freshmen football team.  He told Channel 8 he has been bullied by his teammate for being gay.  He said this person would call him homophobic slurs in person at school and through a group Snapchat with all the freshman football players.  He said even after the bully was suspended more than once and the coach had a conversation with the team, the bullying has not stopped.  A representative from the Lincoln Public school district sent a statement, which reads in part:

“Out of respect for privacy of all involved, Lincoln Public Schools will not comment on specific cases.
In general, Lincoln Public Schools strives to educate all students through our curriculum and character lessons at all grade levels how we value everyone and treat others with respect. If there is a situation that arises, part of our process includes educating students about how their actions affect others.
We also outline in our Important Information Handbook and Board policies our student expectations and Code of Conduct. It states, ‘LPS students are not to engage in conduct which have the potential to seriously affect the health, safety or welfare of students, staff and other persons or to otherwise seriously interfere with the educational process. Such conduct constitutes grounds for long-term suspension, expulsion, or mandatory reassignment. A student who engages in the conduct may be suspended and referred to the Department of Student Services for a conference to determine whether a long-term suspension, expulsion, or mandatory reassignment is appropriate. The conduct is covered by the school rules where it occurs on school grounds, in a vehicle owned, leased, or contracted by the school and being used for a school purpose or in a vehicle being driven for a school purpose by a school employee or an employee’s designee, or at a school-sponsored activity or athletic event. If such conduct occurs outside of school on social media, but disrupts the school environment, the same code of conduct applies.'”

“In the beginning of this year when I started at Southeast and it started happening again, then we played football together that’s when it really took sort of the biggest toll for me mentally I guess. How everybody found out is I came home crying one day,” said Garrison Mehlin.

“He just wants it to be done. He wants to be able to go to prom and not have it be a topic of conversation with his football team. He wants to be able to just play football and not have this guy, hollering the things that he has,” said Josh Mehlin Father of Garrison.

The current frustration the father has is with the process currently in place.

“My problem at this point is that they need to do something about the guidance. I can appreciate the building level administrators saying like hey man I’ve got a whole district office telling me I’ve got to do things this way, alright,” said Josh Mehlin.

The ACLU of Nebraska has an LGBTQIA+ Legal and Policy Council that explains the legal responsibilities of the school in general.

“If the student who bullied or harrassed is found to have done it, they have an obligation not to just discipline that student, but to take corrective action to ensure that it does not happen again,” said Sara Rips LGBTQIA+ Legal and Policy Counsel at ACLU Nebraska.

Garrison said a lot of the bullying happens on social media.

“With Snapchat, it’s kind of weird it will delete its texts after 24 hours, so a lot of the stuff I can’t pull back up,” said Garrison Mehlin.

The school says in part:

“Inappropriate behaviors, including but not limited to bullying, intimidation and harassment, must be avoided by students and all staff. Bullying means any ongoing pattern of physical, verbal or electronic abuse on school grounds, in a vehicle owned, leased or contracted by the school being used for a school purpose by a school employee or designee, or at school-sponsored activities or school-sponsored athletic events. Strategies and practices are implemented to reinforce positive behaviors and to discourage and protect others from inappropriate behaviors. ”

The ACLU says:

“If it is happening repeatedly, and the student has been disciplined, and it has not yielded positive results, that does not absolve the school of its responsibility. Because federal law controls, because of title nine, parents who are unhappy with how the school is responding can file a title 9 complaint to the office of civil rights,” said Rips.

In the end, Garrison hopes this helps others who may be in his shoes know that they are not alone.

“A learning experience for other people that maybe this isn’t so cool maybe we should socially stop accepting this,” said Garrison Mehlin.

“Even though I have not met this young man, and I don’t know any particular facts about his situation, I just want to applaud him for his bravery and being willing to speak out when he knows that things are unjust and not right,” said Rips.

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