Advertisement

Determined to make positive change

Openly gay Newport Harbor High School senior creates presentation that emphasizes how hurtful language, bullying can contribute to teen suicide.

February 21, 2012|By Britney Barnes
  • Scott Beaver, an openly gay senior at Newport Harbor High, is also president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. Newport-Mesa Unified recognized Scott with the Starfish Award in January. Teacher James Sigafoos nominated him for “helping to create a safe place for at-risk youth,” according to the nomination letter.
Scott Beaver, an openly gay senior at Newport Harbor High,… (STEVEN GEORGES,…)

Scott Beaver knows the difficulty first-hand of being an openly gay teen, but the deaths of three friends is what spurred him to action.

Two committed suicide; a third succumbed to AIDS, the Newport Harbor High School senior said.

"That has been the biggest influence on my entire life," Beaver, a 17-year-old Costa Mesa resident, said in an interview Tuesday. "It was terrible, and it's like, I can't let that happen again, especially at Newport Harbor. I mean, it's my school."

Scott, president of Harbor's Gay-Straight Alliance, took it upon himself to stop the homophobic language he says can be heard on campus. In a session he presented to the school's administration, teachers and staff, he emphasized how hurtful language and bullying can contribute to teen suicide.

"I really wanted to focus on ignorance," he said. "Don't let kids say, 'That's so gay.' ... When I was in seventh grade I said 'that's so gay' all the time because I had no idea what it meant."

Advertisement

The presentation was aimed at teachers who sometimes allow derogatory language in the classroom.

"It's as simple as if a kid says, 'That's so gay,' you go up and say, 'What does that mean?' And they go, 'That's so stupid.' So you go, 'Well, then say that's so stupid.' It's a simple as that," he said. "It's so easy, but they let it slide. It happens all the time."

He also urges students not to use a common pejorative often applied to gay men that is also widely used by straight teens to rib each other.

Newport-Mesa Unified recognized Scott with the Starfish Award in January. Teacher James Sigafoos nominated him for "helping to create a safe place for at-risk youth," according to the nomination letter.

"I have taught for 10 years, and I have never encountered someone this driven to protect and educate others about his community," Sigafoos wrote.

The award didn't come as a surprise to Scott's mother, Mariko Beaver, who said her son is always earning some award or another.

"We're very supportive and really proud of what he's done on his own to bring light to the situation," she said. "He realized that the more light he can bring to the subject, the better it will be for everyone, including him."

Scott is one of a handful of students who is openly gay at the high school.

He said he's developed a thick skin and learned how to handle himself when he hears insults as he walks across campus or in the classroom.

Some have even shouted anti-gay slurs in his face.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|