Austin Laufersweiler (top photo) is in Los Angeles this weekend to receive the first-ever Student Advocate of the Year Award from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network for his work in making the lives of gay students at Lassiter High School a little more tolerable.
He was among 75 nominations of budding LGBT activists across the country for the award, but beat out the others with his work to organize Lassiter’s first official club for gay students, a Day of Silence, a protest against homophobia and training for teachers on bullying.
He seems to be taking the award in stride, calling it a first big step that will hopefully lead to a life of greater activism.
Asked if the award drops more pressure on his young shoulders, “it does,” Laufersweiler admits.
“But I want that pressure, I think it will help motivate me to do more in the future.”
Laufersweiler’s success stands in stark contrast to fellow Cobb student Jonathan Escobar (bottom photo), who’s been ensnared in very public debate with administrators at North Cobb High School over his desire to wear women’s clothing. He says a school administrator told him to dress more “manly,” while the school system asserts he ran afoul of its dress code.
The case, which surfaced in media reports Wednesday, has continued to attract attention. Escobar, meanwhile, has dropped out of school while a Facebook page supporting him has jumped to more than 5,700 members, a five-fold increase in just a few days.
Escobar said the school didn’t do enough to protect him, but he says he was not bullied.
“No one had the balls to bully me, there was just rumors,” he said. “Nobody did anything.”
Escobar said the football team took exception to his dress, and the school should have done something to stop the rumors they were spreading.
“They should have educated the ignorant narrow-minded football team that this is 2009. It isn’t 1950s, and there is a bigger world than small, little Kennesaw, Ga.,” Escobar said. “I have every right as an American. I have every right to express myself. I have every right to an education.”
Escobar has declined to say if he’s gay, but expressed comfort with either gender pronoun.
Photos: Escobar by Alexis Stevens, Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Laufersweiler by Matt Schafer, Southern Voice