Imagine being 16 again, you’re at your high school dance, you look up and you see a hand stretched out just for you. You take the hand and feel no shame, only pure bliss, and excitement. You and your partner dance the night away not worrying about who will judge for it or getting into trouble the next day. Great times, right? However, what you have failed to realize is that kids part of the LGBT+ community has most probably never experienced that very moment of pure bliss.

Many schools have banned same-sex partners at the school dance due to “religious” reasons, and as insignificant as it may seem, it has negative repercussions on those kids later on in life. The majority of LGBT+ kids are bullied, harassed, and shunned. A study was done by … and discovered that 97% of LGBT youth in public schools have reported hearing homophobic slurs regularly, 80% of which have reported severe isolation.

A student who identifies as lesbian from Marais Viljoen High school in South Africa says “ I wanted to take my girlfriend to our Matric dance but the principal said that we are a Christian school and they will not allow it”. This is just one case but what these schools fail to understand is that the pain caused by this rejection is long-lasting and affects the way these students grow up and the type of adults they will one day become.

Yes, high school can be a very daunting place but it should also be a place where kids find out who they are, a place to make lifelong friendships and ultimately schools should be the place that helps shape who kids want to become. Every teenager feels pressure to fit in, maintain a social life and keep up with their academics. A high school is a place for first love and heartbreaks, mistakes and learning, not a place where teenagers feel unsafe and even contemplate suicide because of the vicious bullying and no one around who cares. This is why schools need to make sure that they are a safe place for all its’ students, yes, ALL its students. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for students, especially those part of the LGBT + community. Many of these schools do not have very inclusive policies or even rules against such discrimination. Teenagers should be able to safely express their feelings and receive support for whatever it is they are going through.

These kids are human beings, and how they are treated affects them. Being constantly name called and put down for being who you are is a pain that cuts deep and may lead to depression or even suicide. Being cruel for any reason is not okay, whether the school has certain religious believes or not, isolation, slurs and physical assault are never okay. High schools must condemn these actions from other students and teachers alike. Bringing change into these schools will improve the lives of so many young people dealing with discrimination, it’s time for change to begin.