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Oct 9, 2012 3:31 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Gay-Lesbian Youth Support Group To Host Town Hall Meeting This Month To Discuss Teen's Suicide

Oct 9, 2012 4:22 PM

In the wake of the death of an East Hampton teenager of an apparent suicide last week, the head of the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth network said the organization would fast-track its efforts to open a community center on the South Fork to provide support to gay 
students and their families and friends.

On October 22 at 6 p.m., the group will also hold a town meeting at East Hampton High School, where the teenager, David Hernandez, was a junior, to discuss the circumstances surrounding his death and how others can be helped before they consider suicide.

David, who was 16 years old and born in Ecuador, died on September 29. Rumors that he had been bullied at school for being gay have been circulating on the internet, but they have not been confirmed. His 
family declined to comment this week through a friend of the family.

David had attended meetings of the Gay-Straight Alliance at the high school last year, according to a letter to the editor in last week’s East Hampton Star from a recent graduate, Andrew Bennett, and he had attended another one just a few days before his death, according 
to the alliance’s president, Joel Johnson, who along with Andrew helped to found a gay-straight alliance at the East Hampton Middle School as well as at East Hampton High School.

“This has been a tragedy. We are grieving for David, his family and our community,” East Hampton School Superintendent Richard Burns said in a statement he read on October 2 at a brief School Board meeting before he, the board’s members and other school officials left for visiting hours at the funeral home, where a large crowd gathered.

“We will continue our thorough evaluation of this sad and complex situation,” Mr. 
Burns’s statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers go to the family.” Mr. Burns and Adam Fine, the high school principal, declined to discuss the allegations of bullying at the 
high school, where a wall 
hanging provided students with an opportunity to write notes and post photos in David’s memory.

The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth network is a consortium of gay and lesbian outreach and support groups across Long Island. The network’s CEO, David Kilmnick, said this week that the circumstances 
facing gay and lesbian youth can be even more inhospitable outside of school than in 
school, especially for some members of the Hispanic immigrant community. “They don’t have the support system outside of school and with the East Hampton School District being 40 percent Latino, there is a great need for us to have a place for those students to come,” he said.

“We hear from many young people that there is a lack of support system for many 
Latino and African-American young people who are gay,” Mr. Kilmnick said. “In churches, which is often an important part 
of the Latino culture and of their family life, there is not a lot of good things said about gay people and little or no standing on the side of equality.”

Mr. Kilmnick said the East Hampton School District is far more advanced in gay and lesbian tolerance and sensitivity issues than most other school districts.

“We’ve done a ton of work with the East Hampton district, more than any other district on the East End,” he said. “They 
have been more open to having programs and were the first district to have a gay-straight 
alliance club in their middle school. I know some are 
quick to blame the school district here, but East Hampton is certainly one of the more progressive ones in addressing these issues and in preventative work.”

He acknowledged, however, that that doesn’t mean bullying doesn’t occur.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to know definitively what exactly happened in David’s case,” he said. “Could it be a possibility 
that he heard something from students that were not too friendly? Yes. Could he also 
have been dealing with a culture outside of the school that is not so accepting of someone 
being gay? Yes. I haven’t heard anything about those 
things specifically, but I 
wouldn’t be surprised based on the work that we do with thousands of people across Long Island.”

“It gets to a point where sometimes kids can’t take it 
anymore and some find that taking their own life is the only way they can deal with that because they have nowhere to go,” Mr. Kilmnick said. “Regardless of whether David was gay or not, he should have had a place he could have seen as a lifesaver.”

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Wow. Sometimes having too many places you COULD go, sanctioned or not, "EQUAILITY" or not, could be confusing in and of itself to kids. Not saying "be secretive" about sex or ANYTHING but can't kids just be kids without 'exploring" or "declaring" themselves" at 14, 15 and 16 years old? I completely understand "personal choice". Just don't think it should be "promoted" as an "alternative" amongst youths if we're trying to teach them how to deal with ANY interpersonal relationsahip to begin with ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 9, 12 8:59 PM
Board watcher, you do not get it. Were you ever 14, 15, 16? That age is the height of exploration regarding sexuality for ALL youth. If someone at the age of 14 realizes they are gay, why should they not have a place to go? Why should they not have therapists and counselors to talk to? The statement is ridiculous and belies a prejudice that so many people have about gay youth.
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Oct 10, 12 7:09 AM
I agree with BW's sentiment. If you keep handing your children over to experts, when it comes time for you to need care from them, they're going to hand you over to experts. And that you're not gonna like.
By Speonk Shores (31), Remsenburg on Oct 10, 12 11:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
"Equality" - no spell check in this arena - have to comment also on "A gay-straight alliance club" in the middle school ... when I was in 6th, 7th, 8th grade I was taught "Don't do it" for a myriad of reasons; diseases, self-respect, the consequences of pregnancy and, in general, "emotional" consequences. Am not saying parents shouldn't discuss issues with thier kids, just saying 14, 15 is not the age, in my opinion, for "choices" to be taught and promoted by this group. Kids will grow up and ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Oct 9, 12 9:19 PM
2 members liked this comment
Again, I agree with BW's sentiment. In 2010, a number of young people around me came out as gay. Two years later, they're all straight. Next year, who knows. While the young people declare now, both times, they do not take it as seriously as we older folk would. It does not hold them back from change, in any/either direction.
By Speonk Shores (31), Remsenburg on Oct 10, 12 11:59 AM
Maybe they are "both", so to speak. There is such a thing as bisexual out there too.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 13, 12 4:39 PM
Wow Board Watcher, we are not talking about when you were in school we are talking about now, At 14 and 15 that is when kids need the support. Sex is not the issue here. Being able to be yourself and have someone to talk to is the issue. Gay or straight. Your message is very clear and very sad. Being gay is not a choice its just the way it is.
By jacks (70), hampton bays on Oct 10, 12 7:37 AM
Exactly. This has nothing to do with sex, which is exactly the type of ignorance that leads to bigotry and homophobia, which in turn results in situations like we have here. BW, you are the minority, and a rapidly declining one, thankfully.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Oct 10, 12 12:17 PM
As if being gay is a choice ? You are quite mistaken. And it's people like you who don't understand the reality that make the youth scared to come out and be themselves. People are far too judgmental and lack the ability to see things from another view. Until that changes, kids will either bottle up their feelings & worry about the social repercussions or come out and not be accepted and/or bullied because they don't fit the social norm. Kids need to learn we are all equal no matter who we love. ...more
By tranquility1985 (25), Westhampton on Oct 10, 12 9:50 AM
Board watcher's post displays an ignorance that is typical of those that do not understand that sexuality is not a choice. It is this type of blind arrogance that is exactly why counseling and clubs HAVE to be available for gay students.
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on Oct 10, 12 11:00 AM
2 members liked this comment
An additional point is that it's the Gay STRAIGHT Alliance. It's a safe place where kids can come together in tolerance and respect, with no regard to sexual identity. They sponsor events like "No Name-Calling Week" and "Think Before You Speak," which cross the boundaries of race and creed, and serve to protect everyone.

We are very lucky to have such an active GSA in our midst, especially with gay teen suicide being 300 times that of other groups who sadly choose to end their lives, and ...more
By blueheron (8), East Hampton on Oct 10, 12 1:26 PM
People are people... how about we treat all as such?
By Allergic2Stupidity (77), Riverhead on Oct 10, 12 7:27 PM
that would be nice Allergic, sad to say with people like Board Watcher making comments its clear that's not the case. Gay or Straight, black, white or brown - we are all the same. It should not matter who you love.
By jacks (70), hampton bays on Oct 11, 12 7:27 AM
It may be time for East Hampton High School to comment publicly, in light of the mother's allegations the Star today?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 11, 12 1:58 PM
I agree PBR, the school should comment on this.
By jacks (70), hampton bays on Oct 17, 12 8:09 AM
I had a male friend who told me that when he was 6 his dad bought him a baseball glove.He wished it were a doll.
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Oct 17, 12 8:57 PM
There is a new article in the Star.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 18, 12 4:37 PM