(Extensions of Remarks - June 20, 2012)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1090]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                       HONORING BRANDON ELIZARES


                          HON. SILVESTRE REYES

                                of texas

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 20, 2012

  Mr. REYES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a heavy heart as I take 
time to remember Brandon Elizares, a young man who left us two and a 
half weeks ago. He will always be remembered for his smile, his 
personality, and his desire to serve as an inspiration to others.
  Brandon, like 11.7 million people in this country, was gay, and like 
so many of his peers, was harassed and bullied until he took his life 
on June 2nd after being threatened with being buried alive and shot. 
His last message-echoed his infinite love for his family and his 
apologies for not being strong enough to continue taking the abuse he 
had faced for over two years. His final words read, ``My name is 
Brandon Joseph Elizares and I couldn't make it. I love you guys with 
all of my heart.''
  High school is an exciting time with an array of new experiences and 
challenges, but one thing it should not be is an environment where 
young people must worry about being bullied. Children in high school 
should be focused on their education. The sad reality is that for many 
students their primary concerns don't lie in textbooks or exams, but in 
fear that they will not be accepted by their peers, that they will be 
physically abused, and, in the case of Brandon and countless others 
like him, that they may consider taking their own life to escape the 
  Brandon was a young man who exemplified the best in the El Paso 
community. He embodied what this nation looks for in all of its young 
people. He was a best friend, a loving son, an aspiring model and 
artist, an excellent student, and, to a teenage girl who had 
contemplated suicide due to encounters with bullying, Brandon was a 
superhero and an older brother.
  Like so many El Pasoans, I feel a personal connection to Brandon, and 
his death reflects the unfortunate truth that many young people in our 
community continue to suffer. I stand before you today asking you to 
help me in ensuring that Brandon's death was not in vain. Please join 
me in support of the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 998) and the 
Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 1648) to protect LGBT students from 
discrimination and bullying in schools. I also ask you to stand with me 
in support of the ``It Gets Better'' campaign, a project whose goal is 
to prevent suicide among youth by having adults and allies convey the 
message that these teens' lives will improve.
  In our country today the facts are clear:
  56 percent of students have personally felt some sort of bullying at 
school. Between 4th and 8th grade in particular, 90 percent of students 
report being the victim of bullying.
  9 out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in 
the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only 
intervene 4 percent of the time.
  A victim of bullying is twice as likely to take his or her own life 
compared to someone who is not a victim.
  41 percent of principals say they have programs designed to create a 
safe environment for LGBT students, but only 1/3 of principals say that 
LGBT students would feel safe at their school.
  Every day thousands of children wake up fearing for their well being 
as they go to school; if the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the 
Safe Schools Improvement Act were enacted today, we could provide 
students a sense of relief and some reassurance that their government 
is working to improve their lives by increasing awareness about their 
daily struggles.
  This issue, as all of you know, is not limited to one district or 
state, but has been felt throughout our country from California to New 
York. As a proud grandfather, I could not imagine what it would be like 
to have any of my grandchildren be bullied at school. There is no place 
in our society for bullying or discrimination, whether it's in our 
schools, communities or in our military. I want to provide hope to our 
youth and remind them they are not alone and that there are many venues 
they can turn to for help. I want to send a simple and powerful 
message: it gets better. If you are a student or a teacher there are 
resources available and I encourage you to visit www.stopbullying.gov 
or www.itgetsbetter.org for more information.
  To the family of Brandon Elizares, no words can lessen your pain or 
bring your son back, but I stand with you today in honoring this kind 
young man. The display of love and affection from those who were close 
to him, those he helped, and those who have gone through experiences 
similar to his are a testament to the person he was and to the way you 
raised him. Brandon's genuine spirit and love will live on in all of 
those he touched. Today, the House of Representatives and our nation 
honors Brandon Elizares.