Thousands of E-Mails for Burns After Anti-Bullying Speech

Half a dozen people try to answer each one

Thousands of e-mails from around the world are pouring into Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns' City Hall address.

In his emotional speech during a City Council meeting last week, Burns talked about his experiences of being bullied as a teenager and urged kids to "stick around" because "it gets better."

A YouTube video of his remarks went viral, racking up nearly 1.7 million hits and attracted national media attention.

"I had one come in from Japan, and several from Australia and Canada and Mumbai," said Taylor McCarty, of Burns' campaign. "A majority of them are just thank yous and 'you're so brave' and just short one-liners."

The councilman's personal assistant, Deyra Galvan, estimates about 15,000 e-mails have come in since Burns' "things get better" speech.

"We've gotten e-mails about people that have, maybe they were the ones bullying someone and thinking about it from the other side, like how they couldn't even imagine what the other person was going through and they wish they could reach them now," Galvan said.

Galvan, along with McCarty and about six other volunteers, are trying to reach and answer each and every e-mail.

"It's overwhelming, but it's probably one of the best experiences that I've ever had, just because it's not every day that you get to see the words of somebody else change people's lifes," McCarty said.

"You definitely have an emotional attachment to every e-mail that you read," Galvan said.

One e-mail that is typical of the ones sent to Burns reads, "I was always bullied because people thought I was gay, and I really wasn't. I was just different."

Another says, "Whether kids are being teased for the sexuality, their looks, their weight, their clothes or anything else, they all need to know it gets better."

"We try to send the message of, you know, 'Pass it on,'" McCarty said. "You know, pass the story on so that you can help other people, and you can be a part of this, too."

Others have called with their personal stories or written letters. Some have reached out for help, admitting that they are contemplating suicide.

"We try to respond back to them and say, 'Here's your options. Please get help. Please let us know if we can do anything else,'"

In his City Council speech, Burned called on the Fort Worth Independent School District to end bullying.

Burns and Fairness Fort Worth's Jon Nelson are hopeful the district will add a more in-depth gay and lesbian component to its current anti-bullying programs. Burns has already contacted the superintendent to discuss the expansion of the district's "Its Not OK" policy.

FWISD's harassment policy addresses sexual orientation    It reads:
Harassment of a student is defined as physical, verbal, or nonverbal conduct based on the student’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law that is so severe, persistent, or pervasive that the conduct:
1. Affects a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity, or creates an intimidating, threatening, hostile, or offensive educational environment; 2. Has the purpose or effect of substantially or unreasonably interfering with the student’s academic performance; or 3. Otherwise adversely affects the student’s educational opportunities.
Sexual Harassment

Writer and media pundit Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better project last month after several American teenagers across the country who were bullied committed suicide. The project compiles videos that tell lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers that "it gets better."

NBCDFW's Grant Stinchfield contributed to this report.

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