From our founding director.
As reported on Facebook early this week, we are extremely saddened by the fatal shooting of college student Scout Shultz, who passed away late Saturday night, September 17th, from shots fired by campus police at Georgia Tech.
Schultz was an intersex and non-binary engineering student who used they/them pronouns and was president of Georgia Tech’s Pride Alliance. Schultz was also a member of the GT Progressive Student Alliance, who posted about their tragic death on Facebook on Sunday.
Schultz was liked and known by many in the community including our associate director Dana Zzyym, and we send our prayers and condolences to Scout’s family, friends, and all the students at Georgia Tech who are mourning Scout’s loss.
Early reports and videos of the incident reveal that Scout was experiencing mental distress at the time they were shot, and while Scout’s actions initiated the events surrounding their fatal shooting and some have taken to blaming the incident on Scout’s mental state, the truth is that bouts of mental illness are by no means uncommon for college students. According to a 2010 survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, about 20 percent of U.S. youth are affected by some type of mental disorder to an extent that they have difficulty functioning. In addition, studies have also shown that this risk is even greater for youth who are members of the LGTQIA community.
Given how many young people are experiencing mental health issues, it is critical that police, particularly college campus police, be well-trained in handling these issues, which the police at Georgia Tech clearly were not. And while some have found this a negligible issue because being mentally troubled is often deemed inferior and expendable in our society, I shudder to think of how many brilliant minds would be lost from our cultural landscape if everyone who’d experienced mental health struggles in their youth had been taken from us by unnecessary and excessive police force.
We believe that citizens who are experiencing emotional and/or mental distress–especially young people who are disproportionately prone to such challenges–deserve support rather than further distress or being victims of excessive force or violence. We thus urge Georgia Tech to improve police training on how to handle mentally distressed students, and hope that you will too by signing this petition, authored by an ally, which encouraging them to do so.
We also encourage anyone who knows someone who is struggling to make them aware that they can reach out for free to the following organizations, which offer 24 hour mental health/suicide prevention counseling:
The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ+ youth): http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now;
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Intersex Campaign 4 Equality (aka OII-USA)