WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A West Vigo High School student says he hopes to use what happened to him to show bullying is uncool.
"I don't think that they deserve a punishment. I think that they deserve an education."
Rocky Roberts describes himself as an activist. He is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community. For these reasons, he says he is the target of bullying. But, he adds he is strong enough to stand-up for himself and others just like him.
You can still make out the letter "F" in the homophobic slur etched into the metal of Roberts' locker months ago. Roberts claims a staff member scrapped over the word so to spare his feelings but, instead, the junior says the sight makes him proud.
"It brings awareness to this whole situation where discrimination is still happening everywhere."
He says he does not know who carved the word into his locker and he doesn't care.
"At the end of the day, if they're not willing to have a conversation with me, then what's the point? Obviously, I do care about what people think about me but I'm more focused on the actual discrimination that's going on instead of the personal attacks."
Roberts' friend Caitlyn Cantrell explains how she reacted to the situation, "Your first response is to be sad and then you're angry because the world is still like this. It's like, it's 2018 and we're still dealing with this kind of discrimination."
Roberts adds the school staff is supportive and handled the unfortunate situation well. He does not think the act against him should garner punishment. He says whoever did it needs education.
Cantrell says, "Education will always help others to understand and once you have that understanding I feel like love is more capable of being created within someone and the world is in desperate need of more love."
Roberts and his friends with the group Terre Haute Teens for Action, including Cantrell who is a sophomore at Indiana State University and Gabby Fullhart who is a senior at Terre Haute South Vigo High School, are working to provide those opportunities for learning and discussion.
Fullhart says, "We all want to have that space where we're free to talk about our views. We're free to be ourselves and it doesn't happen enough."
Cantrell says, "Queer spaces are always twenty-one and up, alcoholic, that kind of thing. Even Pride festivals, there's just alcohol everywhere so having that kind of inclusion and a safe space for teens to have that's outside of school so there's no pressure to not say what's on your mind is kind of where I want to go with this (group)."
Roberts says, "Nothing effective comes out of being closed minded."
Superintendent Dr. Danny Tanoos says the student responsible for etching the word into the locker has been punished and the district does not tolerate discrimination or bullying of any kind.
For more information about Terre Haute Teens for Action, click here.